I have to start with a photo of a toilet. Check it out below, and then I’ll explain:
This particular toilet was in our hotel room in Tokyo.
See all the tubes sticking out of it? See the two panels on the wall above the toilet paper holders? Let’s take a closer look at those, shall we?
Lots of toilets in Japan look and operate like this; not only are the seats heated, but when you finish doing your thing (and press the buttons), the tubes are designed to spray your parts with clean water. I have to say . . . it’s quite nice.
But enough about that.
This was our last day in Tokyo, and by the early afternoon, we were at the train station. Here’s a photo that shows me passing the time:
As you can see, I was using my laptop . . . to work on this entry about the Tokyo Dome.
The train itself was awesome, in the true sense of the word. Here’s a look at it pulling into the station:
See what I mean?
Officially, it’s called the Shinkansen, but people commonly refer to it as the “bullet train.”
Here’s what it looked like on the inside:
The two-hour ride to Kyoto was surprisingly smooth and quiet, and I’m telling you . . . we were going so fast (roughly 185 miles per hour) that when we passed through towns on an elevated track, it looked like we were coming in for a landing. We also passed through mountains and farmland like this:
After we checked into our hotel and dropped off our stuff, we headed back out and briefly ended up here:
That’s Kyoto Station. We had to be there in order to take a different (much slower) train to a sight-seeing spot in the suburbs.
As soon as we reached our destination, I found a little ice cream stand and got this:
That’s vanilla and green tea. Very very very delicious.
I should clarify that our destination wasn’t the town itself, but rather a nearby bamboo forest and temple. We walked at least a mile to get there, and on the way, we passed little properties that ranged from charming . . .
. . . to tacky:
The forest was simply divine:
We walked at least two or three more miles and saw lots more stuff. Here’s a graveyard sign with wonky English . . .
. . . and here’s the graveyard itself:
The main temple that we saw was bustling with visitors:
It’s called Tenryu-ji, and it was founded in the year 1339. We didn’t go inside because we were too lazy to untie our shoes, so here’s a photo of the inside that I took from the gravel path:
Here’s some more funny English that I saw next to the sink in a nearby bathroom:
We kept walking up into the hills . . .
. . . and saw lots of pretty stuff:
The previous photo shows my mom (wearing black) and half-sister (holding up her camera). The following photo shows me channeling my inner Karate Kid:
I was told that if the cherry blossoms had been in bloom, this whole valley would’ve been pink:
The view from the top of the hill was swell:
Okay, this is pretty random, but I’m really good at spotting faces in inanimate objects. You know what I mean? Often, for example, when I look at the sky, I see faces in the clouds. Same deal with rock formations. Or random patterns in wooden furniture. Wherever I look . . . faces. That said, do you see the spectacular face in the following photo? Don’t scroll down yet. Take a good look and really study it because I’m going to show you a closeup right after:
Ready for it?
If you ever find yourself in a Japanese bamboo forest, my advice is NOT to get lost because all the signs look like this:
After we made it out, we walked through the little town . . .
. . . and ate some weird food. Here’s Martha (my half-sister) with something that we expected to be sweet:
Looks like cream puffs with caramel sauce, right? Or something with vanilla and brown sugar? Well, it was mochi with soy sauce, which wasn’t actually bad. It was just shocking when we first bit into it.
Here’s something else that I got:
Looks good, right? I assumed it was some sort of crispy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside dessert with strawberry or cherry. But no. It was one of the worst-tasting things I’d ever had. I can’t even describe it. It was barely sweet, but also kind of rancid, and the flavor was hard to pin down. It was truly a mystery, and I’m a bit anxious when I think about what I might have eaten. Whatever it was, I think it was vegetarian, but I’m really not sure. You see, when you’re at a food cart or a grocery store and all the signs look like this . . .
. . . and no one working there speaks a single word of English, and you’re hungry as hell, what do you do? You get something that LOOKS good and hope for the best. In the photo above, does anyone have any idea what those popsicle-lookin’ things are?
Finally, I saw a dessert stand that listed several items in English, so I ordered this:
According to the menu, it was a “vanilla cake roll sand,” and it was pretty good, although there was a bizarre after-taste that left me unsettled.
We stopped in a clothing store. I bought two shirts (which perhaps you’ll see someday at a ballpark) and ultimately decided that this hat wasn’t for me:
(Did you notice my shirt in the previous photo? Lena Blackburne in the house!)
This was our last look at the town before heading back to the train station:
At the end of our journey, the shuttle bus back to our hotel redefined the term “aisle seating.” Check it out:
Basically, when all the normal seats filled up, people started flipping down cushions that I hadn’t even noticed. These cushions were attached (with small but very strong hinges) to the sides of the normal seats, and BAM, just like that, there was a whole nother row of seating *in* the actual aisle.
We ended the night at this ramen place:
I had some of the best dumplings of my life . . .
. . . and followed that with THE best soup I’ve ever had:
The four main ingredients were noodles, pork, scallions, and of course the broth itself. I realize that it probably doesn’t look or sound terribly impressive, but man, I’m telling you. It was spicy and flavored to perfection.
This was the bill:
Stay tuned for Day 6 . . . as well as some entries from baseball games. I’m aware that there’s baseball being played, and I plan to see some of it in person.