Friday, January 26, 2018

Honshu, Japan, Pt. 4

My friend in Japan is very sweet. When I told her that I was taking a Japanese course she said that her boyfriend could be my speaking partner. If he were local, then I might take her up on the offer. It would be good to have a language partner who didn't speak any English. I'd never be tempted to 'cheat' as there would be no point.

I had intended on writing a 'part 4' of my Japan trip back in autumn, but never got around to it. Now seems a good a time as any to finish that up--

Our time in Tokyo was just over two days, short but well spent. The below photo was taken at a place in the pedestrian zone of Asakusa, just a stone's throw from the temple. While walking around one night looking for a place to eat, we spied a rather full joint on a corner & my friend told me that their specialty was a kind of omelette/pancake/crepe. My interested was piqued, so we went for dinner. The server brings a bowl of uncooked cabbage with raw egg, I assume, spices, and whatever topping one wants like meat or cheese. We ordered ours with cheese. The entire contents of the bowl is poured onto a VERY hot griddle and the mixture is then sort of mixed/cut up by the server using two chopper/salad tosser-looking tools. Before our server left we were told that when the cheese is fully melted, our meal would be ready to eat. I don't know if you can see in the shot, but one is meant to eat the griddle cabbage-cake with a wee shovel (that's resting on the dish in front of me). The chop sticks were used for a fish seasoned with miso dish (out of shot) we also ordered. My face is read because it's about ten at night, the walls of the restaurant are opened to the night air, and it's still around 26C out. That huge glass of ice water was downed in no time.

Asakusa regional dish of cabbage with cheese cooked on a very, very hot griddle.

In the final days of my trip, we took a train down to the fourth largest city in Japan, Nagoya. Their main claim to fame is an astounding castle and its attendant grounds. Below is a replica of one of the two 'fish animal' creatures that adorned the top of the castle, one facing east and one facing west. They are meant to be protectors of the castle. Later, when we went on a guided tour of the grounds, we found out that they did not do their job, unfortunately.

Replica of original dolphin creature approx. 6' tall that stood atop the old castle.

Waiting at the entry gates to the castle grounds were 5 women wearing armbands, and, as it was pouring rain, holding umbrellas. They were on hand to give gratis castle tours to speakers of English. We decided to got for it. The woman, retiree with a desire to practice English, giving the tour could not have been nicer. (She had us take a picture in front of the dolphin creature replica, and to get us to smile said, 'pickles! butter!')

What we learned, in addition to the history of the different dynastic families living in Nagoya from the 17th to 20th century, was that in 1945 American forces obliterated the castle in an air raid. What one visits today is a reproduction built in the late 1950s. The origninal roof top 'guards', a sort of dolphin creature, had melted into blobs of gold during the raid. We were told by our guild that the gold was then refashioned into two massive tea pots now on display in Nagano City. The newly constructed marine creatures (you can see a speck of one of them in the below photo) are made of a slighter lesser quality of gold and are greatly reduced in size.

The rock wall withstood the bombing. All original.

Note one of the gold sea creatures atop the castle.

Tatami receiving room in Nagoya Castle

Note the black lacquer ceiling. The more ornate the ceiling, the higher status the room & its guests. 

During my stay in Japan, I was fortunate to book an appt. with my friend's hair stylist. Below is a picture of the two of us. My friend had to translate for us, but all turned out well. The young man who shampooed my hair was keen on learning English. His dream is to do hair in New York. He was so eager to practice his English with me that I think what normally takes a few minutes' time under the faucet took what felt to be about twenty minutes. He would scrub my head while asking me halting questions in English that I couldn't really hear with all the scrubbing going on. We did our best & my hair got squeaky clean. As it turned out, he has relatives here in the Bay Area. I gave him my email & told him to contact me anytime. I told him I'd be happy to show him around the city were he ever to visit. So far, he's yet to send a missive.

Lovely haircut from a lovely stylist.


  1. You look as though you are saying, "Wish me luck!" in the top photo.

    1. Yeah, wish me luck that my face doesn't melt off in all this heat. That grill was a potential killer.

  2. Sounds like it was a great trip.

  3. Dear Bea, it sounds as if you had a great time in Japan, seeing the sights and eating the food and meeting people who were eager to talk with you so as to practice their English. I can understand why you are wanting to learn Japanese. Perhaps you will return to the land of the rising sun and there you will practice Japanese! Peace.

    1. Dee: the experience was profound. The young man from the hairdresser was so eager, as you wrote. And I would hope that he gets in touch.

      Take care, B x

    2. Dear Bea, back in 1993, I spent four weeks in Greece and like you, I felt that the experience was profound. Like you, also, I met a young man who helped me understand the holy site of Dodona. He and I corresponded for a year or so and then it ended. I wonder at times what he has done with his life. Peace.

  4. I loved reading about your adventures in Japan. It makes me want to visit again. I was fortunate that my dad was stationed there while he was in the Air Force and I got to live in Misawa, Japan for a year. It was a great experience. Take care, Bea.

    1. Wow. Amazing that you were able to live there. My Japanese friend pointed out the difference between US military license plates and those of regular Japanese citizens. -can't remember the diff now.

      Thank you for reading the Japan entries. I really appreciate it. x


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