Sunday, April 13, 2008

Japan Trip April 13th (Day 13): Kyoto, the Bamboo path, Temples and Kitty’s

The day started early with a knock on the door, a metallic taste from the sleeping pill and the hurried yet slow motion attempts to brush hair into a pony tail, brush teeth and get loaded.

There was a path from the ship to the subway station but it was at least a kilometre, only to find that at two subway platforms, there was no elevator (we needed three subway transfers to get to Osaka JR station). So I did a trip facing backwards down the escalator (with staff catching behind). I had always thought I COULD do it, just didn’t plan on doing it with 40 lbs plus of gear on the chair.

At Osaka, besides agreeing that this was too damn early, we got the train to Kyoto and talked about what to do today. Because our rail pass runs out tomorrow and we had a sunny morning I thought we should go to the furthest Kyoto attraction; the bamboo path and the world Heritage temple of Tenryu-ji. We had been averaging one world heritage site a day for about a week (I think are seeing like 6 or 7 of the 9 in Japan). We had to take the JR line out to Sara Arashiyama.

The Bamboo path was the rural area where those artists and higher ups in disfavour from the Imperial court in Kyoto (150-200 years ago) moved so they were “exiled” but not really that far away, creating a sort of spiritual oasis where they could continue their crafts and build temples and shrines until called back to court. No westerner we had talked to had heard of it including most people in Japan AND some of the Japanese people who lived in Kyoto.

Our surprise when we showed up to find the place a THRONG. In fact the JR station in central Kyoto was a throng. It turned out that this is THE week (and THE WEEKEND) for coming to Kyoto as the Imperial Palace is open only once a year, and this week is it. Also the cherry blossoms bloom this week in the original city of cherry blossom watching: Kyoto. So we were hip deep in pretty fanatic Japanese tourists. We fought for a locker (as we couldn’t check into our hotel until afternoon) and headed out to ‘our little secret.’ WRONG!

There was a SINGLE tour group that numbered over 1,000 people who were visiting the Bamboo Path at the same time we were (I asked them how many in the group). So many were in the group, that sitting and waiting for Linda to return from Jo-Jakko Temple by the path in the chair, I felt like I was stuck in a 5K race going the wrong way. But we WERE the only westerners we saw.

We ended up losing our Kyoto map today with ALL the notes and page markings and highlighted walking routes that it took two days for me to put on (GRRRR!) back in Victoria but we ended up with a better map from tourist info.

The bamboo path was really quite something as Linda and I when we find that moment of solitude inside ourselves as we stare into the forest say, “Forest dark and deep” quoting from the Robert Frost poem, a code to say, “we aren’t in civilization anymore, but ascended or regressed into something wilder, something where humans do not dominate.” And after the massive group had passed we could see and feel that here as well.
It was a sunny day, warm to the point of thoughts of suncream in the sun but cool with wind in the shade. And I attacked the bamboo path (there is OF COURSE some freaking steep hills). You can see in this picture here what I have been mentioning that I have lost a size both in my jeans and maybe more up top (hey still got boobies, just getting a bit…gaunt).
At the top of one hill, Linda went on down the other side to pass Ogura pond and the fields of bright, bright flowers, including a bright blue flower, so vivid, it was hard to capture. It was one of those days. Everything, every colour was popping.

She went to Jojakko-Ji Temple which was a stack of those steep stairs and then ascension to a pagoda and shrine above. The colours were beautiful but truth be told, I think she took this pic to take a breather. Linda’s been losing weight too (so maybe that 10K at the end of the month isn’t so much of a dream).

We returned together to the Tenryu-ji Temple, which is a world heritage site and has spectacular gardens, as you can see in the variety of trees and colours behind Linda. We took lots of pictures in front of Sakura, or cherry trees but decided not to post one of those EVERY blog post. The temple spread out and integrated the outbuildings and the garden before getting to the majority of buildings.
We saw a pond with frogs in it and thought of our friend Maggie who we know is fond of frogs so while we are still looking for frog stuff to buy: Maggie, this World Heritage Site series of frogs are for YOU.
We then there was the stairs down to the shrine proper where Linda took off with her stamp book and I returned to do postcards…to find out Linda had taken the pack with the postcards with her.

I raced to the top of the steps and called her only to see the annoying vision of someone you are yelling at desperately to turn around; meander and look around at all that is before them before disappearing from view. This left me to sit atop the stairs and wait for Linda to either come back or to catch her as she used one of the wooden passageways. As I waited a daughter and mother came up wearing their spring kimono’s and I asked if I could take their pictures. They seemed complimented. After they passed I took another so you could see the complex bows of the Obi and still trying to figure out how a person, like, me for example, could do that without serious dislocation. I mean, is home care authorized for tying my obi on my Kimono…we will see.

Linda saw me at one of the passages and threw me the backpack. So I managed to flip my chair up into the shade and work on postcards (sorry about the handwriting, I am finding that is going…well, just going! – I mean, yesterday I couldn’t use my right hand/arm to use the mouse, so I guess that is signs of the future). Linda, tired of the sprawling complex, got her stamp and snuck back and got a picture of me in front of the main temple building hard at work. The good news is that I only have 2 to 4 postcards to go, so look in your mailbox! I posted another 14 postcards today (from what I worked on last night too).

We were both kind of tired as sleeping aboard ferry for 7 hours and then brushing by thousands of people in “our secret place” was getting irritating so we decided to head back. We had a little thing, or I had a blow off as Linda grabbed my chair to “help me” and almost wrenched my finger and then, let go and I didn’t know and I almost rolled into major traffic (and only by yelling “Can’t stop, Can’t stop!” did she lunge forward and grab me). So I had my little vent and we agreed that we liked each other and we should go grab a nap and would like each other more and explore more of Kyoto together.

But then it turns out that the Saga Arashiyama JR station, though a MAJOR station had no way for me in a wheelchair to get BACK to Kyoto (as in to get to platform three). Though they told me they were building a NEW station which WOULD have an elevator (done in only a FEW months). So we were emotionally ready to starting throwing JR guys on the track to make a ramp across to platform three when they said they would carry me up and over the walkway….except they needed all the staff to do it so I had to wait until all the trains had come and gone (welcome to “Chot-to Matte” time). This was sort of the way it went. I have noticed that the designers over here not only think people in wheelchairs are superhuman (As in, everyone else gets off train and goes to stairs 100 feet away while the wheelchair elevator is 1/3 of a mile away at the END of the platform and then next elevator to get up the main level is then over half a mile at the OTHER end of the station. That kind of stuff. I told Linda that someone should tell the station planners that people in wheelchairs actually don’t GET superpowers. We were pretty sick of it along with the whole ‘third gender’ thing. As the bathrooms are all marked: “Men, women, wheelchair user” - and there are actually three entrances. I vented a wee bit with a guy from China who was an English speaker and he said, “They (the Japanese) don’t think you are human the same way they are human” – succinct and not very encouraging.

So we get to the subway, which is another two elevators down and follow the signs for men, women and wheelchairs to go to subway (three symbols) which lead right to….six stairs. An arrow with a wheelchair, pointing toward the stairs! Linda was about ready to blow and a staff guy came and showed us this UNMARKED little side passage which went past the employee lounge and had a ramp up. So we FINALLY get to our hotel (about 35 minutes later than we expected due to the many elevators and misdirections). And guess what? The elevators are SO small and short that they can’t fit my wheelchair. I have to take off the foldaway legs to take the elevator to the room.

I have to say that I WANTED a rigid footplate for my travel chair but the number of times we have had to take off the footplates to use stores (like Animate in Tokyo) or elevators like this make it the unknown but optimal choice.

I tried to go to the computer area (two steps up…of course, same to the restaurant where I get the free breakfast – they DO have a level door but they put tables in front of it!), had to crawl up and Voila! The images were working on blogger so I postponed the nap in case Blogger goes down again and caught up on integrating images and finishing the blog from yesterday. That took under an hour and thus put me to bed at 4:30. We set the alarm for 6:00 so we could eat and then go shopping as many traditional stores stay open until 8:00 pm).

Since we refer to them so often I have included in here some of the stamps from Linda’s book. Every major shrine or world heritage shrine has a stamp as well as one of the head monks writes the shrine and for all we know maybe your fortune over the stamp themselves – here are three of the stamps. It is in an accordion Japanese book with silk covers. There are also stamps of major attractions such as these for the Monkeys of Miyajima, the ropeway and the Shrine and Torii on the water as shown in these stamps. Linda is going to fill BOTH sides of all the pages before she leaves, we are pretty sure.

As for me, I have been sucked into that crack cocaine like addiction which is Hello Kitty! In Beppu we saw a Hello Kitty CAR, with licence plate, seats, steering wheels, the works (not going that far, trust me). I then picked up a Hello Kitty pen for…um…someone. Plus, on the postcards I have been putting Hello Kitty stickers which are sometimes wholesome and sometimes……what do you call it when Hello Kitty and her little friend are in grass skirts saying, “come hula with me!” So I noticed that on the stickers Hello Kitty is always saying how she likes apples. Then I saw Hello Kitty gum….and it was apple flavoured (so I bought some….for gifts, honest!). Then Linda bought Hello Kitty going to an Onsen in Beppu and it was SO CUTE. I started looking on the Ferry at the Hello Kitty washcloths and there was Hello Kitty and her little friend…..serving at a MAID CAFÉ!!!! I picked it up and pointed to it and asked, “Maid café?” and the person said, yes, that is Hello Kitty working in a maid café. Well, that is wrong on SO many levels so I bought it to STOP others from buying it, you understand right? And then today….I saw another washcloth out at the Bamboo path JR shop which had Hello Kitty wearing her kimono in the Gion district. I swear, I am not going Hello Kittly crazy, just a little crazy – I mean, Hello Kitty in a kimono with a flower in her hair – that is just too……..Kawaii!!! I just wanted to explain that there was an almost rational reason behind the Hello Kitty buying.

We woke up….found the map was missing (left in the bamboo path somewhere) and that it was POURING rain outside (that is why, go while the sun shines), since we wanted to go to a 150 year old Washi paper shop, we thought this was a not so great idea (for some reason, all the stores stay open until 8:00 pm). So we stayed in, caught up on email and journals and did laundry. We are going to bed early in preparation of tomorrow going and hitting a few of the traditional stores (expected cloudy tomorrow) and then doing something “cultural” before we take our nap, then going to the Gion district to see the geisha’s going to work at dusk. That is the plan. I keep y’all updated.

P.S. - if you can, please comment on these and previous three blog post pics as I have been going through various types of hell to get them on for people to enjoy, so a few soothing strokes would not go amiss (hint!)


abe said...

Well done you two. Great achievment and really enjoyable account.

Tayi said...

Yay, pictures! Jojakko-Ji Temple and the bamboo path are absolutely gorgeous. The hell pools or whatever they're called from the last post are also very cool. And call me a nerd, but those monkeys are adorable. It looks like you two are having a lot of fun. I'm jealous!

kathz said...

The bamboo forest looks marvellous. I've been enjoying all the pictures you've added.

I hope you rest well for a good day tomorrow.

KM said...

I look forward each day to reading the latest dispatches from Japan. And I'm so glad you were able to get the photos uploaded. They're beautiful.

yanub said...

I am loving the pics. I am especially happy to see the shot of Linda's stamp book. It is not at all like I was thinking it looked. It's much more special, fun, and unique!

And, oh, those flowers! So much like an impressionist painting. They look like something from a magic land, not flowers to be found on earth.

I am glad the rain forced you to take it easy. Now I won't be so worried about you. Carry on!

saraarts said...

Oh, the photos are fantastic! Your prose is vivid, but it is very cool to actually be able to see all the stuff you've been talking about, especially since the pix you've chosen so perfectly illustrate everything you've said. In this post, for example, it's a perfect shot you chose to illustrate that feeling of looking deep into the woods, a feeling I know well and deeply love.

The Hello Kitty rationalizations? Too funny. It's okay; I'm 45 years old and a rabid feminist, yet I walk around with a pale pink Hello Kitty backpack. I also have a cell phone charm my true love bought me for Christmas one year which is a hollow metal figure of Hello Kitty in her red kimono with a little jingle bell inside (so I always know if my phone is in my Hello Kitty backpack without taking it apart; I just shake the bag and see if it jingles).

Yes, it is all total crack. Delightful, mass-produced crack. Welcome to the crackhouse.

Neil said...

You're crazy, Beth. Mad as a hatter. You're in Japan for such a marvellous trip, and you're "wasting your time" blogging. Sometimes you're using valuable sleep time to show us where you've been; and we all know how important sleeping is to you.

This blog must mean one hell of a lot to you.

And all I can offer in response is arigato. Domo arigato!!!!

I'm really enjoying this trip of yours, and I cannot properly express my appreciation for your sharing of the trip.

Zen hugs to both of you and the most heartfelt thank you for your blog are all I can offer. I'm in complete awe.

I'm also hoping for fewer rainy days while you're there. Or rather, let it rain while you're sleeping!

Lene Andersen said...

The bamboo forest... oh, my god, it's... I am speechless. Looks exactly like in Crouching Tiger, Sleeping what was it? Dragon? Would kill to see it. The second picture especially is phenomenal - really shows the forest dark and deep.

Tammy said...

WOW...gorgeous photos! I am just all shades of jealous over Linda's stamp book!! Thank you so much for showing pictures of it. What an amazing trip for you both. I can't wait for more.
Take care of each other.

Gaina said...

You don't need to justify your 'Hello Kitty' habit to me, I'm currently justifying an entire new laptop to myself! :D

Those snap-dragon flowers are beautiful, and I think the blue ones are Meadow Cranesbill.

cheryl g. said...

I am trying to picture the combination of skull things and Hello Kitty things you will now have...

The pictures are wonderful! I am impatiently waiting for your return so I can see all of them in their full glory. What an amazing journey!

rachelcreative said...

Wow that bamboo forest is amazing.

I certainly missed the photos during blogger problems - they do add to your writing. Some great illustrations of your trip.

We have that Ladies, Gents and Disabled in the UK. I thought that was normal. You'd think the Japanese being so into their loos that they'd relish the opportunity to bung loads of extras into disabled loos and have them wherever possible.

Anyway - glad you are still kicking (so to speak). I can't begin to imagine how incredibly exhausting and painful this trip is for you now - and (I hope) how incredibly rewarding it is to soak up the culture.

em said...

Before I got to the end of your post I was planning to rave (RAVE, I say!) about the Bamboo Forest shots. They are amazing. Just looking at them made me feel peace.

I like the shot of you working on the postcards too. Oh, and I never imagined that the stamps were so beautiful. I can see why Linda is so into getting them.

Maggie said...

Hi-it looks like you guys are having a good time. The frog pictures are most excelent. I enjoy frogs with character. Can't wait for you to get back and see more of the trip pictures. Glad you convinced Linda to eat some "true" Japanese food as well! Yesterday the weather was nice here, but otherwise your trip is providing a nice excape from the crappy weather! I think you need to bring back the pictures of the toilets too!

Dawn Allenbach said...

I missed reading yesterday's post yesterday because I was off having adventures of my own -- not as exciting as yours by ANY stretch of the imagination, but exciting for me. However, I did read it today and post a comment.

The bamboo path looks amazingly peaceful. I'd love it there.

SharonMV said...

Love all the pictures from previous days and today's pics. The bamboo forest - definitely a "dark and deep" moment. Thank Linda for taking a picture of the field of flowers. the gardens at the Tenryu-ji temple - so beautiful -I can't wait till I'm well enought to get out of this house & see forests & flowers & the ocean again.

I want to tell you that I was inspired by you & the postcards. I haven't been able to work on any crafts for a couple of years - cardmaking was one of my favorites. After reading your blog about the castle & how you worked on the postcards out in the cold, I went through my supplies & stuff & packed up everything I need to make some cards in a totebag. Now I can keep it with me & can work on a card whenever I have a few minutes of energy. And making the cards will inspire me to write to my friends since I'll have a nice card to send. Perhaps a small inspiration considering all the great & wonderful things you are doing & seeing, but meaningful & important to me. Thank you.


Tell Linda I'm envious of her stamp book! I hope you will show pics of all the stamps when it's completed.

Donimo said...

The pictures were well worth the wait. Such variety! From the sublime (shrines) to the ridiculous (having to be carried up stairs), it's all there. I'm glad you posted images of the stamp books... I totally understand now why Linda is so keen on collecting them. Beautiful. I think I would start reaching saturation point right now: can'

Well, continue doing the noble thing by buying up those naughty Hello Kitty items. I didn't know she got into so many adventures. I didn't know a LOT of things before your trip enlightened me.

Oh hey, do you think about the irony that queer folks were called "the third sex" many years ago and now you get to be the third sex for another reason? Progress to be made, always, always.

Marla said...

We got our post card today! I love it! I love it! Thank you!

Raccoon said...

I've got a link to a picture of a "Hello Kitty" rifle, if you want it...

Walking through tall blades of grass. Really tall blades of grass. Stay on the ant trails.

Aside from having to wake go up at oh-dark-30 in the morning, today seemed much more relaxed. And JR seems to be catching on that you need assistance. Good for them!

And another relaxing day tomorrow. Good.


theysaywordscanbleed said...

it's amazing how picturesque it was. Gorgeous landscape!

West Bremerton florist

tornwordo said...

Okay, the guilt trip worked. I'm reading! But don't you have better things to do in Japan than read comments?! I'm reading, and I'm falling more and more in love with that country. Not the subhuman handicapped part, but the sheer quirkiness of it all.

FridaWrites said...

Argh, blogger (!!, no not capitalizing it today) destroyed my long comment after my first time to comment in a week or so.

I've been behind reading the past couple of days, but have greatly enjoyed vicarious Japan and look forward to reading each new posting. My daughter was asking a question about kimonos recently, so I pulled up the blog. She was duly impressed by the $450,000 kimono and wanted to know more about the samurai houses, and my son seemed a bit mystified by all of it and wandered away after a little while. I was duly impressed by the bamboo forest and all of it, really, We also talked about accessibility issues internationally, and I think that helped give her some perspective since she's getting pretty obviously ticked about accessibility and people's reactions here (if only everyone could have her level of social consciousness and sensitivity).

I completely get the Call of Hello Kitty. When DD was a baby I had a Hello Kitty keychain--she was in heaven when she got to hold the keys and gaze upon the giant bubble head. It's the same principle that makes puppies and babies cute--oversized head, giant unblinking eyes, and the small nose and mouth become even tinier nose and no mouth.

I am copying and pasting this in case blogger eats it.

Neil said...

Konnichiwa, sweeties:

Beth, I keep meaning to ask you about what I seriously hope was a typo.

Some days ago, you mentioned a kimono that cost, you said, $450,000. Please tell me that was a typo and should have been 450,000 yen, but the keyboard didn't have the right symbol? That would still be somewhere around CDN$4560. I can get my head around that; it actually seems a bit cheap for a really fabulous kimono. I could see up to 10 or 15 thousand dollars, considering the work and the fabric...

But 450,000 Dollars?!?!? Can you say conspicuous consumption?

Elizabeth McClung said...

Sorry, REALLY late and bad day health wise but will catch up tomorrow (honest!) -

Neil: Yes, that is $45,000 for the unmarried young woman, which is why often families will rent them for a coming of age ceremony - we saw a family in front of us today with three girls and winced - talk about some heavy costs on DAD.

Veralidaine said...

Very nice photos! I liked the hell ponds and of course the deer and monkeys the best, but the kimono ladies and the heritage shrines are nice too. I think you should have gone to the club that Mr. Alligator Boots suggested, though! Darn tourist info desk, ruining all the fun...

can't say I quite understand the Hello Kitty thing, but I've never seen Hello Kitty. Do as you will, collect all the kitties you like, and don't let anyone laugh at you for it, though- remember you can still punch them in the face!

nora said...

loving the pics -- was having trouble loading pics (not just here, everywhere) at home, so came in to my office and am very much enjoying them. The postcard arrived!!! and it is beautiful. A drop of rain fell on it and smudged the postmark a tiny bit, which made it perfect.

I'm totally drooling about the paper shop.

I'm not going to laugh at the hello kitty. I have a hello kitty lipstick, among too many other hello kitty things to admit.

Perpetual Beginner said...

I'm just catching up on your trip posts now, as I was out-of-town (and completely out of touch - not even cell phone service) for a little while.

The bamboo forest is something else. I adore wild areas - in a 2 week trip all over the British Isles, my very favorite part was Northern Wales. I was severely annoyed that all the local postcards showed the pretty, and downplayed the wildness.

I'm so glad you are finding ways of getting where you want to go, despite all Japan and JR can do to make it difficult. I'm saving notes for my friend A, who desperately wants to go to Japan but uses an electric wheelchair.

wiccachicky3 said...

I am behind on reading because I have been saving each of your posts for a reward when I finish grading. Thinking too much about Japan makes me miss it so much and then I don't get work done!! :o)