French fries for breakfast

We had breakfast at the hotel on Sunday morning. It is the fanciest hotel we have stayed in so far despite not having a private bath. The breakfast was a little spendy, but it was buffet style and everyone got a lot to eat. Each of the kids grabbed a good sized portion of the French fries that were sitting next to the eggs, bacon, and miso soup. Melanie had 4 pieces of bread with jam. I ate a bowl of plain yogurt that after I got past the initial tartness was like eating a bowl of cream.

With our big breakfast to give us energy we headed out to see the little town of Kurashiki. Right away I and the kids wanted to ride one of the canal boats. It only goes up and back for a couple hundred meters, but it seemed essential to the experience. We walked up to get on and were instructed that we needed tickets from the office across the canal. We went over and grabbed one of the last reserved spots for a boat ride in a couple hours at 11:30. It was already hot at 9:30 and the boats had no shade, but we knew it would be short.

While we waited for our boat ride we paid admission to walk through a Japanese toy museum. The were hundreds of antique Japanese toys. Many of them were very interesting and there was even a huge top that somebody used to get in the Guinness book of records for spinning a top for more than an hour. I confess that I had been hoping for some antique toy robots, but the toys in this museum were much older than the 20th century. We bought Michael a wooden slinky thing that he has been playing with ever since.

The toy museum took quite a bit less time than we thought so we still had an hour and a half until our boat ride. We wandered the very hot streets of Kurashiki quickly going into shops if we discovered air conditioning. We discovered one shop that sold these amazing ornaments. They consisted of gossamer balls with small figurines in them. We liked the one with two fish in it best because it looked like a fish bowl. None of us had ever seen anything like it so we had to get one.

There were several street vendors with mostly jewelry laid out on blankets. One of them had all steam punk themed items that caught Sarah and Melanie’s attention. We didn’t get anything from on our first. Pass, but after the boat ride we made a point of going back to him and Sarah got a watch on a necklace with a gear attached and Melanie picked up a ring that is in theory a gift for a friend.

When walking in the day before we found a family of swans. It was interesting at the time, but we just wanted to get to the hotel. During our sightseeing time we found them again and another tourist was feeding them from her lunch. The two adult swans were very aggressive about the handouts and their ugly children only got the few items they missed. The woman feeding them had to hit the large swans on the head when they got too pushy. It was nice of her to sacrifice her lunch so we could get a good look at the swans.

When it was time for our boat ride our gondolier asked me if I understood Japanese and was a little disappointed when I told him only a little. Kira stayed off the boat to take pictures so the kids and shared the boat with one other man who didn’t fit on the other boat with his family. I think our gondolier and tour guide was glad to have a Japanese native on board because he was spouting facts about the buildings around the canal all the way up and down. Occasionally he would give me an English fact, but most of his knowledge would have been wasted on us. We had some nice international chuckling when we passed the other boat and the man pointed over and said in English, ” My wife.” Later when we passed Kira taking our picture from the shore I got to say the same thing. I almost forgot. Because the was no shade we were all given large straw hats to wear to protect us form the sun.

After the ride in the canal boats it was time to head back to the hotel, get our bags and head for Kyoto. The plan called for stopping at Himeji castle on the way. We found out that the walk from the station was quite far on the way on so we had them call us two taxis to get us back to the train station. Most of the trip to Himeji castle was on local trains and here we encountered a gaggle of school girls that decided to practice their English on us. They would confer among themselves trying to decide if the word was “what” or “where” and by the time the asked their question (in unison for the most part) I knew what they were going to ask. It was nice to have something to smile abut on another long day of traveling.

We made our way to The Himeji castle in pretty good time, eating a quick lunch in one of the train stations along the way. Kira and I both had Katsu curry and other people had other things. We left our luggage in a locker at the Shinkansen station and walked the 25 minutes or so to the castle.

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