Japan 1

Hello friends and family,

In a Japanese fantasy. We are staying in a ryokan (Japanese-style inn) in Central Kyoto. Our "room" is large and really consists of several rooms, all divided by shoji screens covered in large single sheets of beautiful handmade paper. It is absolutely quiet in the middle of the night, but Japanese tend to be far more quiet than we Americans. Lewis deSoto and Chandra have an almost identical room next to ours.

We landed in Osaka's Itami Airport after a 10 hour JAL flight. Lewis had lent me his Japanese etiquette book for my edification. Don literally had a fit of laughter after I read him the following paragraphs:

    "Having been conditioned for centuries to a codified system of behavior which took on the color and force of a religion, the Japanese became so accustomed to "the Japanese way" that they developed an extreme sensitivity to any deviation. Unexpected or deviant behavior not only disrupted the cultural imperative of harmony, it was also extremely stressful.
    Japanese today are still extraordinarily sensitive to "non-Japanese" behavior. This sensitivity and the ensuing stress are part of the reason for the general resistance to foreign companies and foreign workers coming into the country. Some Japanese become nervous wrecks after being exposed to Westerners for only a few hours."

This made me very relieved I hadn't looked up some distant relatives and tried to stay with them or have them show me around.

Osaka looks a lot like a European city. I would say a more modern section of Brussels. Lots of bike riding: cute young Japanese with spikey hair and very well-cut black business suits cruising by. Lewis took this photo for me. Reminded us of the fabulous four, back when. Almost everyone is very slim. I haven't seen an actually fat Japanese person yet.

On the track of what has become our almost constant obsession, getting cash. Some of the ryokans take only yen in cash and some restaurants also, of course. Most of the ATMs will accept only cards issued in Japan. We went into a post office, where we've been told we could get cash. It was too small. Found a larger one; they will only give out $100 at a time. Don and Lewis found a bank which would do an exchange, but the procedure was excruciating: wait in a line, fill out forms, submit them, wait on benches, then, as Don said, get thrown in jail, get the third degree, talk to a lovely young teller who couldn't stop laughing, apparently in embarrassment at the lousy exchange rate. Finally she gave them their cash, Don gave her an Obama button, and thankfully they left her before a few hours had passed, thereby sparing her from becoming a nervous wreck (we hope).

It literally took all 4 of us to figure out how to take the subway, then train, then back to subway and follow the map to our Kyoto ryokan. At one of the ticket machines, while we were all puzzling, Don noticed a Call Attendant button, thankfully in English. He pushed it and a young man magically appeared, skidding to a halt in front of us. The next time we encountered the problem, at a different high-tech bank of ticket machines, we pushed the button, and instantly one of the computer panels flew open and a much older man appeared framed in the machine, much like the Great Oz. He also efficiently helped us.

Kyoto is a wonder-land. The shops and buildings in the central area where we are located are endlessly fascinating. The architecture, design and decoration is so inventive, gorgeous and whimsical, and from all eras of history. Temples and shrines are beautifully tucked into little nooks and corners everywhere. Went to Nijo Castle and grounds, as it is not far from us. Trod the famous nightingale floors, which squeak to alert the shogun and his samurai that a ninja for hire is coming down the hall.


Era and Don