Kanazawa and Kyoto

Friday, June 23

Sleeping on the futons was fine, but getting up off the floor was a little tough. And no one wanted to leave this beautiful after just one day, but we had to.  But first - breakfast!  Back to the same large room for an authentic Western meal, but still sitting on the floor!  Beautiful fruits and salads and scrambled eggs and bread. Yum! 

Then onto the bus. As we pulled out, about 40 of the "personal room assistants" were lined up on both sides of the driveway waving and smiling and bowing (they do a LOT of smiling and bowing here).  Toshi assured us that regular Japanese folks do not eat 3 meals like this a day; this is vacation eating.  He also told us that almost all children begin learning English at about age 12 (though it is not compulsory ) in school.

We drove through more mountains and tunnels until we got to Kanazawa and the Kenroku-en Garden (voted the 3rd best garden in Japan!).

From the guide map it looked like it was very big, but it was actually about half the size of our own botanic garden. But it did have many beautiful (and old; it dates from 1759!) trees and statues and ponds and fountains.  Once again we had perfect weather Toshi remarked how this has NOT been a normal "rainy season" week).  After an hour or so it was.....yes! Time to eat!  This time they laid out a beautiful tempura lunch -
shrimp, several kinds of veggies, plus R&MS (rice and miso soup!) and chicken in sauce (actually good!!), and salad.  Then an hour more on the bus to the Nomura Samurai House.  This several-hundred-year old house belonged to a mid-level Samurai.  It was beautiful but surprisingly small.  Next, a short ride to another market.  Mostly fish (this one is famous for its crabs), but had flowers and veggies, too.  Really cool.  Walking back to the bus we saw a store with a purple soft serve cone outside!  So we had to investigate.  Was it blueberry ice cream?  Boysenberry?  Mulberry? NO! It was sweet potato!  Wendy got one and said it tasted....sweet!  Not really potato-ey.  Then back on the bus to catch our next train.

Note: As mentioned in the previous post, Wendy (and others) have been buying crackers and cookies and candy at the markets and stores and then passing them out on the bus as we drive to the next stop.  But by now, everyone is so stuffed that no one did this.  But as we were getting ready to drive off, "Big Bob" walked down the aisle offering everyone pieces of onaga that he had just bought. Sadly, he got very few takers. You see, onaga is EEL!

We got to the station and boarded the Thunderbird #32; not a bullet train (there are none on this side of the country), but very fast and smooth anyway.  A beautiful ride past many mountains covered with millions of trees.  Even when we were close by it was hard to see the ground - that's how thick the trees were.  And hundreds of tunnels.  There was one that was nearly 10 miles long.  After 2 hours we got to Kyoto.  Our guide had warned us we had about 1 minute to get off the train (tight schedules or an old tour guide trick?), so we were up and ready as it stopped.  He was so happy because he said we all got out in about 30 seconds!  At first sight Kyoto reminds us somewhat of Florence - that is, the Kamo River looked like the Arno with many bridges and shops on both sides.  Kyoto has over 2,000 temples, but we doubt they will be like the churches in Florence.  We checked into the Westin Miyako and were surprised to see so many Western people (at the Tokyo Imperial there were very few).  We had a regular (i.e., Western) dinner (Caesar salad, steak, fish) and then to sleep - dreaming of tomorrow's day of shopping.

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