I am being a bad traveler this weekend. Kyoto is about an hour and a half away and I’m not going to go there.
(Commence whining – you’ve been warned.) It’s hot and it’s going to be hotter there, since it’s in a crater (or valley, the translation wasn’t clear). And I’ve spent about 7 hours on trains in the last 2 days. Also, I’ve been around people and talking all week, including dinners after work every day, and I ‘vant to be alone’. I’m tiiiired. (/end whine)
Instead I’m going to hang out around the hotel, explore the local area (mostly malls), watch the Olympics and knit, and check out the summer festival that’s going to be happening in the plaza next to my hotel. I have no idea what it entails, but the person who told me about it mentioned music and lots of girls wearing yukatas – not clear if the latter is a part of the festival or just what people are likely to wear to a traditional event in hot and muggy weather.
But I have been having new experiences. I wrote about the yakitori restaurant; the next night we ate at a restaurant with a do-it-yourself barbeque in the table – it was described to me as a Japanese version of a Korean version of BBQ. You order any one of many types of meat – they had Wagyu and Matsusaka beef, in varying stages of fattiness. I preferred the leaner ones, which is not surprising from someone who tends to order filet mignon in steak restaurants. They also had a few other things like shrimp and vegetables. Tasty. I’ve been eating much better this trip than usually in Japan; I’m here to train a new Quality manager, so we’ve been joined at the hip all week, including dinners – he’s just moved to Yokkaichi, where our main office is, and his famliy is staying in Tokyo for at least while longer. Having someone who knows the local restaurants and (most important) can read and understand the menu helps a lot.
Yesterday we took the train to Hiroshima, then to Saijo where our local office there is. (The trains – three legs each way – were also a lot easier when traveling with someone who is not functionally illiterate.) Normally I stay in Hiroshima itself, near the train station, but the hotel was full this weekend due to Memorial Day, so they put us in Saijo itself. (Probably not the best time for an American to be n Hiroshima proper anyway – Memorial Day = anniversary of the nuclear bombing of the city.) Hiroshima gets lots of foreign visitors; Saijo, not so many. We had dinner at a fairly traditional place, with a low table and hole underneath for your feet. (I suppose at a *really* traditional place you’d kneel instead.) We had some kind of small whole fish, salted and fried (sardine?), asparagus wrapped in thin slices of pork, a couple of very large fried and battered shrimp, and a “shrimp bomb”. This consisted of ground shrimp mixed with mashed potatoes, formed into a ball and then cruster with small fried shrimp. You’re supposed to eat the whole things, shell, head, tail and all. (The heads were actually not as bad as the tails, because the latter were just shell, and not really crunchy.)
I’m told the hotel we stayed at is the only one in town where they speak any English, but it’s still clearly aimed at Japanese visitors. The bed was very hard, and while there was one feather or down pillow, there was also a rack in the hall with different types of pillows available, all extremely firm and either grain-filled or foam. The best part was the ‘spa’ – not actually a spa but a traditional Japanese bath. I was very sweaty from the train rides and walk to the hotel, so after dinner I checked it out. You shower first, then get into the very hot tub. It was relaxing and peaceful, and I lasted a whole five minutes before getting a bit bored and retiring to the arms of the excellent massage chair in the same area. (They also had laundry facilities in there, very handy for guests.) I may get bored when I can’t bring a book into the tub with me, but I have to say that after a sweaty day, I felt deliciously clean as I went to bed.
After word, we headed back to Yokkaichi, another 3.5 hours on the train, and I’ll stay here over the weekend and through Tuesday.
One more confession: I had KFC for dinner tonight.