x every day: Japan day 5

11 April 2008

The plan was to leave the hotel by 8:30 for the 9:03 express train from Tokyo to Kyoto. On the walk to the train station, we realized that our tickets were from Tokyo station, not from Shinjuku, the station where we made the reservations. It was already way too late to make it to Tokyo station, so we changed our train tickets. That's when Erik realized that he didn't have his passport. He ran back to the hotel and found the it had fallen down the side of his bed, remaining upright and undetected by my double-checking under his and my beds.

We booked it to Tokyo station and just barely made the train. Instead of the two and a half hours we had estimated, it took three and a half, and it was the hour-later train from Tokyo. When we arrived in Kyoto we also discovered that we had to take the local trains, one stop each on two different lines, closer to our hotel, which was super tough to find during a nearly hour-long walk with all of our stuff. It sure didn't feel as though we had packed light at that point.

We were almost to the hotel when a woman on the street recognized Aspen-- we were supposed to meet her hours earlier for a coffee and a quick tour. She graciously took us to our hotel, where we dumped our bags and followed her through the Nishiki covered market. It's astounding. My words cannot do justice to the piles of brightly colored objects piled along the shopping allies on both sides, shops two or three storeys stacked, souvenir shops packed tightly next to old, respected sweetshops squeezed between flashy clothing stores. It's overstimulating, to say the least.

We had dinner at a conveyor belt sushi place, and this time I really made out. Kyoto is famous for its pickles, and I had oshinko, ume shisu, and kappa maki to show for it, as well as a grilled corn nigiri. After eating, we wandered back through the shopping alley with an eye on hat shops. Aspen had somehow lost his hat on the first trip through. While Erik got "pizza potato" fries at First Kitchen, Japan's own McDonalds, Aspen and Josh went to the Shinto shrine that Ayumi (yikes, I don't think that's right) had showed us.

Crap, I'm about to butcher this story.

At any rate, Aspen made a wish at the fortuneteller booth to find his favorite hat that he had lost. I tossed coins into the box at the front of the altar, clanged the bell, and made a wish. Aspen called me over because his fortune had said that a friend would help his wish came true. I walked over, then saw a plant I'm familiar with at home that I hadn't seen here yet-- bergenia. I leaned down to point it out to Josh and Aspen, and when Aspen bent over to look, he saw his hat on a stone, almost at my feet. It was such an eerie feeling that I left the shrine.

Back at the ryokan, we went for a bath and relaxed. We were so exhausted that I think we drifted off pretty early. I've skipped a few back-and-forths through the market and being served tea in our traditional tatami mat room, but you get the gist.