Monday, April 6, 2009

Fans, mountains & vending-machine beer

This morning Gina and I channeled our inner geisha to create beautiful hand-painted fans with a cherry blossom motif. Since neither of us are practiced in the art of drawing, we relied on existing fan patterns to create our design. Coincidentally, we both selected the same pattern from a couple hundred options despite having very different artistic tastes. Over the course of a couple hours with some guidance from a worker with limited English, we painted our masterpieces, which will be shipped to the U.S. in a month after the skeletons of the fans are attached.

Of note, the Japanese obsession with cleanliness nearly cost Gina her face as we attempted to leave the factory/store. As we “walked” out, we noticed a raised threshold, and I cautioned Gina to step over it, but neglected to caution that the door was glass. KABAM!!! Thankfully, there’s been little noticeable brain damage. (Also, we must note that yesterday, a woman was scrubbing the subway floor tile with a toothbrush-like tool while we stared in amazement.)

We stopped in a mom and pop coffee shop after class to nurse some caffeine along with Gina’s bruised ego. No one spoke a lick of English, but we had the best coffee that was brewed from crazy Bunsen burner devices on the counter. I was very proud that the old woman understood me when I said “oy-shi-katta” (“that was delicious”). However, despite pointing to our hysterical English to Japanese flashcards to indicate we wanted breakfast, we could not score a meal for the life of us. When we inquired about tofu and rice, the friendly man behind the counter said, “See you tomorrow!” ????

So, we walked a minute or so to another “kohi” shop and finally got served. Then we scurried to our inn, grabbed our luggage and hit the subway to Kyoto Station to pick up the shinkansen (bullet train) to Hakone, the most popular destination for natives in the area.

Before our trip, we nabbed a fantastic reservation at the Fujiya Hotel, Japan’s first Western-style resort that was built 130 years ago. To celebrate its anniversary, the hotel has been offering foreigners a bargain room rate.

The scenic bus ride through the mountains from Odawara Station to our hotel was spectacular. Fujiya features a hot spring that actually feeds bath tubs in guest rooms and a picturesque walk on the ground with a koi pond, gardens, waterfalls and the like. And, most importantly, beer vending machines, which is how we stumbled upon Kirin and Suntory beer. I was doing impressions of Bill Murray in Lost in Translation with my Suntory beer endorsement…

Tomorrow we hope to explore the Hakone Open Air Museum and the Hakone Ropeway. Fingers crossed that we make it to Lake Kawaguchiko in the evening after a number of bus exchanges in the mountains.

1 comment:

  1. These places are very nice and its very good that they have vending machines.