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NARA and KYOTO

Day One of the overland adventure

overcast 51 °F

Today we began a three-day overland adventure planned by Silversea for World Cruise passengers. Leaving Osaka we drove to Nara and the Todjaji Temple with its huge (50’) Buddha from 767 AD. The park surrounding the temple is filled with sacred deer. Filled. That means that a thousand of them poop on the stones, and since it was raining, the poop spread out in slippery smears. The deer also seem to like black polyester, because they bit Hope’s pants and left a hole in the seat. Speaking of seats, the toilets in the part of Japan we are seeing are TOTO toilets, machines with very complex controls that heat the seat, squirt or bathe the sitter in narrow or broad streams, oscillate fast or slow (we don’t know how this actually works), and produce two kinds of flush. The problem is that outside of the Hyatt Regency, the controls are all labeled in Japanese, so you push them at your own risk! Further, in public loos, or at least public ladies’ loos, one side of the aisle is labeled “Western.” If you go to the other side, the contrast is immense; the hole in the ground does not look like a TOTO toilet.

Lunch was at the Nara Hotel, a 100 year old Western style hotel, and like all Japanese meals it consisted of multiple courses, all served on different shaped and styled plates, and of course, served with chopsticks only. We might get quite thin if we stayed longer!

Next we went to another shrine (Kasuga) through a lovely Torii gate, and then drove to Kyoto. Drinks and canapés were served in a long corridor filled with Chinese silk garments on display, musicians playing ancient instruments with the scores written in strange notation, and magnificent floral arrangements. A Geisha and Maiko (younger women training to be Geishas) performance of elegance and grace and astounding dexterity followed. The white faces of the performers looked a great deal like the faces of the wooden puppets in a ship’s show the night before we left. Our dinner menu combined Japanese and Western dishes, most of which were unfamiliar. Some were tasty; some were odd.

We are finding Japan to be a highly structured society that places great importance on politeness, tradition, and cooperation. The signals and expectations are subtle and restrained, so one has to be very alert to pick them up. When Hope bowed to a guide who had taught us the distinctions of bowing and nodding, Mito smiled. “Ah, a 30° bow,” she said, “how perfect.” Hope spent the rest of the day worrying about how many degrees she was bending.

You will miss all the wonderful photos of deer and toilets and Bill and a geisha - just can't upload them, sorry.

Posted by HopeEakins 17:50 Archived in Japan

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