Monday, July 15, 2013

On rainy, stormy days, they go inside where it's dry.

Sunday started out really well. We got up on time, we left early and made it to Nara a whole 30 minutes ahead of schedule. We didn't have a hard time table, I feel that traveling like that can tend to leave much to be desired. Instead we had a loose, hey, at the latest, we should be on the X train departing at Y time. But as I said, the day started out awesome. It was overcast, but sunny and not nearly as hot as Saturday.

Jessica as we arrived in Nara.

What Nara is really known for are two things. Todaiji and the Nara Deer Park. With one nestled within the other, it's pretty much a two for one.


There are so many deer all over, not just the park, but the city that these せんべい (read senbei) sellers can be seen every few yards with a herd of deer hanging around them waiting for people to buy the rice crackers to feed them.


About a 20 minute walk from the station was our first stop. Todaiji. I'll upload some very Jess-styled videos later and add the links. But Todaiji is... just... plain. Massive.



Here is a picture from the gated entrance.


Still not enough of a feeling of the largeness based off that step (which I almost fell stepping over)? How about this.


I think you can get an idea of the size. I think it would be impossible for anyone to really respect and just understand the sheer size of this place without being there in person. That photo can give you an idea though. Inside was a massive, massive buddha. Here is a site with a bit more information on the temple.


I'm wishing I remembered more of my art history class now, so I'm not sure what the one to the left of the buddha is . Thanks to the beauty of the internet, I know know that the statue to the left of the is the Nyorin Kannon. For more pics and a bit more info check out this site.


But I'm pretty sure this was some kind of guardian or something. Please correct me if I'm wrong!


Inside the temple there are pillars with holes in them. These are believed to be some kind of magical healing pillar. It is said that if you can crawl through one that you are guaranteed a place in heaven. My broad shoulders are preventing my access.


Before I move onto the park I just want to say. I noticed a LOT of people in this, you know, super OLD temple using the flash on their cameras.  I realize you want a nice picture. But do you realize what hundreds of peoples "one flash one hurt it" can do over time? There is a reason flash photography isn't allowed around art. That exposure to the light actually can degrade art. So please, be respectful of the work that has been around far longer than you. Keep your flash off, use your cameras functions to a low-light friendly setting. Jumping down off my soap box now.

As I said before, the deer in the park are EVERYWHERE. You can easily pet them. However, it isn't recommended as they are wild deer. If they walk up to you and you decide to chance it all responsibility will fall on you if you are injured. Just remember that if you follow suit.


The park is awesome and green and fun. You can see the deer and feed them and pet them. But again, be warned. There are even signs to warn you. And don't forget to watch your stuff. They WILL try to eat it. Jessica almost lost her fan to one.

He is not amused.
I have a picture of Jess bravely feeding the deer, I'll have to upload it later. So Nara over, we headed out for Kyoto. The train ride from Nara to Kyoto took about an hour and a half which is pretty quick when all is said and done. It did run us in the area of 1,000円 each though. Upon exiting the station with some help from a friendly couple pregnant with their second child we exited the station.

This is where it all went wrong.

Not only had is suddenly began down pouring and I mean down pouring. I'm an Oregonian. I know rain. I know heavy rain. I know all kinds of rain. This was DOWN pouring. I'm talking sheets of the stuff. And not only is it down pouring, but the rumble of thunder quickly joins the fray.

For those of you who haven't been party to my daily antics, you won't know this. Thunder is my second biggest fear. Right above spiders. I am TERRIFIED of it and it sends me scrambling to cry hiding under covers in the fetal position of my bedroom. Yet here I am, in the middle of Kyoto and it's thunder storming.

We decided to be brave and made a mad dash through the rain for the nearest conbini a block a way, but we were entirely drenched by the time we reached it. I drug my feet, picked up some much needed cough drops, garbage bags for an improvised bag cover, dragged my feet some more. Eventually we had to go so we purchased some plastic rain coats in the hopes that the rain would let up soon and because they were cheaper than umbrellas.

As I was paying the thunder decided to scare me out of my wits and I jumped, sending the contents of my wallet clattering around me on the floor as I tried to cover my ears. The nice employee helped me pick it all up as Jess, like any good friend would do, laughed at me. After we exited I drank my one cup of liquid Japanese courage before we pressed on through the downpour to the bus.

Eventually we made it to the Golden Pavillion and it was still storming, but we pressed on anyways. No rain was going to stop us and my liquid courage had helped to make the storm a little bit less frightening. But still. You don't just forget your second biggest fear when it's screaming at you every two minutes to remind you it's still there.

Being my second trip this year to the Golden Pavilion I can now say that so far I think I preferred winter, but I'll make my final call in a couple of months time after I've gone in the fall.


Despite the rain, the place was crowded, so we were able to get someone to take a picture.

 

Our next stop was the imperial palace gardens. After a bus and further walking in the rain we arrived only to find out it was closed on Sundays. By this point were feeling thoroughly inhuman. Shoes were soaked completely through and despite the jackets we felt soaked to the bone. We had no idea where our next bus stop was and being exhausted we opted for a taxi to take us to Toei Studio Theme Park. After pulling out the driver realized it was already 4:33 and the park closed at 5 so we instead had him take us to Gion. After dinner we walked over to the very old feeling street and walked around a bit. We saw a total of 5 maiko, but unfortunately my camera was in hiding from the rain as my previously improvised rain cover had ended up soaked. Jessica did manage to get a picture of two of them though, so I'll steal that for you all later.

It was unfortunately at this point in our day that Jess' sandals finally proved to be too much in the rain and she wound up pulling a muscle in her leg so we called it a day and headed back to Osaka and got some much needed shut eye. I even managed to fall asleep before midnight, an entirely unusual feat for me since I can never fall asleep before 3 am.

Moral of the story. On rainy, stormy days, smart people go inside where it's dry. What did we do? We stayed out for half a day in the rain.

Today (or yesterday now I suppose) was spent in relaxation. It also happens to be the only day we followed a rule and after checking out (Good bye Sun Hotel. And good riddance) we headed to Spa World which was just a few minute walk away. We got super lucky as the normal entry price is about 2,400円 per person, but thanks to a campaign, the entry fee was only 1,000円 today. I think someone said that Spa World is one of the biggest indoor spa's around. The women's 4th floor is all hot tubs and all around spa stuff. The 6th floor is the same (but was for men). On the 8th floor is swimming pools and more hot tubs.

We started on the 8th floor after I rented a bathing suit for about 600円, but it ended up being so crowded with families and small children that we quickly abandoned that plan. Jessica did however grab lunch on the 8th floor. How money works inside Spa World is that you are given a wrist band. That band then becomes your charge card while you are in Spa World. Some places will have you wave your bracelet over a sensor to charge you while others will take the number and type it into a portable device which automatically updates your account.

Instead we went back to the 4th floor where we visited Rome, Spain, the Mediterranean, Atlantis, Greece and, my favorite, Finland. Each room was themed and very beautifully done. There was also a mix of hot pools, cold pools, saunas, etc. As if common in Japan all the onsens are nude, but you are provided with a large face towel which the more modest can use to cover up.

After a couple hours I could no longer ignore the rumbling in my tummy that only okonomiyaki could satisfy so I headed to the third floor in the pink Spa World dressing gown like everyone else. After lunch, while Jessica went off to a nap room, yes, a room specifically for napping, I headed back into the onsens. After some time in an unbelievably hot bath 42 C (107.6 F) I went for a cold pool at about 18-19 C (64-66 F), but only dangled my legs into them. In the Greece room they have these pools with bags of herbs in them that not only turn the water green or brown depending, but also made me feel like I was making tea. Yes, I'll take the Rosemary, Mint, Illaura tea please.

Afterwards I found one of the lounge chairs around the pools and ended up falling asleep until it was time to come back to Tokyo. I was sad. This was my first experience at a spa and I didn't want to go, but all good things must come to an end. Last stop before heading out however, was the purikura machine on the first floor.


So, an hour on the train, a plane ride, and 2 hours of Tokyo trains (including me getting on the wrong one) here I am. Back in Tokyo.

Not yet ready to face this week. I have a final on Tuesday and another on Friday along with two essays. I suppose it's time to put my nose back to the grindstone and finish this term off with a bang.

Before that though I'll be meeting up with a couple of friends and my teacher from the UO Alisa Freedman who is here in Tokyo. I know I haven't mentioned her yet, but she is a huge inspiration to me. She is also one of the main people who helped me get to Japan by writing me letters of recommendation and inspiring me to get out there and do it. I owe a lot to this woman and I will continue to look up to her. So tomorrow evening will be fun, I'm spending the last of my spending money and we're heading out to Sweets Paradise, a desert 食べ放題 (all you can eat) in Harajuku. I'm really looking forward to catching up with her and telling her about my experiences so far. I'm also looking forward to introducing a couple of my friends who I think will absolutely love her.

Long narrative at an end, I hope you all have a wonderful day!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

The deer in front of the sign was the best damn picture. EVER. Kudos.

Illaura said...

Thank you very much! I'm glad you think so!

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