Thursday, July 7, 2011

Japan 2011 Day 11 (July 7): From Uji to Tokyo, & Tanabata!

We woke up in Uji to pouring rain & Charlie & I both felt thankful that the rain came on our travel day & not on our sightseeing day! We had another lovely breakfast in the dining room & then finished packing. Once again, the bags closed! But they’re heavy! When we went down to catch a cab to the station, the Hana Yashiki folks said they’d drive us there, which was very nice. We bought beverages at Uji Station & a phone card so we could call our contact person for the apartment in Tokyo. In just a few minutes the local train arrived to take us to Kyoto.
Local train from Uji to Kyoto
At Kyoto Station we found the ticket window to reserve seats on the shinkansen to Tokyo. Then we found the waiting room to stash the luggage (with Brendan in attendance) & went to find eki-ben for lunch. 

The train came soon after & we quickly found our seats & stashed the luggage again- we’re getting to be good at this! It took about 2 1/2 hours to go from Kyoto to Tokyo. 
Pikachu & friends on the shinkansen
We got off at Shinagawa station on the recommendation of our contact, Brad, since it’s closer to the apartment. 
If you look closely at the sign in the middle, you'll see the word "foodium" :D

After a stop at Starbucks for refreshment, we found a taxi & the only irritating event of our trip so far. The taxi driver insisted he couldn’t understand our Japanese, couldn’t read the map we gave him (with the address in Japanese), made 3 phone calls to contact people, & made a 10-minute ride last 35 minutes! I could understand just about every rude thing he said & was fuming. He was ready to drop us off any old where, but I was determined not to get out of the taxi until we saw Brad’s face. I finally kept repeating the address to him, in Japanese, as he looked at signs, & we finally saw Brad & he stopped the cab. Brad was just as unhappy with the guy as I was & talked the taxi charge down by half, since it was the driver’s fault we’d been going around in circles! Brad told us later that, in 23 years in Japan, he’s only had stuff like that happen 5 or 6 times, & we’ve certainly never had such trouble with a driver before, in our visits to Japan. 
After we reclaimed our luggage from the taxi, we went into the lobby of the apartment building to put it away for a bit, since our apartment wouldn’t be available for a couple hours. He suggested a walk around the neighbourhood to get our bearings, & we were ready, having spent most of the day sitting down. The weather in Tokyo was cloudy, but pleasant, so a walk felt good. We are staying near Shiba Park, which is located near lots of train stations, places to eat, & things to see. As we wandered, we found a huge Buddhist temple & gravitated toward it. Things seemed to be happening there, & there were kiosks selling food & beverages, & tables set up. 

So we looked around a bit & then just found a table & sat down. The temple was the Zoujouji, which is the main temple for the JouDou (Pure Land) sects of Buddhism, the largest sect in Japan. It’s gorgeous & impressive, but even more so while hosting a matsuri, or festival. The festival was Tanabata, of course, which we’ve been seeing preparations for as we’ve traveled. There were loads of bamboo trees in stands with fluttering wishes that whipped in the breeze. 

We were captivated by the children in kimono running around & eating yummy things.

And then, bells rang & priests came out of the main building, & they began the festival properly. It was all festive & solemn at the same time. 

The head priest spoke afterword for a bit, about remembering the earthquake survivors, & a few cute remarks about wether or not Orihime would be able to meet Hikoboshi, her husband, since it was so cloudy (according to legend, if it’s raining, the birds that form a bridge over the Milky Way won’t come out & they have to wait another year to meet). 
A little before 6:00 we left to go back to meet the owner of the apartment we’re staying in. Another nice person, who explained how everything worked & got us onto his internet connection- yay! We’re online again! Yay, I can do laundry!!! We’re on the 27th floor of a very impressive apartment building (impressive as in, how did we get to stay here?). What we’ve found is that staying in an apartment in Japan is less expensive than a hotel, & much roomier. The apartment we originally rented was in a building closer to Tokyo Bay, but it happened that the management of the building decided to do some maintenance during our stay so Brad arranged for us to stay in a friend’s apartment, much more centrally located, instead. Lucky, huh? Here’s the night view:
After settling-in (Brendan’s on an air bed, so we had to set that up) we headed out to find some food. We found a Lawson’s convenience store (“conbini) just a couple blocks away & bought dinner & breakfast, then went back to eat, shower, & go to bed! 

No comments:

Post a Comment