Arigatou gozaimasu!

I’m completely overwhelmed by the politeness of the Japanese people. Every encounter is heavily punctuated by smiling,bowing and liberal thank yous (arigatou gozaimasu). It’s a very pleasant experience  – one I could get used to. Likewise the cleanliness. There seem to be armies of people on duty in public places ensuring the highest standards of hygeine. In Kyoto station there is someone whose job appears to consist of wiping down the handrails on all the escalators.

Another more unsettling manifestation of the Japanese proocupation with hygeine is the use of surgical face masks. At first I thought there had been an outbreak of SARS that had passed me by but it transpires that people wear facemasks when they have a cold to avoid passing infection on.

Don’t eat it all in one go.

Gobbling sushi outside a temple is not a thing you do every day but we did it. From a Japanese shop we got big rice sushis prawns, eels and noodles. Shovelling our food down like beasts, we watched the visitors filing into the phenomenal temple. Being so interested in this complicated language I didn’t hear dad say
“Don’t put it all in at once!” but it was too late. Being to plump to put my mouth round, the sushi was half in and half out. With Anna and dad bursting with laughter and mum constantly panicing I couldn’t help giggling. Suddenly, I realised the rice was squeezing through my lips, causing me to laugh even harder. I had sort of made a sushi sausage! To be honest to me it seems like I was the centre of attention. EMBARRASSING!

Vending Machines

Vending Machine, originally uploaded by Chrstopher.

Yes, they are everywhere in Japan selling water, fizzy drinks, iced coffee and green tea as well as beer and cigarettes. I haven’t seen one selling whisky just yet… We bought a bottle of the CC Lemon Drink from this one. Not bad at all.

The coffee in the top row of cans is Suntory Boss, which has adverts featuring Tommy Lee Jones. I’m reminded of the character played by Bill Murray in “Lost in Translation” who has to go to Japan to do slightly mad commercials.

Visiting some temples

When you’re in Kyoto, you have to visit a temple or two. We went to Higashi Honganji and Sanjusangen-do. The former claims to have the largest wooden structure in the world, while the other claims to be the longest wooden hall in Japan. Not sure about those, but the 1001 golden statues (which you can’t photograph) were pretty impressive.

I’m a Japan Fan!

We’re here! I sure am a Japan fan. From the train rides to the airport Japan just rules. Although the overnight flight was exhausting and I suffered from some serious Jetlag it was all worth the effort. The noodles and sushis are delicious, the english speakers are friendly and the bowing? It is not like Britain at all! On the train to Kyoto (unfortunately not a Shinkansen!) the beautiful sights of the rice in neat rows greeted my eyes. The flat land is very claustrophobic due to the fact that the paddy fields take up most of the space. Today we are going to look at the temples. Boy, oh, boy, I wonder what awaits me!

Japanese Fast Food

Yesterday we had our first Japanese meal out. We had been wondering how we’d get on communicating. At the fast food  restaurant we visited they had a clever solution. There was a huge vending machine with pictures of the food.  You make your selection and get a voucher which you hand over at the counter. Minutes later later we received huge bowls of steaming beef udon. Delicious!

New Experiences

Its 03.20 local time and we’ve all woken up after 10 hours of being totally deeply asleep! Thought I would tell you about our Japanese style hotel room. It has tatami matting on the floor and you take your shoes off as you enter. The beds are roll up mattresses that you unroll at night – they are supremely comfortable!

The biggest surprise is the high tech toilet. When you open the door to the bathroom the lid rises up spontaneously, a small spray of water freshens the toilet bowl and a green light illuminates the area so you can see where to aim! The toilet seat is heated to avoid the problem of cold buttocks (unlikely currently as the temp is about 20C even in the middle of the night)

In Japan and Jetlagged

We’ve made it to Japan, but we’re totally wiped out. We got up at 0430 to leave Oxford and finally arrived in Osaka at 0900 the next day. But our body clocks said 0100. The girls got some sleep by lying down with their legs up on ours. I dozed off until I got a kick in the groin somewhere over Siberia. To make it all seem a little more odd there were quite a few Korean football fans cheering their team in the bar in Helsinki where we changed planes.

Anyway, we’ve been out for some noodles and made it to 1600. I think we’ll crash out shortly.

First things I noticed about Japan? Well I was surprised by the small paddy fields squeezed here and there between houses, car parks and roads. Almost like wet allotments! Speaking of wet, it is raining. But then they say June is the wet season, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. Everyone has a clear plastic umbrella. Even people riding bikes.

Packing Palaver

Yesterday we began to pack our bags for this amazing trip. It was very exciting due to the fact that you suddenly realize there is only six days left before we’re off around the world. On Thursday we are going to meet our house sitter Maria. She is a friend of a friend. She is visiting the UK to practice her english before getting a new job. I am really looking forward to Austrailia where I will get to see my grandparents and my friends. In activity terms I am looking forward to seeing Ayers Rock and snorkeling in The Great Barrier Reef. Brasil will be a relaxing end to a brilliant holidays. Summer hols here I come! 🙂