Friday, April 17, 2009
Airplanes, Ryokans, & Science Museums, Oh My!
At long last we have arrived in Japan, regardless of the cramped plane ride and terrible airplane food!
The ride here was about twelve hours long (although it felt like an entire freaking day), lucky for me I was reletively unaffected by the forces of jetlag. When we got off the plane we got on the train to get to the ryokan where we have stayed for one night. After the fifty minute train ride we arrived in Shitamachi where we soon checked in to the ryokan and promtly went to sleep (or at least I did seeing that I only got about three hours of sleep on the plane).
Today started something like this: I woke up around 3:00 am and, at my parents’ request, began reading by flashlight (therefore, not disturbing mom & dad’s sleep). I read until 5:00 until I was asked by my dad if I wanted to take a soak in the ofuro (bath). After my peaceful soak in the ofuro, me, mom, & dad took a walk around the neighbourhood to familiarize ourselves with the surroundings (my parents were more interested in where the train station was).
Here’s a little fact about Japanese cities: they are completely littered with vending machines, & not just one kind. There are vending machines with sodas, with tea, with coffee (sometimes hot!), & some with juice (or some with all of the above). There were also a large number of cigarette vending machines, although I didn’t know what the heck thery were until one of my parents told me. And, of course, I bought some hot coffee from one of the machines, for about 130 en- about $1.30 US. This might be surprising to some people, but the coffee was delicious!
So after our walk we came backto the ryokan for breakfast, which consisted of toast, juice, & tea (we had the option of having coffee, but seeing as I had already had some from the machine, we decided to have tea). The toast was nice & fluffy & tasted really good with the margarine provided.
After breakfast we retraced out steps to the train station where we hopped on the train & headed toward Ueno Park, one of the largest parks in Tokyo.
Our plan was to go to the science musem there & while there, have lunch. On our way to the museum there was an incredible amount of school kids (I could tell they were school kids because of their uniforms- or seifuku). They were most likely on field trips, since it was a school day, & Ueno Park was a good choice for a fiield trip In my opinion, because of it’s beauty & the all the museums located in the area.
The science museum was definitely busy. The exhibits were large & fairly interesting at that. My favourite part was the hands-on physics exhibits (I wasn’t the only one enjoying it- there were a bunch of other kids there as well, most of them school kids). In the museum there were 2 restaurants. One was on the first floor & the second was on a higher level, & interestingly enough, one was located near an exhibit showing the gastro-intestinal system of a cow & other such things (which I thought was quite ironic). We chose the restaurant on the lower level & I bought a tuna onigiri (an onigiri is a ball of rice which usually has a filling in the center, such as tuna), some Japanese potato chips, & a grape soda.
Lunch was enjoyable & after we were finished we headed back to the train station. On the way there we stopped at a Buddhist temple, where mom bought omamori (which are the Japanese equivalent of good luck charms except that they deflect bad luck instead) & dad saw a wooden statue of a Buddhist deity that people there had been rubbing (I don’t know why) for what appeared to be a long time- the wooden shoulders were worn down from all the rubbing.
When we got back, mom & dad rested while I read a book & did a little typing for my blog (which you have already read). Then me & dad took another walk around the block to see what there was to see & to find a tempura restaurant for dinner. Instead we found a bunch of cemeteries & a few convenience stores. I noticed that the cemetaries had large wooden sticks poking out fo the ground, that rattled in the wind. which my dad found creepy.
After our walk I finished my book & then we left & eventuallu found our tempura restaurant (by the way, tempura is vegetables & stuff which has been dipped in batter & fried). The owner had a world map on the wall & when he found out where we were from he put a marker on the map, to remember where his customers had come from. He spoke some English & I got the impression that he was fairly impressed with our Japanese.
Dinner consisted of boiled vegetables, tempura (of course), rice, miso soup, & green tea. I tried some of the boiled vegetables (or, “nimono”) & tempura, regrettably, they were a little too differrent for me. I did manage to eat some of the rice & soup & then just when things were feeling good, the forces of jet lag hit me like a ton of bricks & nearly knocked me out. So, groggily, I made my way (with my parents) back to the ryokan, where I put on my pajamas & promptly fell asleep.