11/17/08
Nakatani Apartment, Nagoya

This morning I checked out of the hostel and tried the breakfast buffet in the attached bar/cafe. It wasn't that good, but they had cereal... I hadn't realized just how long it's been since I've eaten that.

I walked down to Kyoto Station. Simon suggested using a locker to keep my big heavy backpack in, I don't know why I hadn't thought of trying that yesterday. Anyways, all the lockers I could find were full, until I found a huge room with banks and banks of them in the basement. After some wandering, I found the bus heading to Kinkokuji.

On the bus it was really crowded. I stepped too close to the exit door and the bus asked me, rather conspicuously, to step back, and I did. A lady sitting in a seat facing me turned to her friend and said something about that guy being such a foreigner. I turned to the lady and said, in proper Japanese, "ain't that the truth." She didn't say anything else about me after that. I was feeling kind of annoyed about that, and I was getting a bit smothered. No sooner do I distinctly tell myself that I just want the bus to get on it's merry way so we can all get off, then the driver shuts the engine off. The reduction in noise revealed the rhythm of a snare drum. I looked out the window and saw a marching band ambling its way across the street directly in front of the bus, followed by a full-blown parade. I quietly laughed at myself and just enjoyed the show.

The bus took a little longer than I had thought it would, but it was worth it. Kinkokuji is a famous temple plated in gold leaf, and it looks absolutely brilliant in the sun. Even better, the Mirror Pond was calm enough to see a really good reflection. Really, this building is something out of King Midas. I bought a little charm talisman for good health and long life, more because it was neon orange and gold than anything. Being healthy is icing.

I took the bus back to the station and waited around the meeting area for Simon. (He had taken off to do his own thing really early in the morning.) His bus was late or something, and while I waited this old Japanese dude randomly came up to me. He spoke fluent English, and proudly informed me that he had graduated from UC Berkeley in 1953. After talking for a bit, he pulled out some papers and asked me to proofread a few of the sentences on them. It was pretty well written, save for a few interesting points, including using the word "debarked" in the context of skinning a tree. Then he had a train to catch and ran off.

I kept waiting, listing to my iPod. Despite a dozen Japanese people also clearly waiting to meet someone by the conspicuous statue of Astro Boy, I must have looked suspicious. A pair of policemen came up to me and asked if I was waiting for a friend. I said yes. Right on cue, Simon walked up and joined me. The policemen asked to see our ID cards, luckily we both had them with us. They asked us some random questions and copied down our info into their notebooks. After a few strained minutes, they decided we weren't making any trouble and let us be on our way.

This kind of thing does happen in Japan; merely looking like a foreigner is a good enough reason for a police officer to demand your ID or passport. It apparently happens to interns pretty regularly, although Simon said it was the first time they'd done it to him. The law is one of the few places that Japanese racism really manifests itself. They don't make it any secret that being a foreigner is the problem they have with you; from the point you enter the country and they record your photo and fingerprints, it's pretty clear. This is the kind of problem Labo is working to mend, but we've clearly got a long ways to go.

Simon and I took the train to Fushimi-Inari, and met Katie there after looking around a bit. Fushimi-Inari is temple/forest, it's pretty famous too. It's got a main temple area, but then it has a series of trails over a mountain. The trails are lined with thousands of huge torii, it's really an amazing experience to walk through them. Well, it's a walk at first, but it turns into a full-fledged hike, with lots of little shrines and graveyards. It took us a couple hours to get to the top, and another to get back. I got plenty of pictures. Oh yeah, there were kitties too.

We went to an italian restaurant in Kyoto station for dinner. I ordered a tomato salad, which turned out to be a skinned tomato drizzled with dressing. It was pretty good, but calling it a salad is stretching it I think. We had a great time, but I needed to get home so I had to leave first.

I talked to the dude at the JR ticket window, apparently there weren't any more direct trains on the cheaper Tokaido line, the one I had planned on using (it was about 8). He handed me a printout with a bunch of transfers, my best bet by normal train would get me home really late, not sure if the subway at the end of the trip even ran that late. I was (am) still exhausted from all the hiking, so I just said screw it and paid a little extra for a Shinkansen ticket. I walked up to the platform, and half an hour later I was in Nagoya station. Yay fast.

3 comments:

mamagotcha said...

Wow. I never really thought about the racism aspect of you visiting there. Had you been stopped by the police before? Are there any stories of gaijin being jailed or arrested without provocation? I'm not all THAT worried... I know you're incredibly polite and have great Labo support... but I have to wonder.

So where are you putting all these pictures? When you say "kitties," do you mean the wild cats like the one from Azumanga Daioh?

Julia said...

"Ain't that the truth"--is that a direct translation? :P

Jeanette said...

I'd like to see picture too!

Shinkansen sounds really nice. I'm looking forward to our new train system. zoom!