Dec. 20- HIROSHIMA Our adventure started when we boarded the Shinkansen (bullet train) in Fukuoka at abut noon on the 20th. As it's name implies, it was a fast train, and we were in Hiroshima in about an hour and a half. When we got off the train, we went to information and David had a moment. He almost melted down when the girl behind the counter spoke English. I was worried he would not be able to continue. We then walked to our ryokan, and checked in. We dropped our packs and headed out to the Peace Park which was quite near-by. That night we dined in truely Japanese fashion.... no, not really. We had Italian. But it was definitely Japanified. I had seaweed and clam in cheese sauce on mine. David's was much more mellow. But, thank god for pictures and fake food in Japanese restaurants! That's all I have to say.
Dec. 21 - MIYAJIMA We decided to take a little adventure away from the city and headed to Miyajima Island about an hour trolly ride and and a 10 minute boat ride away. The island is beautiful. It's supposed to be one of "Japan's 3 most beautiful scenes" if you believe the brochures. It IS gorgeous. There's a shinto shrine built right out over the water with a HUGE torii. Something rediculous like 30 meters tall. It's pretty amazing. So, we wandered around there for a while, and then decided that we should take a little hike up the mountain. Well, as near as we can tell, it was about 500 meters up and several kilometers of actual walking. It took us about 3 hours to climb to the top of the mountain where the other shrines were. There were some spactacular views. And well, frankly we counted ourselves among some of the bigger cans of whooop-ass for even making that hike. Also at the top were monkeys! Small, Japanese monkeys with red faces. They were so cute, and they were wild! No cages for them! We came dow n a different way (much easier than going up!) and headed back to our ryokan.
Dec. 22- KYOTO We decided we had exhausted the Hiroshima area and would like to move on to someplace bigger and better. So, we packed up our stuff and moved t to Kyoto. We found a place near the station which was sort of a hostel on crack. They had little dorms, but also private rooms. They had a little kitchen, and a little common room. It was quite cozy. and it was CHEAP! (for Japan) The first day in Kyoto was sort of just getting there and getting our bearings. We went to a cool temple with the biggest 5-story pagoda in Japan. After dark, we went to the shopping district to check it out and for some food. The numbers of people were quite terrifying, but the place was beautifully lit with WAY too many christmas lights. Just being here was an adventure.
Dec. 23-KYOTO We decided to more thoroughly check out the temple scene in Kyoto. (after all, that's what Kyoto is known for, being a religous center.) So, we wandered the streets of a temple section of Kyoto with a bunch of Japanese people (since it was a day off for the emporer's birthday). And saw LOTS and LOTS of temples. We even got to see the one with the gold-leaf covered building, quite a sight in the setting sun.
Dec. 24-OSAKA If it's Christmas eve, it must be time to go to the BIG city. Being completely templed out, we went to Osaka for some modern fun. We headed to the aquarium, the star attraction being a whale shark they have in a GIGANTIC central tank with many other kinds of sharks, rays, and fish. The whale shark was, well, big and we got to see it eat, but the highlight of the trip was the scuba diver dressed as Santa Claus, right down to the hat and pack on his back. After splitting our sides and hurting our heads at the aquarium, we decided to take a trip to Den Den Town. What's Den Den Town you ask? Oh of course, it's the area of Osaka where ALL of the computer/electric toy stores are located. Quite a nutsy place, but David did acquire a new digital camera to take much more quality photos. (Compliment him on how good his new digitals look). Then it was time to head home to Kyoto. But first dinner? Nope! The streets around the station were so crowded with people, we were afraid to walk on them and hightailed it back to catch our train for Kyoto. For the evening, we were going to celebrate Christmas by going to midnight mass, but we never found out if there was one, and we ended up talking to some very cool people for many hours, and watching another JET open a care package from his mom in England.
Dec. 25- NARA If it's Christmas day, it must be time to visit Buddhist temples again. So, for Christmas day, we celebrated by sleeping late, and then heading to Nara, where there are 1200 roaming deer and several more temples. We wandered the parks and saw the deer, but we were only interested in 1 temple, Todi-ji. The temple with the largest bronze statue of the Buddha in the world. It was quite impressive. Plus, the monks were offering to let you write your name and country on a roofing tile for $10. So, we did, and someday our tile will help replace the roof of the temple.
Dec. 26-HOMEWARD BOUND So, we decided that the day after Christmas would be a good time to return to Saga. We had heard about these great tickets where you get to ride all day on any local train you want for only $20/day. We figured what the hell? How long can it take to get from Kyoto to Saga? Ha ha ha. Well, turns out it takes a long time if you don't know what you're doing too well. We started our journey at 10 am, and were in Hiroshima by about 5 pm. (This trip took about 1.5 hours on the Shinkansen). When we went to ask how to get to Saga, the people sadly told us that it was too late and we wouldn't make it. But they gave us a train schedule and sent us on our way. We stayed the night in a propper YH with crefews and rented sheets and all.
Dec. 27-END OF A JOURNEY We got moving EARLY that day and finished the 6 hours to Saga. Upon returning to the city we looled about like fools and ended our journey right where we had begun. We did find, however, that the Christmas cards we had written before we left had been returned for supplimental postage. It seems that these cards were the wrong shape and needed another 150 Yen added to the airmail postage. Ah, Japan.