I could have written this last night, but I couldn’t figure out the international keyboard well enough. I had this problem during my junior year abroad, too–just when I had the (comparatively easy) British keyboard figured, I had to go to the continent and learn a whole ‘nother system. This is worse yet because if I press the wrong key I go into Japanese character mode. I still am kind of behind the learning curve, and I may not have time to correct my mistakes, so if you see any colons where an apostrophe should go you’ll know why.
So. After a wonderful and flamboyant end to our time in Tokyo (we got a Karaoke room and two pitchers of beer; I did “Tiny Dancer,” “Ticket to Ride,” “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” [with Zoe], “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “Sixteen Tons,” and “Let’s Stay Together” [which I dedicated to Julie, so it’s too bad I sang it so very badly]), we took the Shinkansen to Kyoto. Kyoto doesn’t have Tokyo’s razzle-dazzle; the commercial areas are mostly unremarkable. But we’re not staying in the commercial areas–we’re staying in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) right smack-dab in the Temple District. We’re across trhe street from a big Buddhist temple (which we oddly haven’t gone to yet) and a short walk from a shrine, a big famous temple on stilts, some less famous but still cool temples, and the Philosopher’s Walk, a stroll along the canal connecting two–you got it–temples. My irreverence belies how great this has all been; when I was a kid I fell in love with Japan, home of both Karate and Nintendo, and for some reason Kyoto was the focal point of that. Of course the reason is that Kyoto, not having been firebombed in the war, is the repository of beautiful Japanese architecture. It’s the Florence of Japan, but with even more of a sense that these temples and shrines are still in constant use–almost everyone still makes offerings, lights incense, and rings the bells when they visit these places. It’s been pretty remarkable.
And the ryokan is a trip. Our floor is a straw mat, our beds are futons, our bath is a four-foot wooden cube. Our window overlooks a pagoda from a nearby temple. The walls are thin and there’s not much privacy–I’m kind of looking forward to strolling about my apartment talking as loud as I please–but when you’re sitting in a robe after a bath, playing rummy with your sisters, the quaintness really hits the spot.
I’m looking forward to Christmas, o’course. My parents are keeping up the Big Lie–that they’re not getting us anything, nor each other–but this is simply a formality. I’m sure the haul will be relatively slight–you may remember, I’m writing this from JAPAN–and anyway I don’t want much; I just enjoy watching the pretense. (Every year, even when we don’t go abroad, my parents swear to each other that they won’t buy each other anything expensive. My sister and I were wondering today what would happen if one of them kept their word on that one.)
And so the trip comes to a close–I leave on Boxing Day. I’ve had a great time, and I’ve reached that all-important stage of looking forward to being sedentary at home. I’m sure I’ll go back and mention more great stuff I saw once I again have access to free internet. Suffice it to say right now that this was great, that I couldn’t have planned it better, and that I’m looking forward to subjecting all my friends, particularly Julie, to hours and hours of stories and photos about it all.