Where was I? Oh, yes, our emergency hotel in Tokyo. As I mentioned, though, one of the best things about this hotel was its proximity to Tokyo Station, so the next morning it was no problem to get up bright and early, check out, and walk over to the station to catch one of the first shinkansens out to Kyoto. Unfortunately, we ended up in a smoking car, which rather detracted from the usually very pleasant shinkansen experience, because it is Japan, and the businessmen will certainly smoke in the smoking car, without question. It turns out that I can’t actually hold my breath for two hours, alas. We also missed seeing Mt. Fuji.
However, we did finally get to Kyoto! We took two cabs to our ryokan, and it was very nice. I was really looking forward to staying there, because I’d only gotten to stay in ryokans twice while I was living in Japan, one not-so-nice one in Tokyo when we were trying to save money, and one super-nice one when I went with the first-year teachers on their end-of-year retreat. Getting to sleep in a tatami room on a futon again felt almost like home. Both of my boss’s daughters thought it was very cool, and I think the younger one decided she wanted to live in Japanese house with sliding shoji doors forever. My room looked down on the courtyard area inside the front gate, which was pretty and charming during the day, and even better at night, when all the lanterns were glowing by the path.
The women from the front desk served us tea in the sitting room attached to my boss’s family’s room, and then my boss’s husband had to go give a guest lecture at a nearby university where he knew a colleague. The rest of us ventured out to explore the neighborhood. Our ryokan turned out to be in the Gion district, and it appeared that the building at the end of the street was a favored place for women dressed like geisha/maiko to pose for pictures. I never did figure out what the building actually was, or if it was just picturesque. I finally got to have real soba again when we stopped for lunch at a small nearby restaurant, where my boss’s daughters also discovered the wonder of Japanese vending machines and all the many flavors of Fanta we don’t have in the US.
Then it was back to the ryokan for a brief rest, after which we went out for our first real destination: Ginkakuji (Temple of the Silver Pavilion). I think this was my favorite temple of all the ones I visited with my family when they came to visit me for Christmas when I lived in Japan, because the gardens are so peaceful, and the temple building itself is so unassuming, especially compared to its twin, Kinkakuji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion). Ginkakuji never actually ended up getting silvered, so it seems much more natural, and, at least to me, suited to its environment. Unfortunately, I don’t think the rest of the group got to feel much of that effect, because the temple itself was being reroofed, and we went through the gardens kind of quickly, because it was hot and the kids were tired. Not that this stopped me from taking pictures anyway, of course.
We decided to drop the kids off at the ryokan before doing anything else, but by the time we caught the right bus back, I realized that all the other places we were interested in would be closing for the day. Instead, my boss and I went to the local conbini (and you know how much I love Japanese convenience stores; they topped my list of things I would miss most) to get stuff for a light dinner, since our appetites were still screwed up from jet lag. In my opinion, this made for an excellent meal. I enjoyed it back in my room, where I got to explore the wonders of Japanese TV again. That evening’s entertainment choice was an episode of a mystery show that appears to star Japan’s version of Columbo. Google reveals that the show is called Furuhata Ninzaburo. That particular episode was particularly interesting to me because the guest star and eventually convicted murderer was none other than Ichiro Suzuki. Playing himself, no less, which was kind of strange, given that he was playing himself as a rather cold-blooded murderer. But apparently he is a big fan of the show, so I assume he had fun with it.
At the end of the episode, I went to sleep on my very comfortable futon, with the window open, already planning out my next day.