We left Hiroshima, sad to leave it behind us. It is such a beautiful, laid-back, even spacious city (by Japanese means). It is a special place- though the A-bomb is still a healing wound, the city and its people have accepted it as history and have built a vibrant, friendly, tolerant and peaceful community from its ashes. An inspiring place, and a lovely hostel! Daniel was particularly popular after he spent an evening cheffing it up in the kitchen introducing the entire staff to pannekoeken. The way to the Japanese heart is obviously through the stomach :)
Next stop was Kyoto. We arrived in on our anniversary, so we decided to treat ourselves to a nice dinner out, which was lovely- we ended up in a restaurant where no one spoke much English, and the menu was illegibale apart from a few pictures. We managed to order some GREAT food, too much sake (there doesn't seem to be a language problem there) and some deep fried spaghetti, which made the experience more than complete. We went for one more drink at our hostel bar, which turned in to more once we got chatting to the Aussie barflies, and before I knew it I heard Daniel rounding up the troops for karaoke accross the room... Needless to say, it was a night to not remember :) We took the next day off, having determined the hangover of the century.
We did actually see some of Kyoto, too. One of Japan's major cities, it is seen as the cultural heart of Japan- and with seventeen World Heritage sites, who could argue. We managed about half- after 2 1/2 weeks of temples, shrines and castles, we were kinda shrined-out. They're all very beautiful, and very special, but there is such a thing as overkill... Suffice it to say that the International Manga Museum was a welcome change. We also spent a day wandering the streets of Nishijin, Kyoto's textile district. The highlight was definately the Textile Museum, where we were able to see various traditional Japanese artists and craftsmen working their magic- Daniel discovered his inner textilite, and Heather was reminded of why it was she wanted to specialize in textiles in the first place. Needless to say, it was an inspiring visit! Heather also found her new favorite textile company, based in Kyoto... and both of us have been back in the sketchbooks ever since. Some things were just meant to happen.
From Kyoto we headed out to Nara, Japan's first capital city. It's a small town, but it too boasts quality tourism- seven World Heritage sites, all of which fall under the category castle, temple or shrine. Daniel and I were ecstatic, naturally. We did see a few, one of which was really impressive- a massive temple (the largest wooden structure in the world) housing a 15 meter Buddha. Behind the statue one of the temple's pillars had a hole carved through it. The hole has the exact same dimensions as the Great Buddha's nostril, and if you can squeeze through then you will be ensured of elightenment. Thanks but no thanks, we already took a walk in a bodhisattva's womb in Kyoto. We also visited a 4 story arcade, a pachinko arcade, and we spent an afternoon watching tourists feed the "wild" deer at Nara Park, which was HILARIOUS. Last night we visited the public baths and soaked in boiling hot water with the geriatric population of Nara. This evening we had the most wonderful meal, and it was dirt cheap. We're happy campers.
Though many things, or really most things, go over our heads here, we like to think we have grown accustomed to the way of the Japanese. We sometimes even entertain the thought that we blend in rather well, that we are tourists going completely unnoticed (although the Japanese themselves might beg to differ- Daniel was quite the entertainment when he stuffed his hamburger with fries the other day). We had a complete conversation in Japanese the other night at the cash register of the 7 eleven- although it comprised mainly of 'hello', 'please', lots of 'thank you' s and several 'sayonara' s, all words were issued FLAWLESSLY and were reciprocated by the beaming cashier. It's really a shame we're almost leaving, as we seem to have gotten over the initial gawking fascination over everything that is odd (although we're still surprised every day, believe me) and are starting to see the next layer of the art of being here.
Tomorrow we leave for Osaka.