JAPAN — Day 5

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?

Behold!

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.

28 comments

  1. Blakethesnake

    Do you have a schedule at all for this year yet, and if so, do you think you will be in Atlanta at all? Japan sounds amazing(and a little bit weird too)

  2. Zack Hample

    Nope. No schedule at all. All I know is that I’ll be in Miami on May 21-22. I’m not planning to travel much (though I would love to), so I probably won’t make it to Atlanta.

  3. Zack Hample

    ETHAN-
    If that’s how it sounds, then I’m doing a good job of blogging about it. Thanks for reading.

    BLAKE THE SNAKE (and everyone else who’s been asking)-
    I now have plans to attend Tuesday’s game at Citi Field.

    JAPANESE TOILETS-
    I love you.

  4. Nicholas Badders

    So I just asked my mom for a Japanese toilet and she said that I am the only American that likes to have their butt heated and sprayed… yeah so I might just have to get one…

  5. Zack Hample

    Not to overstep my bounds or anything, but has your mom ever had HER butt heated and sprayed? She shouldn’t knock it ’til she tries it.

  6. Double T

    Sounds like a good time. I plan to visit Japan before I get to old, but not too young. So how much was that bill totaled up to in America Money??

  7. Double T

    i wish i could post pictures to your blog because i have a funny one that has to do with faces on trees…

  8. Nicholas Badders

    While we ar on the subject of toilets, I totally just found a toilet night light that shines over the water so you know where to pee… Its called a LAVNAV… it has
    – Infrared motion sensor sees you approaching instantly illuminates the toilet area.
    – For him, if the seat is up, red lighting provides the perfect guiding light.
    – For her, red tells her the seat is up, while green indicates the seat is down.
    – After you leave, this nightlight automatically turns itself off.
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/LAVNAV-TL128-Motion-Activated-Toilet-LED-Night-Light-/150788275481?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item231bae7d19
    Oh how I love this blog

  9. George

    If you do make it to Citi Field on Monday, can you please get some shots from the new seating area on the new left field wall?

  10. Big Glove Bob

    What a trip Z-Man! Makes me want to venture out of the midwest. Although with with all that strange food, the Ol Big Gloveski would be giving that shitter a workout of the likes it has never seen.

    Big Glove Bob

  11. Michael,

    One more thing, im going to a game at yankee stadium next weekend for the Angles series (either saturday or sunday, most likely sunday) but I was wondering how strict Yankee Stadium is as far as getting to field level in the outfield for batting practice, I know they wouldn’t let u down there when the stadium first opened unless u had a field level seat. Is it still like that or can i buy an upper deck ticket and get down there for batting practice. I really dont want to spen $60 for a lower level outfield ticket on stubhub.

    Thanks,
    Michael

  12. Father Puck

    The tour of Japan is great. Some thoughts.
    1) The disgusting think you ate that you had no idea about was probably shark heart!
    2) Too bad the enviros will never allow bodets (sp?) in the USA.
    3) Let us know when you are coming to see the Nationals and bring Puck Collecto with you. Beyond early May and the Padres/Pirates, the day of slim crowds at Nationals Park may be coming to an end.

  13. Zack Hample

    DOUBLE T-
    The meal didn’t cost much — probably about $50 for the three of us. As for your funny tree pic, upload it to imgur.com and post the link here.

    NICHOLAS BADDERS-
    Wow to everything toilet-related that you said.

    GEORGE-
    As it turns out, I’m planning to be there tonight, and yeah, I’ll take a bunch of photos.

    MICHAEL-
    Assuming things this year are the same as last, you can get into the outfield seats for BP with any ticket, but shortly after the visitors start hitting, security checks tickets and kicks people out. This rule, on its own, is enough for me to root against the Yankees.

    FATHER PUCK-
    1) I hope not!
    2) Are they actually outlawed here?
    3) No D.C. plans yet, but I’ll keep you guys posted.

    AUSTIN-
    I don’t know, but probably not.

    PIOTR-
    So, what’s stopping you?

    PSU532-
    I love it!! Thanks for the link.

  14. Double T

    Thats the link
    By The Way- Just came back from an omaha stormchasers game and i got 4 balls, same with my friend, and he also got a bat, but i got to play catch with a player.
    It was the best game ever

  15. Nicholas Badders

    DOUBLE T- What do you think of the Storm Chasers ballpark? How is is ballhawking-wise? My grandfather is a season ticket holder there and he was going to take me to a game this May.

  16. Double T

    NICHOLAS BADDERS- It’s a beautiful ballpark, and it is easy to get balls there also.
    if you’re looking for somewhere to snag balls, go behind the dugout after every inning, i got balls doing that last night, and there are many other ways to snag like when they play catch before the game, they usually throw a ball to kids wearing gloves.

  17. ben jordan

    that snack your half-sister is eating is a typical spring snack : mitarashi dango. The mystery food you ask about is … I believe uiro – red bean, green tea and … not sure what the third on is. japanese desserts aren’t really my thing … a little overly sweet. I have no idea what that thing you ate is though … it looks familiar but I can’t think what it is at the moment.

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