Watch Out Your Head

Kyoto, Day 1

We are spending our last four nights in Japan as guests of Janet’s friend, Rob. He is allowing us to stay in a Japanese house that was built in 1860 and is registered as a historical site.

People in Japan 150 years ago were short. Or at least shorter than I am. I have hit my head moving about the house approximately 38 times. I’m hoping there is a point where I don’t even feel it any more, but I haven’t reached it yet.

For our first day in Kyoto we decided to visit a shrine that has 1001 images of the Bhuda or in this case Kannon. We started our day with a search for the local Starbucks and almost failed until we convinced ourselves it was further than we originally thought. About half way there I realized I forgot my wallet so I ran back to get it. I jogged most of the way back to the house and it felt pretty good to be running. It was a good sign that my muscles had recovered from the Fuji climb.

After a couple days of ikemasho-ing all over the place we set a very easy pace for the day and lingered in the air conditioning of Starbucks for a good while. Then to the subway to the train to a taxi to get to the shrine. The grounds around the shrine were very lovely and we got pictures of this, but in addition to not wearing shoes in the shrine we were not allowed to take pictures. What I am saying is, I guess you had to be there. The statues of Kannon were impressive just by the sheer number of them. They are all the same sized an lined up on risers so toucan see the rows behind. There were single statues of lot of other gods; too many to remember really. each one had a sign in English explaining the name and the probable origin from India. In addition to the statues there was quite a bit about archery contests with Japanese longbows, but I was fading by then. The incense and slow movement through the hot building started to get to me and I rushed past the bit about the archery.

We then traveled by taxi to the Nijo castle. Before we went In we had lunch at a noodle shop which distinguished itself from other places by having kittens put in front for the kids to ooh and ahh over.

I was excited about the Nijo castle because one of the attractions was the Nightingale Floor. There is a Japanese fantasy novel titled Across the Nightingale Floor and until Janet mentioned it I had no idea it was based on a actual place. The floor surrounds the sleeping chamber of the emperor or shogun and was built to make a sound no matter where you stepped. This was to prevent assassins from reaching him. We walked on the edges of the floor around the room and I now know why it is called the Nightingale floor. The floor didn’t creak so much as squeak or almost chirp. With everyone walking on it at once it sounded like a flock of birds. The rest of the castle showed the rooms where the Shogun met with his visitors and where he lived and worked. As with the shrine we were not allowed shoes or cameras inside the castle.

We were allowed to take pictures outside and the garden was beautiful. I think I took over 100 pictures here. One of them is sure to be great.

It was late afternoon by the time we got back to out Kyoto house. We all took a siesta and around 6pm Kira and Janet went out to scope out a place for dinner. They wandered pretty far and ended up choosing a place close the the house. By the time they were able to lead us all back there it was closed. We ended up at a very interesting place called Cafe Rose across the street from their original choice. They served a mix of Italian food and Japanese food. The kids all got pasta of some sort. I asked for the curry pilaf, but must have pointed at the wrong item because I got the shrimp pilaf. It was good, but not very exotic. For drinks Michael and Sarah both ordered cream soda. We all sat there wondering why we didn’t get our drinks until after the meal until they brought out the first cream soda. It was a glass of bright green melon soda with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in it. Tasty, but not what we were expecting.

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