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6th August - Tokyo

JAPAN | Sunday, 6 August 2006 | Views [756]

On the train...

On the train...

We leave Japan today, bound for Hong Kong.  I’m quite sad to leave really because it feels like we’re really starting to get the hang of it here.

Traditional Japanese Inn

Before leaving Kyoto we left our regular western style hotel and checked into a ryokan, a traditional Japanese Inn.  Ken acted as our travel agent and I’m guessing they don’t get many foreign guests staying there because we were greeted by our names by people waiting outside as we wandered up to it.  I did feel a bit like a VIP but was then mortified when this tiny girl, no bigger than my suitcase, insisted on taking said case from me and struggled so much to carry it that a man had to be summoned.

Our room had only a couple of low tables and floor chair things and the flooring was all tatami mats - all very minimalistic.  The idea in these places is that you go for a bath before dinner in the public bath in the inn.  Since this involves walking naked into a room of strangers, I bottled it but Eoin had no such qualms and reported back that it was lovely.  All bathed (or showered in my case), you put on your dressing gown thing (yukata) and settle down on the floor waiting for dinner to be served in your room.

Dinner was very complicated but very nice.  The girl who was serving it (all decked out in kimono) was really sweet and despite the language barrier managed to instruct us on what to dip where and how to cook the piece of beef that was in a sauce on a great big leaf on top of a grill on our table.  There were loads of little courses, every time she served one she disappeared for a while, at which point Eoin would down chopsticks and eat with his fingers.  After dinner was all cleared away, someone else came to our room and took some futon things out of the cupboard and made some beds up on the floor. How bizarre!

Breakfast the following morning was almost as complicated, we were grilling again, this time fish and tofu.  We watched everyone else stir Japanese pickles into their rice porridge and did the same but it was only after I nearly broke a tooth on one that I found out you weren’t meant to eat all of them whole.  I’m glad we tried the breakfast but I think I’m going to stick to muesli in the future.

Toilet Slippers

They do love their slippers out here.  Wherever you stay you are given slippers for your room or the hotel – in one of the places we stayed we had to leave our shoes at reception.  Nice touch I think but the toilet slippers are really funny.  Even if your toilet is the size of a cupboard you are provided with separate slippers for the loo and they just stay in the loo. And speaking of toilets, last week I  came across toilets that play flushing sounds while you go, just to provide you with a bit more privacy. 


Another thing the Japanese excel at is sleeping.  Trains and subways are full of people dozing off, that doesn’t sound that strange but we saw people napping just sitting on benches in front of exhibits at the National Museum and I even saw someone fast asleep, face on the table in a packed Starbucks.


I though that when we were out for dinner with Ken we could leave the picture menu places behind and rely on him to order for us, however he is starting to use these occaisions for his own entertainment.  The other night he had us eating pig’s tongue (which we barbequed in the middle of our table), chicken cartiledge (actually Emma and I just couldn’t manage that) and one very special raw meat dish.  Emma insisted that Ken not tell us what it was til we’d eaten some in case it put us off.  It was delicious  - until he told us that it was RAW HORSE.  If you want to know what it looks like, check out the photo of Eoin eating some.


One thing I’m going to miss from Japan is all the beautiful things here.  Everything is so well presented.  Boxes of sweets are too pretty to open, in cake shops the signs probably just say “Sticky buns 100 yen” but they look like pieces of artwork.  In fact, in the National Museum I wanted to take the Out of Order sign from the toilets and frame it because it was so pretty.  The shops are full to bursting of lovely things to buy, it’s probably a good job that I have no room in my suitcase this time.  I have a feeling I’ll be back though.

Tags: Adventures

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