Saturday, April 14, 2007

final japan

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!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

apostrophe is back!

getting my apostrophe back feels REAL good, thank you maxene's good, old-fashioned western-style hotel. by western-style, everyone still bows five times to you as you go up the escalator, but you get a real bed. mmmmm, real bed (rachel and i have crazy hip soreness from sleeping on the floor, i mean, "futon" mats). japan is just really japanese; if it's only an act it's an incredibly good one. we're in kyoto now, the old feudal capital, temples and samurai palaces by the dozen. if nate talks to you about trying to convert, tell him no, we can light incense, rinse our hands in fancy cups, and look at buddha any time he wants to. this time of year kyoto is full of japanese pilgrims here to visit the temples during the cherry blossom season, but everyone is still amazingly accomodating with him. apparently there is some serious anglo-baby-mania: rob told us a funny story about a friend who went to china to adopt a chinese baby and everyone who stopped to peak in the carriage was disgustedly disappointed.

i'm a bit delirious from japanese Contact (didn't know we even still made it), so this one will be this short. hopefully this cold will end with me... hope all is well with you, glad to hear sami is an official crawler, send us a picture! love, r&r&n

Friday, April 6, 2007

all systems go

except for the lack of apostrophe on this keyboard, everything has gone swimingly these first few days. flight over was long but really ok, nate did great. at about hour 8 rachel and i looked at each other and said theres no way we are going to make it to 13.5, but we brought out the wiggles and the time just melted away. spent the first night in a hotel near the airport to catch up on sleep, but nate had other plans (up at 1am). saw the old palace and ginza area (shopping, sony building) in tokyo, then spent the night in the mountains where it was quite a bit colder than we would have wanted (the innkeepers daughter lent nate her mittens) to break up our journey to kanazawa where the wedding reception will be. weve been staying in "japanese" inns, which means there are tatami mats and futons on the floor and tea kettles and sliding paper-covered doors for nate to break. actually, rachel broke the door, but you didnt hear it from me. food situation is as expected, a sometimes not-so-fun challenge unless youre looking for udon noodles or chicken curry. they just really love to put pork EVERYWHERE. in sat question form, that would be japan -> pork as pizza hut -> cheese. today we spent the day in the old samurai and shinto temple district, really amazing old houses and gardens and windy, twisty streets. nate is a ridiculously big hit here. he had them at "blond haired two year old", but when he gives them the "bowwwww" with the namaste hands, its really all over.

hope all is well with you, should have somewhat frequent email access so we will write again soon--