Thursday, July 18, 2013

Japan 2013: Last Day in Matsuyama

After our wonderful, full day of adventures yesterday, it's no wonder we all slept in today! After our usual breakfast of pastries from the conbini with juice or cold green tea, we were ready to meet Tomoko & Nobuko-san for a morning of shopping & another lunch adventure.

We took the trolley back to our usual place near the ropeway, but headed to the shopping arcade across the street first. I wanted to find some arm-covers, which are ubiquitous among (mostly older) Japanese women in the summer, along with higasa. They are long, fingerless gloves that protect your arms from the sun & they seem very practical to me. Tomoko had found hers at Mujirushi, so we went there first.

Mujirushi is a rather unique store, selling only their own Muji line of goods, many of them recycled or streamlined & very basic. They have everything from clothes to housewares, furniture to food. I found a pair of arm-covers in cotton & a pair in silk on sale- woot! Charlie & Brendan really enjoyed looking at the food section. There were the usual beverages like iced tea, but then they had an assortment of interesting sodas- Brendan & I both tried the sumomo plum flavoured one. They had everything from preserved squid & octopus in packages, to candy, soy milk doughnuts, & a whole line of do-it-yourself packaged foods, like puddings, spaghetti sauces, curry sauces, & baked goods mixes. We bought a few to bring home, & some soy milk doughnuts for breakfast tomorrow :)

We ad a little time till lunch, so we headed to the big Mitsukoshi department store across the way. Tomoko told us that the flagship store is in the Ginza in Tokyo, & it was one of the first big, successful department stores in Japan.
This is the entry lobby of the Matsuyama Mitsukoshi. If felt like a hotel!

We were kind of wandering around there when I spotted some ties on sale, so we went to look (Charlie is always looking for ties for work :). He found a couple that would match some of his shirts (including a purple one with white polka-dots!), & then he saw they had spring-type tie clips. He has an awful time finding these in the states, so he was delighted to see some on sale here. He got one for himself & then suggested Brendan pick one out, since he is entering his time of interviewing for school & jobs, etc. We felt like we'd scored quite the booty here at Mitsukoshi :)

It was time to find our lunch place, so we headed back to the ropeway to find it. Yuka-san had suggested that we try one of the few vegetarian restaurants in Matsuyama, & with a name like "Charlie's Vegetable" how could we resist?
It was a "bi-king" (Japanese for Viking) style restaurant, what we call a smorgasbord. There were all sorts of salads, veggies, soups, breads, cute little desserts & it all looked yummy! We were seated on the second floor, up a cool spiral staircase,  & the food was on the first floor. It was good we got there early because it was a very popular place! Many of the veggies were labeled with the farm they had come from, & they were gorgeous.
Lisa's bi-king lunch
Since this was our last day with Tomoko & Nobuko-san, it was fun to linger over lunch & visit some.

Brendan's t-shirt (there's a Tardis under Beanie) sparked a conversation about Dr. Who & Nyan Cat, which led to Brendan finding the YouTube video of Nyan Cat on my phone to show them. Internet memes (& sci fi) are a bit removed from Nobuko-san's world, so it was a fun & lively conversation :)

The after-lunch plan was that Charlie would join Tomoko & her mom, who were going to meet Tomoko's Matsuyama aunts (her father's sisters) & then all go to see Matsuyama-jo, the castle on the top of the mountain in the middle of Matsuyama. After reading about it, the castle seemed a bit difficult for me to navigate (you'll see why later) so Brendan & I planned to go back to the hotel & rest a bit.

Since there was some time until everyone was meeting, we headed to Starbucks for dessert :) We promised to meet again when we come back in two years & then Brendan & I said goodbye to Nobuko-san & Tomoko & got on a trolley back to the hotel. It was hard to say goodbye!!!

While we rested, Charlie had quite the adventure, on a few levels. He was the only guy meeting some (elderly) Japanese ladies he'd never met before, & fortunately Tomoko could translate for him. Also, the castle is only accessible by many, many stairs or a cable car- they chose cable car:
He said the hike to get to the castle proper was pretty ardurous, because there were many fortified out-buildings to pass through. The view was spectacular, though:

At one point they all had to take their shoes off & put rubber slippers on to navigate the castle, & then there were the stairs:
It was quite a lot for the ladies to navigate & Charlie marveled at their stamina:
At the end of it, they bought him a kakigori (shaved ice) that looks like Mt. Fuji (with a flag, of course :)
Then he said his good-byes to Tomoko & her mom & took the trolley back to the hotel.

We got it together to go find dinner after this. There was a little temple I wanted to visit before it closed,  that Charlie had seen & told me about, so we headed over to the Enmanji Buddhist shrine before dinner. It's tiny, & right in the middle of a parking lot, but it has some beautiful statues & cute omamori.

The little pouchy-things hanging there are available as omamori. There was no one in attendance, but there was a sign explaining how to make a donation to buy them, so we did :) Unfortunately there's no info anywhere (on the internet at least) to explain their significance. They are unlike any other omamori I've ever seen, so I would like to know someday...
Enmanji omamori & friends :)
Then we went back to the Italian restaurant we'd gone to our first evening here for dinner. The wood-fired pizza is so yummy!

Then we did a tiny bit more omiyage shopping (the little fluffy guy in the omamori picture had to come home with me! His name is Bari-san & he's the mascot for the Imabari region :). And went to the conbini to buy breakfast.

Then we unpacked & repacked our luggage (arrrrrgh!!!) to try to make everything fit. Tomorrow we make the long journey (~7 hours) by train back to Tokyo.

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