Tuesday, April 21, 2009

OAT Japan, Friday, March 27, 2009:

Kanazawa to Kyoto

The group spent the early morning getting ready for our home visits in Kanazawa. The 14 of us were divided up into four subgroups, and sent by taxis to different homes. Marie, Doug and Irina paid a visit to a gracious lady who was a professional ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement) expert.

Her home was a two-story flat, very much a middle class abode, with most modern conveniences.

She prepared tea for us, and we chatted about our backgrounds. She was quite conversant in English. We gave her a box of chocolates, and Irina presented her with a book about her current home state, Georgia. She gave Marie and Irina instruction in basic ikebana, while Doug took photographs. We concluded the session with a guided tour of her home.

After this pleasant morning, we returned to the hotel, to make preparations for the transfer to Kyoto. Lunch for us consisted of some leftovers from the deli counters at the adjacent department store.

The Shirasagi train ride took about four hours, reaching Kyoto in the late afternoon. Although it was still cool, it was nice to have emerged from cloudy, rainy conditions influenced by the Japan Sea. The setting sun illuminated rainbows extending from distant clouds.

We disembarked at the spectacular Kyoto Train Station, then transferred to the Hearton Hotel. Machiko led some of us to a major shopping arcade (left). The square formed by Kawaramachi Dori, Shijo Dori, Sanjo Dori, and Teramachi Dori included two covered shopping arcades and specialized shops selling lacquerware, combs and hairpins, knives and swords, tea and tea-ceremony implements, and more -- including, of course, clothing and accessories. [Frommers].

OAT treated is to a traditional Japanese dinner in an upstairs restaurant , located in the Shinpukan Shopping Center, about two blocks away. Shortly thereafter, we headed back to the hotel. Before turning in, we fiddled with the TV remote, in a attempt to find English speaking channels, few of which were available throughout Japan.

"E.C." mentioned that the Hearton Hotel remotes had a BIL (bilingual) button that enabled us to hear English as an alternate audio track (similar to the SAP function of TVs in the U.S.) on certain Japanese channels.
The European version of CNN was therefore available in the Queen's English! Japan's Newschannel 7 featured headlines in Japanese, of course, then presented snippets of world news coverage in several languages, including French, German, Spanish, Russian as well as English. There was even a channel broadcasting in Arabic! At different times, they telecast ABC National News excerpts, with or without subtitles.

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