Thursday, 31 October 2013

...and just a bit more.... I forgot earlier! I had my first Japanese ice-cream today - I just picked vanilla as although I love my tea the idea of a green tea ice-cream was one thing to far! I also was given a persimmon fruit by Habu - enjoyable but a little bland really - firm texture fruit with 4 central stones. The third 'first' was a Japanese cake with what i realised afterwards was a sweet chestnut filling. I will look out for them again as it was quite tasty.  There were toasted chestnut sellers about in the countryside - but they were dear - about £4-5 for 150 grams or so. Dearer than the last time I had some in London!  Think I will head for central Kyoto tomorrow - wait for the next episode!! ttfn

Arashiyama today! On the west side of Kyoto...

Firstly can I say again a big thank you to the kind folk who are commenting on my blog, it really helps and it feels like you are here with me. Anybody else who is reading and hasn't sent a comment yet please do so - then I will know all the time this is taking is really worthwhile!! I need to investigate the hit rate, but not time to do it now - I want to have some time to knit tonight!!

Whiel I think of it I just want to add an extra note on the subject of toilets before I at the guest house the toilet is a normal (nothing fancy) western toilet (complete with cover so it isn't cold to sit on)...but what is really clever is the cistern. It is triangular so fits into a corner - space is at a premium in all rooms (coded for they're small), so that is good, but on the top and built into the design is the sink. This has a very small waste and when the toilet is flushed, the tap runs so you can wash your hands and all the waste water then fills the cistern. Very economical as there is no other way of getting the water to flow so you don't need a separate little sink just for hand washing. 

Isabel mentioned she was looking up the temples in Google to see what they are like etc. (Hopefully not trying to compare my pix with official ones...!) I thought I would give you a link to see the fabulous ceiling in the first temple that I visited today (Tenryuji temple). As is the case virtually at every temple, there is no photography inside - you do get a pamphlet and this ceiling is on the cover of the one for this temple - but I would still have liked more- especially as it is a dragon! Here is the link - stick it into Google translate and bingo (I hope!)
These are the gardens....

Temple/shrine count was 6 today but the light was disappointing this afternoon. Blisters were beginning to bother me too so came back a bit earlier. However to start at the beginning...

It was very late last night when I finished blogging and given I was done in, I slept better - almost too well as didn't wake up till 8.35! Nearly had a fit when I saw the time as that's good looking around time wasted, but then decided to chill and after shower etc had some porridge for breakers. Yes - in case you are wondering  - I did bring it with me - along with cinnamon to go with it. Suitable revitalised I donned my (new) trainers and with the running socks that I bought at the same time my little trotters felt well padded to start the day! 

I didn't have to walk very far at all up to the local tram station where I managed to go to the right platform for Arashiyama. No problem to know when you get off as I was going to the end of the line this time. It was a pleasant little ride and I enjoyed people spotting - I did wonder what they all thought of me. I feel a bit of a giant next to some of the Japanese women....and talking of them, I have noticed that a lot of the older women seem to have very badly bowed legs or to be really well bent in the back - much more than I have ever noticed at home. This makes them really tiny - and they have very very short legs....anyway, I digress...

These two pictures were taken on the bamboo trail. I hadn't realised just how tall bamboo grows - Paul - I hope we have a different variety round the pond or Terry really will have something to worry about! The girl was with a young chap also in costume, and they had along a photographer so obviously doing something more than just play acting!  
After the bamboo it was a stop of at the villa that had belonged to a favourite Japanese film star. I have put the paperwork away and can't remember the name at the moment - will add it later as want to get on with this now!
This was a ginko tree with new young sprouts from all parts of the trunk and below is a flower that was in a little nursery area. Anybody know what it is? Love the colour!
Then it was back on the track to the next temple - I think this was Jojakkoji but it could have been Goiji -you wont care! This shows an area used for burials and the stick like things are actually quite wide and have inscriptions on them. Some of the stonework was statues but most was more like stone pillars - often with captions on. Note the autumn colour - not as far developed as I would hae liked but I have another fortnight....
After the temple I was off to the home of the deceased famous poet Rakushisha - but on the way I spotted these folk busy harvesting a crop of what I think are some type of bean. I asked one of the elderly lady pickers what it was and she showed me the little peanut like bean inside the husk - I went to bite it and she said something that I think meant that they had to be cooked first. I made her laugh as I clutched my throat as if I was being poisoned! My sign language and acting must be improving!
This the crop - if you slide your mouse over the middle of the picture you will be able to see the dark red bean thing.
As my C&G design course contacts will understand, I have previously photographed lots of different manhole covers in London - why - design inspiration was what I hoped for. The Japanese in this area are not daft as they have even designed the drain covers here with Momiji - acer leaves to you and I!
After the poet's place which had lots of persimmon trees loaded with fruit on, it was up to the next temple where amongst other things was this water feature. I have already seen several of these, but this one was particularly noisy - going clonk every few moments. It was a shame as it broke the silence (apart from squawking birds again!)

I was pretty much 'templed out' and the light was useless, so decided to return home, leaving the northern half of the Arashiyama tourist area to do another day when the sun is shining.  On the way back to the tram, I spotted these two kimono clad young women - and also the heels on the two on the right. Zoom in and have a look.....while you are at it did you spot the bright maple leaves....
 ..look at this shot and you can see they are attached to the top of the sign - they are fake! I was astonished they were using artificial leaves - a bit of a con here!
 And while we are on the subject of signs - at the Arashiyama tram station there are lots of illuminated columns with photos on - this is a close up of one near the departure board....
 And once on board I couldn't resist snapping this lady - her feet were what I noticed as they were tiny and she had wedged sandals. I couldn't help thing back to the Chinese bound feet.....perhaps cos my blisters were making themselves known - with avengeance!
 And finally even in Japan, the kids are aware of the date today - these youngsters were outside the tram station when I got off, posing for photos and waiting for any late arrivals.
After I had taken their photo, their teacher encouraged them all to wish me - what I wish you all for tonight - a very Happy Harroween!!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

My first real day of exploration

Thought I would start with this picture - it is one of the sliding screen walls of my room. Very organic feeling!

Well, being an intrepid explorer has consequences - and after day 1, these take the form of two mighty big blisters - one  on the ball of each foot. Hopefully they will be much improved by tomorrow when I plan to use public transport not feet! Having said that, Haru and the chap in the local veg shop both seemed shocked and surprised when I explained (with map!) where I had been today. So it has done my cred levels good!

Not all the businesses are still going strong - well I assume this isn't still a going concern!

I started the day exploring my immediate surroundings and stopping of almost immediately for breakfast. Toast, tasty omelette and garnish, plus tea all for under £3 (Y400) - good start to the day. Then of to my first temple - very nearby, it was the Koryuji temple which houses some statues then go back to the 9th century. As a structure i am told by Haru it is the oldest wooden temple in Kyoto...

This chap was dressed to kill while he was tending the gardens at the first temple!

After the temple which was extremely pleasing I headed in a loop back to the nearby local train station complex and it's department store -well sort-off.

I came out of the shopping area from a different side to the one I went in and this threw me! However I had been in the shops quite some time, wandering aimlessly looking at all sorts of things. Haru had recommended the little private station complex as a good place to shop, no matter what you wanted. Clothes seemed cheap and there was lots of stationery stuff that we wouldn't find in a non-specialist shop, but I resisted as I know I have to be sensible - it is only day 1 after all! I settled for some eggs, cheese and water and as I was hot, took it all back to the digs so I could leave a couple of layers behind too.

I didn't  dilly dally as it was already 11.30, so set forth to the next temple. This was quite a walk away but I was not deterred. I won't mention all the places as mostly they will mean little to you, but suffice it to say i was well impressed.

By the end of the day, I had visited 6 temples and a shrine or two. This one was more colourful than some! There were lovely gardens to walk through as well as interesting buildings to study and in some cases enter. The highlight I would consider was Ninnaji Temple which has some really old statues of Buddha - some from the 9th century. Typically you weren't allowed to take photos inside here. 

This was part of  my favourite of the day and shows the raked stone garden.  Hope it doesn't give Paul ideas!

I also, don't laugh, went to a cemetery because I didn't know what the kanji characters meant and it looked interesting....quite different form European to follow as I forgot about this one...

In this temple you could take photographs perhaps because it also is the headquarters for some Flower Arranging organisation (can't remember which of hand!)
 I also experienced my first Japanese above especially for my sister (sorry about my foot!) When we were on holiday decades ago, as young teenagers, Sis refused to go when confronted with a toilet that was not of what is called here 'Western style toilet'.  Well these are an improvement in my opinion - especially as I have such bad knees, there were grab handles so you could lower your self into position and back. A definite need for old dodderies like me!  While on the subject of toilets - something I visit a fair bit, I do wonder why the Japanese can translate all sorts of meaningless things but don't bother to explain all the symbols on the control panels....I know from the guide books that these offer heated seats, music to disguise sound effects as well as the more conventional hygiene types of thngs, still - makes for another photo!
And finally as I need to go to bed(!) this is an intentional bottle plugged into a tree - I imagine it is some sort of feed or similar - looks a bit like maple syrup to me though! Just look at the lovely texture on the tree!

Right of to bed this minute before the bad fairy casts a wicked spell on me for being up so late! Night night all!

New day in a very different world.

Just a quick word to say I slept well really considering the very different world I am now in. New or different sounds and masses to explore - and that is what I am about to - after having breakfast down the road. Will post again tonight when I return from the beginning day of exploring Kyoto. ttfn

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The eagle has landed....

Well, I have arrived and have already had my first chat via Skype with hubby, so all is well in my world!  It is 9 hours ahead here so my 9pm is noon of the same day in the UK.
Anyway - a bit more info of today - after the ice-cream in Dubai, it wasn't long to boarding and although the flight wasn't nearly as busy as the first one, we still were about 30 minutes late taking off. After a short look at the in-built entertainment I settled to watch the 4th film of the day - what I omitted to say was how good all this film watching is for the knitting - my long cardigan is coming on at great speed - I had started the second front before I left home, but had only done the rib - am now on the second repeat of the cable pattern above the pocket.  Not doing anymore tonight tho' as want some sleep! Doesn't matter that you haven't seen the pattern - it is a chunky marbled yarn in a sort of turquoise and is mid thigh length with wide ribbed band and collar - hundreds of stitches on a circular needle for that bit when I get to it!
Food on 2nd flight was Japanese - and lovely. I had a salmon and cod dish served in butter sauce with green pea and beans on the side. this was accompanied by a lovely lemon risotto.  Now I have never cooked a risotto but will definitely have to look for a recipe when I return. Later we were served with breakfast and I did wimp out here and have a western style as didn't like the idea of the Japanese one - it was tuna marinated in miso sauce served with steamed J rice topped with sesame seeds, accompanied by broccoli florets, fried aubergine and stir fried courgette - all ok but not for breakfast! I had creamy omelette thing it was cheese but not a strong taste, with sauteed spinach and fried herbed potato. With croissant, bread and biscuits. Not at all carbo free and I didn't eat it all as it was too much. Kept the cheese and biscuits and have had that for supper!
Once I had gone through security and retrieved my luggage it was off to locate the transport. This turned out to be easy as the reception desk was just opposite where you walk through. I showed my reservation and had to wait for another passenger who turned out to be the bloke form 2 seats away who joined the flight in Dubai. He didn't speak English so we just nodded.  I suspect I will be doing alot of nodding and bowing - must get into the language mode and at least mutter something in pseudo Japanese.....maybe after a sleep!
The journey from the airport seemed to be all motorway with lots of tolls and almost all the roads had screens at the sides to stop the noise, I assume. It was now dark so I could just make out lots of buildings with lights blazing. There didn't seem to be any gaps and we went from one town to another. The journey was about 2 hours but I did drop of along the way! Osaka to Kyoto is about 120 miles I think, from what I remember. 
After the chap was dropped of at his posh looking hotel, it was of to the back streets to find my lodgings. The driver escorted me up the narrow road and made sure that he was delivering me to the correct place, then he was gone and it was all down to me.  I introduced myself to the proprietor, Haru, who thankfully speaks very good English. he showed me to my room, and gave me a tour of the facilities and showed me how to deal with my bed, then he left me to it with a few more maps etc to peruse.  When I made the reservations at Bola Bola, I knew it was a guest house and is a typical Japanese style. The walls are thin (earplugs provided!) and the doors are sliding ones just like in the books. 
The technology is fine and now that the internet connection is established, I can stop worrying about it and enjoy the trip.
I don't intend further posts to be this wordy, but wanted you to follow the journey here. Tomorrow after breakfast I will go exploring and see where I am and what is about. So on that note I will wave you all a contented good night!

Tales from Arabia - well sort off!

It is now after one in the morning local time in Dubai and as one does on holiday when it is hot, I have just had the most expensive ice-cream I think I will ever have. It cost something like £3.50 or 17.1 UAE dollars.  It was Haagen Dazs, but only a teeny weeny pot – 3 or 4 little spoons which were savoured for their luxury.

So far all is well.  My hand baggage was too heavy when it was weighed at Birmingham – must have been the sink (not!!) so I had to split it and put some in another bag which luckily I had! Anyway it is just more bags to lug about. I will definitely be lopsided at this rate.

I watched 3 films on the way to Dubai and also had one of the best aircraft meals I think I have ever had – hopefully Emirates will continue e good service. The complementary wine flowed plentifully too. The meal consisted of a marinated lentil starter with Feta cheese – lentils a bit hot for me but cheese ok – what there was of it! This was followed by little fillets of salmon and cod in a pepper butter sauce served with green bean and pea mix and a delicious lemon flavoured risotto. Pud was a praline and chocolate delice – nutty praline topped with chocolate sponge and encased in a rich dark chocolate sauce.

Next was cheese and biscuits followed by tea or coffee and a little slice of Emirates chocolate – splendid. The other choice for the main was Chicken tandoori – which I kept well clear off!

I thought I would record this info so far and will upload it when I arrive as there appears to be no freely available wi-fi connection in the airport – I suppose if I was First class there would be!  Anyway that’s enough for now – will now crawl along to gate B31 ready for the next leg of the journey. It is now 9.26 Uk time or 1.26 am Dubai time. My next flight is due to leave at 3 in the morning local time – the flight from Birmingham was half an hour late leaving but made up the time along the way – must have been the gales sending me on the way!  Signing off for now as need to repack to get laptop away! Ttfn.

Monday, 28 October 2013

This is it!

This is it - just having last cup of tea before setting off to Birmingham airport. So glad that it has stopped raining - hopefully the wind won't be a problem now - I expect it to be a bit lumpy bumpy!!
Just also wanted to thank everybody for all the good wishes via email and the blog. Let's hope now I have some good things to relate during my adventures.....
Next post will be from 'away somewhere'....might try from the airport either here or Dubai  if I get the chance- watch this space!!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Photo testing

As one of the main things I want to be able to share with my followers will be photos of things I have come across, I thought it would be a good idea to have a test run at how to post them.

On Tuesday a friend and I went to Hampton Court Palace to view the Litany of Loreto embroideries at the RSN. As you would expect, photography wasn't allowed, but I did get one or too nice pictures of autumnal colours - and just for a while, in the sunshine. Here are one or too pictures to show what it was like!
 This was the view of part of the formal gardens. What fabulous light!

 This child was having a lovely time splashing in the puddles.

This was part of a statue by the 'Long Water' - not sure who would have had the helmet with wings on it!

Finally a dahlia which was actually a very dark red but with pretty bright pink centre.  Anyway - that is enough for this space for further updates and please comment!

What this blog is all about!

I am making what I consider to be a trip of a lifetime....and the countdown has begun! I depart on Monday 28th October for Osaka Airport in Japan, via Dubai. My final destination will be Kyoto where I will be based until my departure on November 15th, although I do plan visits to other cities and also to the area around Mount Fuji where I plan a couple of nights stay.

I have spent a considerable amount of time scouring the Internet and guide books to try and make the most of this wonderful opportunity.
I have booked everything myself so if it all goes wrong it will only be my fault!

I am travelling alone as my hubby has no interest in Japan. I, on the other hand, am extremely interested in the culture and especially in the textiles, be they woven, stitched or braided. Historical textiles are also of great interest so I will be visiting lots of museums too.

The blog will be a way for
people I know to keep in touch and to comment on my exploits. I might go slightly more barmy than usual without anyone to talk to, so I hope that keeping the blog will help me not to feel too lonely.
Finally the name of the blog is my response to the shocked looks when I say I am going alone - I will not be alone, my alter egos 'myself and I' will be with me too and with your help, the three of us hope to survive intact!