Kyoto, day one.

Sunday night, I slept better than I have since before I got to Japan. Apparently, my fatigue finally overcame my trouble sleeping on my back (which I’d been doing to minimize my snoring for Mike’s sake). By morning, I felt much better, and the weather was bright and pleasant with no rain in sight.

We headed out for a day trip to Kyoto (the first of two), taking a series of trains and meeting with a guide (a pleasant woman named Yamashita). We stopped at a longstanding and locally-famous kimono shop, where we all donned kimonos and posed with fake samurai hair caps and swords and silly masks. While still wearing the outfits, we took a tour of the business (along wth a couple who’d come to shop), learning of its history and the functions of the rooms. After the tour, we shed our expensive clothes so we could eat. Our dining surface was a magnificent marble table — obviously very old, with inlays and laquer. Something I’d expect to see on display in a museum, not somewhere I’d be eating. The lunch consisted primarily of vegetables, rice, and tofu, and while I didn’t love most of it, I ate all but one of the two pieces of vegetable that tasted like wasabi (I learned my lesson after eating the first one; vegetables shouldn’t taste like that) and the shredded leaves atop our rice.

Obligatory “Tourist In Front Of Golden Pavilion” photo.

Next stop was 金閣寺 (aka the Golden Pavilion), a famous tourist stop. We got the usual photo in front of the temple, and were once again accosted (nicely) by junior-high kids asking us questions in English for an assignment. I prayed at the temple and rang the bell, gave my address to a group of students, and we called it done for the day.

Once we got back to Osaka, some of the group remarked that there was a shrine down the street from where we left the station. We simply hadn’t noticed it before. Most everyone didn’t bother, but Heaven, Warren, and I went to see it. It was old, or seemed that way, and incongruous in the surrounding neighborhood. We did the purification, prayed and tossed money, took photos, and went back to the hotel.

Everyone else had gone to McDonald’s to eat, while I really needed to visit the post office to mail my overbought snacks home. It was just past 5:00, so the nearby office was closed, but the front desk ladies told me that there was one past Kawachi-Eiwa station (where we’d just come from, gah) that was open until 7:00. I grabbed up my two big paper bags of junk food and trundled back the way I’d come.

To sum up the story, I managed to find a truly friendly and generous employee who practically bent over backwards to help me. He recut and reshaped a box, figured out I’d spend less if I split it into two, didn’t charge me for the boxes, and even fudged the weight slightly so it wouldn’t kick me into a higher price bracket. He was patient with my cumbersome request, patient with my weak Japanese, and didn’t speak so formally that I couldn’t understand him. I slowed down the line and was basically a really polite pain in his ass, so when we were finished, I offered him a small box of Dars chocolate that I’d pulled from the box for weight consideration. He refused it (like any good Japanese), but when he finally accepted it, he trumped me by running off and bringing me a postbox-shaped coin bank. I thanked him profusely and beat a hasty retreat. The snacks, by the way, should show up at my place sometime in the next two to three months, right around the beginning of the fall semester.

Josh and Warren had plans with their conversation partners and didn’t feel like inviting anyone else along (which was fine), Heaven went off by herself, and the rest worked on the homework that was due before the end of the trip. I decided on a nap, figuring I’d only be able to sleep an hour or two. That was around 7:00.

At about 11:30, Mike came back from studying, and I was starting to wake up. We had some brief conversation before he went to bed and I hovered in a doze. I’d heard him come in earlier to get his stuff, and I heard Warren and Josh (drunkenly) return to their rooms later, but I basically just lay there and drifted. A few hours later, I think I finally fell back asleep, and I finally was able to rise around 6:30 in the morning to dump my photos and update this thing. That counts as Tuesday, though, so it’s the next entry.

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