By Paul Anderson
Thursday was a day trip to Kyoto to see Sakura, temples, shrines, bamboo forest, mountain monkeys or just go shopping. Kyoto is three-hour drive from Hekinan so we had to leave at 7 a.m. That meant that those of us who stayed with host families had to get up pretty early. I felt a little bad that Mieko had to get up so early to make me breakfast and drive me to the hotel. She is a trooper but is a little intimidated when it comes to driving. When we got to the hotel, the bus was parked in front of the door and she had to turn the corner between the bus and a column. I had to laugh as she said “kawai” “kawai,” which means terror, terror. A side note: If you are telling someone their baby is cute be sure and say Kawaii and not kawai. There is a big difference.
We left the hotel with the expectation that we’d arrive at our destination in Kyoto at around 10:30. There was much to see along the way. We drove through Nagoya on the expressway and saw the industrial area on the waterfront, huge garden areas and cherry trees in bloom. One thing nice about the expressway is that it is elevated. We had a nice view. When we got past Nagoya, we started up into the mountains. It was very interesting to see small clusters of homes in every valley and garden areas where there was a flat place. Also mixed in with the evergreen trees on the hills where cherry trees in full bloom.
The ride was nice and we made three stops along the way at rest areas. These are not like ours. Here you could buy food and many souvenirs, which many did. It was when we reach Kyoto when things slowed down. Our destination was clear across the city. Since it was a beautiful day, many people were heading the same direction along with the normal traffic and our three-hour trip took five hours. The closer we got to our destination the more cherry trees we saw. They lined the river and were beautiful.
When we reached our location, the streets were crowded with people and it took our bus a while to get to a parking place. We were the 23 bus in our lot and there was more than one lot. We had about three hours to do whatever we wanted to do. I choose to go see the temple. It was across the river and up on a steep hill. Chris Rockstead and his daughter Michelle choose to do the same thing. It was well worth it. I marveled at the buildings since I come from a construction background, but the view overlooking the city was even better. You could see the river and all the cherry trees in full bloom. Also at the temple there was a ceremony for young girls. There were many girls, dressed in their finest kimonos, with their families.
We decided to head back down to the river where the markets were. Michelle was looking for takoyaki — octopus in a flour, egg, vegetables and water batter with cheese, mocha or another ingredient you want to add, and made into a ball by cooking in a special pan. They put a special sauce on them but I like mayonnaise added to it. It is quite tasty. I decide to try a cherry blossom ice cream cone. I had already tried a green tea cone in Osaka. We ran into others from the delegation doing the same thing. The next step was to cross the river where the souvenir stores were. It was crowed but we found what we were looking for. We also ran into more of the delegation members as we walked back toward the bus.
There were still a lot of buses. It was a good thing we memorized the plate number; not a hard thing since it was only three numbers. I dropped my stuff off and walked around some more before we left. Most of the other buses had tourist guides, so I asked one if she could speak English. Like usual, she said just a little. Well, we had a nice conversation because she knew more than just a little. I introduce her to Michelle and Chris, and Michelle struck up a conversation with her since she speaks Japanese. Then Michelle and Ron Clayborne walked up and we introduced her to them. I think we talked too long because another guide came up and she had to run to her bus. This is one of the things I like about Japan, because if you find someone who speaks English they love to talk to you.
Back on the bus, everyone was excited to share their adventures. For us it was the temple. The most exciting one I heard was those who ventured to see the mountain monkeys. I think everyone had an enjoyable time.
Our next destination was the Golden Temple. We just had a short time to take pictures and walk around. For me, it was nice to see the way the buildings were built. One other thing you do is help others take pictures. I did this on a number of occasions as did all the others. In turn, people helped take pictures of us. It was a great ice breaker some times for talking with Japanese and foreign travelers. The temple was our last walking tour as it was time to head back to Hekinan and we were running late.
We did drive by a castle and temple while we were in Kyoto and only snapped pictures of them as we drove by. Dinner was planned at the last rest area, where they had a nice bento box prepared for us. I think we all had to agree we had a great day even if the bus ride was long. I was anxious to get back to my host family to tell them what we done and to show them my pictures. Again, it wasn’t until almost midnight before I headed off to bed. Have I mentioned, yet, that I love this family? I wouldn’t trade this home stay for the best hotel in Hekinan.
Edmonds Sister City Commissioner Paul Anderson is writing regular reports about the commission’s visit to Japan, part of a 25th anniversary trip honoring Edmonds’ Sister City relationship with Hekinan, Japan.