Strange Meats On a Stick
Trip Start Unknown
68Trip End Ongoing
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Where I stayed
The train ride was great. We sat next to an older guy from San Francisco who was friendly. We came prepared with snacks and bento (box) lunches. The Japanese countryside is very hilly and green. It was cool to shoot by countless small towns with their trademark thatched roofs, and also the farms and rice paddies, many which are under water. Not to sound to lame, but it was just really nice.
We are going to have to get used to these backpacks though. We were getting spoiled in Tokyo since we never had to change hotels. So far though, they've worked great and we still have plenty of room for all of the stuff Jacki's bought
When we arrived in Kyoto it is a much different city than Tokyo, but still a city. We took a local bus to our hotel from the train station and at one point the bus driver started to make a wrong turn and had to pull almost a u-turn in the middle of a busy intersection. He keep repeating "sumimasen, sumimasen" which means "I'm sorry" for a few minutes. The whole ride, there were giggling Japanese girls making a lot of noise. We are definitely getting immersed in the local culture. We really haven't had too much trouble communicating with people too. It's amazing how far knowing how to say "hello," "where," "please," "thank you," and counting to ten will get you.
Our hotel in Kyoto is nice. It supplies robes and slippers again, luckily. We did our first load of laundry when we first got here. Since the hotel was asking about $5 a shirt, we did it ourselves in the bathtub and hung everything around the room. I'm not sure how 'clean' the stuff is, but at least it doesn't smell. I don't know if I mentioned it before, but smoking is ok here in Japan pretty much everywhere. We forgot how it can just cling to you.
After getting settled we decided to take it easy and just wander around town. There is a good shopping area near our hotel where all of the streets are covered. Its still pretty cold here so that was good
Then came the fun part of the night, for me anyway. We found a decent looking yakitori restaurant. Yakitori is random meat grilled on a stick. It's usually not the normal cuts of meat too, usually its the cheap stuff that is thrown away. There was a thick smoke in the air from the grills and we got a couple glasses of sake. I got the assorted yakitori so that I could at least try a few of them. To give you an example of some of the crazy stuff they had, one picture showed "raw horse," now not all of the translations end up being right, and I'm willing to try new things, but I'm staying away from anything like that. Jacki got some pate and a cheesy meatball thing on a stick. As far as I know, my sticks were chicken skin, gizzards, and tail meat, and then a couple different kinds of beef that we couldn't figure out. I'm guessing one was liver, but who knows
After going out on a limb there, we decided to grab some snacks and went back to our room and watched Despicable Me. Not bad.
Today was a temple day. The Imperial Palace of Japan is just down the road so we walked there first. At one point we realized how crazy it is that we are half way around the world, and how different everything is. The trees seem to grow crooked in a very Japanese way and the grass is more yellow than green. Even the rocks seem more jagged and sporadic. People drive on the left side of the road, and everybody walks in a very orderly line on the left side of the sidewalk. It's weird to see these young kids about the same ages as my nieces dressed in their fancy school uniforms taking the trains by themselves home from school. Not to sound ambiguous, but things here are both very simple, but at the same time can be very complicated. It is very friendly here, but also kind of unapproachable. For example, many of the stores and restaurants have either no sign out front, or just a very small one, and a large banner at eye level blocking your view inside the room. Once you get the guts to go in though, everyone is super nice and friendly. You just have no idea what you're getting yourself into before you go in though.
Anyways, sorry for getting sidetracked, we walked to the Imperial Palace and through the gardens
From there we went to an old shogun castle. You have to cross a moat to get on the castle grounds, and then we got to walk through the huge entry house in front. We had to take our shoes off and put on slippers before going into the house, this seems to be a trend for all houses and temples. The building was made in the 1600's and the coolest thing about it was that the floors, which they called nightingale floors, were made so the they would squeak slightly when you walk on them so that nobody could sneak in. This floors were all the way around the house and still worked. They must have been used to keep out ninjas.
The actual castle was across another moat and we weren't allowed in there. The rest of the castle area was cool though. Lots of trees and streams and stuff.
We took a train down to the main station and found a huge food court area in the basement for lunch. Jacki was starting to get a little crabby so it was just in time. After looking at all the stalls and picking something out we found out that there weren't any tables or even benches anywhere nearby. In the meantime Jacki was getting crabbier and it was freezing outside, but eventually we found some benches in the station and just ate there
Our third temple of the day was by far the coolest. It was a temple devoted to business success so successful businessmen donate these bright reddish orange 'tori' gates. There were all types of sizes throughout the area, and along the two miles of paths there are literally thousands of these gates. It was raining a little, and you could barely tell because so many of these wooden gates lined the entire path. There were also a bunch of smaller shrines along the trail. Each shinto temple has an animal associated with it, and this one had a wolf as their animal. Check out the pictures. The whole place was pretty sweet.
At one point we decided to take a side path up a hill away from the gates. We wandered into a bamboo forest and a few small shrines that don't get much use and were overgrown. We heard some strange yelling in the distance, and when we got to the top of the hill we saw that there was a baseball diamond nearby and the umpire was calling out strikes. It was probably the third time already we've seen people playing baseball.
Now I'm back in the hotel and we're going to head out for sushi in a bit. There is a conveyor belt sushi place across the street where plates travel around the room and you grab whatever looks good. Plus its only about 100-200 yen a plate, so its a cheap way to do sushi too. Remind me later if you want and I'll put up some pictures.
Hope everything is going good with everyone back home!