We started the day by visiting a bunch of fancy temples like this . . .
. . . and this . . .
. . . and we saw several signs with funny English like this . . .
. . . and this:
Here’s a charming area outside yet another temple:
In order to go inside, people had to leave their shoes here:
We stayed outside and eventually found this:
I was stunned when I first saw it, but quickly remembered that the swastika pre-dates Nazi Germany and that it originally represented positive things. It still does, in fact, if it faces to the left like this one.
After we finished touring the temples, we visited the famous Philosopher’s Walk:
In the photo above, the path veers to the right, but in other spots, we were able to walk along the edge of the canal.
Here’s a random photo that I took nearby. It’s not philosophical. I just think it’s cool:
By mid-afternoon, my mom and half-sister and I were on a train (with all our belongings) from Kyoto to a small town in the mountains called Kinosaki-Onsen. Look what I saw on the way:
In case you can’t tell, that’s a baseball field in the distance.
Here’s another example of funny English, this time on the train:
“Don’t throw the rubbish!”
I love it.
We arrived at our hotel in the late afternoon and had to remove our shoes before entering. It was THAT kinda place. Here’s a photo of the lounge:
Here’s a photo of my half-sister (Martha, wearing red) and mom (Naomi) about to start eating dinner:
(I can’t remember why they weren’t smiling, but it probably had something to do with the fact that this was the 819th photo that I’d taken that day.)
Wanna guess where this was in the hotel?
Oh, hell, you’ll never guess, so I’ll just tell you: our room.
Did you notice the chairs in the photo above? They’re not sunken into the floor. They pretty much ARE the floor. I’m not particularly flexible, and in case you never stopped to check me out, I have tree trunks for legs. (So does everyone else in my family. We call them “Hample legs.”) In other words, sitting cross-legged doesn’t work for me, so this wasn’t the most comfortable of meals. Of course, the same could be said about the food that we were served. You see, we never had the option of ordering anything. When we first checked in, the hotel people said that our dinner would be brought to us in our room. The only thing we got to choose was what time it was going to happen. So here . . . take a closer look at the first item that was set out in front of me:
Did you notice the stuff in the yellow bowl in the upper left corner? That would be baby squid (which I didn’t touch). And things just went from there. Some of it was seafood. Some of it was vegetable-y. Some of it was a complete mystery, even after I bit into it.
Then there was crab . . .
. . . which I found thoroughly unappetizing. The way I feel about meat is as follows: if it resembles the animal in any way, then I want nothing to do with it. That means not having to see (or eat around) any bones. Or scales. Or eyeballs. Or having to dig stuff out of shells. Know what I mean? I’m perfectly happy to eat crab. I just don’t want the crabmeat to LOOK like a crab. Crab cakes? Awesome. Crab legs? Ew-ew-ew-no.
That said, I ate the damn crab at this meal because I was *very* hungry and assumed that it was the last food I was gonna see for 15 hours.
It wasn’t the last food.
Here’s the next thing that we received:
Did you see all that white glop? That was a useless pile of shredded/mashed radishes — or at least we thought it was useless, so we barely touched it. Ten minutes later, as the server was about to clear the plate, I noticed something barely poking through — a chunk of something . . . shiny or translucent? I began shoveling the radishy stuff aside and found this:
I ate a couple pieces and gave the rest to Martha. My mom wanted no part of it.
Then there was this:
That’s raw kobe beef. We each got our own plate of it, and we each had our own cooker-type-of thing at the table. If you look back at the first dinner photo of Martha and my mom, you can see what I’m talking about. They’re the metal bowls.
Then we each got one of these:
It was a potato/onion gratin dish.
We also *each* got two plates of soba noodles with a mystery dipping sauce:
We each got a bowl of rice and a bowl of miso soup, which had weird stuff floating in it:
I ate it all and realized after the fact (when I looked at the stuff that my mom had left over) that the two-inch-long skinny white thing hadn’t crunched for a reason. It wasn’t a bean sprout. It was a whole fish, complete with little eyeballs that looked like poppy seeds.
I didn’t touch any of this . . .
. . . but I devoured nearly two of these:
The food above was a dessert, which I can only describe as “mochi with peanut dust.” Although it was really tasty, its appearance and consistency (slimy & powdery) made it the source of much laughter. The absurdity of the entire meal combined with the hilarity of this sign . . .
. . . literally made us laugh so hard that we cried.
After dinner, we had to vacate the room so that the hotel staff could remove the table and prepare our beds. We went to the lounge and checked our email for about an hour, and when we returned, this is what we saw:
Those were our beds. On the floor. (If that photo looks familiar, then you’re obviously one of the very special people who saw it here on Twitter.)
Kinosaki-Onsen is known for its hot springs and bathhouses. (The word “onsen” actually means “hot spring” in Japanese.) Our hotel just so happened to have one, so we changed into our robes . . .
. . . and went our separate ways — women in one area and men in another. This was probably a good thing. As much as I would’ve liked to “bathe” with the other ladies of the hotel, it might’ve been a bit awkward to do so in the presence of my mom and half-sister because everyone bathes naked. There wasn’t a choice in the matter. It wasn’t “bathing suit optional.” And that, I have to say, was lovely. I think everyone should be naked a lot more often . . . and not be hypersensitive about everything that’s remotely connected to the concept of sex. So yeah, I got naked in front of a bunch of Japanese men, and when they all happened to leave at the same time, I seized the moment. I quickly dried off, threw on my robe, hurried upstairs to the room, grabbed my camera, and rushed back to the bath area so that I could take a few pics (without getting arrested). Here’s what it looked like just inside the entrance:
I should clarify that in the photo above, the black rectangle with the horizontal wooden slats is the door. That’s where I came in. See the baskets on the left? That’s where I put ALL my stuff. See the light blue area on the upper right? That’s one of three cubicle-type-spaces, each with a sink and mirror and some grooming products, like soap, lotion, etc.
Now, when I took the previous photo, this is what was directly behind me:
On the right, you can see a row of shower heads, perched above a long mirror. Basically, I had to get clean before getting into the tubs, so I sat on one of the little wood benches and bathed. Then I was free to indulge in any of the four amenities that the place had to offer:
1) indoor hot tub
2) indoor wading pool
3) outdoor hot tub (not pictured above)
4) sauna (also not pictured)
It was nice to have the whole place to myself, so I stayed there a while longer, just until I was sleepy enough to head back upstairs and plop into bed.