Japan. I also realise how totally besotted with Rebecca I am - well, I realised that months ago, but I haven't dared say it in my blog. I haven't seen her now for 2 & 1/2 weeks and I'm missing her like mad. I'm also listening to Moby right now, and that always makes me feel nostalgic.This was the last of our trips together in Japan - and it ended up cementing in my mind how glad I was that I came to Japan to be with Rebecca.
Rebecca's mum, Lyn, was spending some time here and we all decided to do a 3-day road trip. We hadn't organised any accommodation, even though it was during the busiest holiday period in Japan. We were just going to try to find somewhere cheap on the way! Well, I thought that was the plan - and dutifully packed the world's smallest 'two'-person tent as our 'backup' plan incase we couldn't find anything. To cut a long story short it ended up that all along Rebi was just planning to camp by the side of the road - and wasn't too happy to find that I'd neglected to bring a mattress for poor ol' Mother MacKay who was to sleep in the car!
We took the back roads through the mountains (well there weren't really any 'front' roads). It was one of those trips where you discover so much that you love about a country, but also experience things that make you see the bright side of leaving.... like trying to deal with the plainly OUTRAGEOUS Japanese speed limits... I mean seriously! What are they thinking building billion dollar elevated expressways and then posting a 80km/h limit? And that is the best part! The normal national highways have a limit of 50km/h - YES, FIFTY!!!! And that's NOT miles, but kilometres. You may wonder what James, the sustainable transport afficionado, is getting all worked up about having to drive slowly... well it is all to do with the fact that the locals all want to do DOUBLE the speed limit . Hell, if I was somewhere like Argentina, I'd just say to myself "well, they are reasonable people - if everyone is doing it, then the cops won't book you". Unfortunately that isn't the experience with Japanese cops.
Yes - Rebecca has stories to tell about police harassment of gaijin (foreigners) - being booked for double-dinking on her bike (locals do it with impunity)... Once the cops even followed her home to tell her she had to go down to the police station because she was riding an 'unregistered' bicyle! I'm proud to say that even with 4 of the burliest reinforcements they could muster, Rebi outright refused to go with them and just told them not to be so ridiculous. Even on this trip we got a $150 parking ticket in Kanazawa after the parking attendant told us we COULD park there... Suffice to say that we were sticking to that god damned 50km/h speed limit - even if it killed us. Which it bloody well nearly did on those narrow mountain roads, at night, through tunnels - sharing the roads with repressed drivers hell bent on expressing their freedom and individuality within the 'safe' confines of the anonymity of their steel and glass boxes. OK rant officially over.
We saw a diversity of Japanese heritage - 18th century thatched farm houses, beautifully minimalist Samurai and merchant houses, a Geisha 'tea' house, a Ninja temple with trapdoors and tricks. But the highlight was the Eiheiji temple - comprising 13 buildings built from the 13th century - it really made me think that in a parallel life I could be quite happy staying there and studying to be a monk. At least I could keep my same haircut!
We even got all interactive and signed up for some gold-leaf craftwork. It is amazing - they take a bullion about the size/shape of a packet of cigarettes and pound it until it is 30m long by 7cm. Then they cut 7x7cm squares and pound each one until it is 30x30 - they do this 2 more times and you end up with gold leaf that is 1 micron thick. It is thinner than tissue paper. This is what the covered the Goldern Pavilion with in Kyoto (see that entry). Anyway for only about $10 we got to make gold leaf chopsticks! and at the end you even get a free cup of tea with gold leaf floating in it - remember this is 24 carat gold. Actually, people often decorate sweets with gold in the same way.
And speaking of interactive - I finally got my Japanese hot spring experience (well 3 times actually). Very relaxing in the end - but I must say I was a little anxious about getting the etiquette wrong - which seems somewhat more risky (or risque?) when you are naked and stand out like a bald white man!
So yes - the road trip was fun. I had such a great time with Lyn and her lovely daughter who I'm madly in love with. Yes Rebecca it is true! Now hurry up and get yourself back into my presence...