hi again! finally found our way out of kyoto -- we got serious temple-fever (thankfully, my actual fever had subsided by then, two fevers would have been unacceptable) and probably would have stayed there forever trying not to miss anything. kyoto was just absolutely amazing. the cherries are everywhere, bursting different shades of red and white almost wherever you look. the temples are all preserved and in various states of restoration going back to their 750AD inception, and each is still an active, important shrine. each of the different buddhist sects has a major complex in kyoto, and each has something interesting to see -- dry rock or floral garden, giant buddha statue, bamboo forest, etc. we were just blown away. we ended up mostly on our own since it was fairly difficult coordinating schedules, but everyone was all together for a great group dinner (with nate and baby echo, yes, echo, sleeping next to each other) and we had a nice zen temple lunch with adam and akiko the next day. the one full day we spent with janis and maxene kind of summed up kyoto: in the morning, we visited wild monkeys that live in the outlying hills, and in the afternoon we shopped for baby clothes at fancy dept store takayama. sometimes it's more like nepal here than anything else, but then when you're done with the fun you get to drink the tap water and ride 250km/hr trains. goodbye third world, hello japan. so by the end of the week a three-story pagoda didn't even get a second glance, and luckily it was time to move on.
backtracking a bit -- the wedding event in kanazawa was quiet, nice, japanese, about 40 guests at a U shaped table eating various courses of fish, soba, and more fish and more soba. oh yeah, and fish for dessert. it was a bit overwhelming. truth is you really wouldn't have guessed it was a celebration, it was really just a nice lunch. two geisha (entertainers) sang songs and played the drums and japanese guitar-like instrument. it sounded like the orient, no surprise i guess. nate got a shot at the drums, as did adam and akiko and others. there were long introductions of everyone present including full resume and education credentials, although we were introduced only as "the cousins", still not sure how insulted we should be.
we also took a day trip to osaka, japan's 3rd biggest city, where there's an impt castle we all know from Shogun (or at least marc and i do, reading that while here is lots of fun) and a nice acquarium.
we've pretty much got the food thing down now, there are a bunch of vegetarian options once you know what to look for and some vegetarian restaurants we've enjoyed. milk, yogurt, and bread are in steady supply, but cheese is virtually non-existant. and there's always KFC where you need it...
rachel is feeling great, quite a bit better than before we left actually and there was really only one day with any nausea. my cold has subsided and is now alive and well with akiko, damn those western germs.
anyhow, now we're up the foothills of the japanese alps where tomorrow we'll do a big hike on the old postal route between two small, very picturesque towns. then it's on to nagano further up in the mountains for some more mountain scenery and an old volcano, finally back to tokyo on tuesday for a couple of days of bright lights big city.
if we don't get to write again, see you next week!