Subject: Takayama in the Japanese Alps
Brett and I are now on our second and last day in Takayama, a charming little town in the Japanese Alps. We are staying at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese Inn called Antique Inn Sumiyoshi Ryokan. It is a cute 100 year old house on a quaint little street. The inn is filled with antiques. I know my father would love it here because he could walk right in and identify each vase, antique doll and life size warrior and let us know what period they are from and what they are made out of. Pretty nifty stuff!
We are finally living the more traditional Japanese life. Well probably not all that traditional really but if you compare this place to Tokyo we feel like we:re in a different country. We each take 2 showers and 2 baths a day (if you didn:t shower and scrub off before you got into the bath which is more like a jacuzzi they might shoot you or at least kick you out or send you the evil eye), walk around the town, check out the thatched roof houses in the folk village, eat sushi that is drove in fresh from the sea daily and stop by the local sake breweries to taste their local specialities. What a life!
The inn is run by an adorable husband and wife couple. The wife has already pointed out that she is shorter than the height of Brett's pants. She even picked up a pair that he left on the floor and held them up to show us that the waist goes above her head as if we couldn:t already see how petite she is. She:s quite a character.
We have a room right on the river with a bunch of tatami mats on the floor which is turned into a living room during the day (two chairs and a table) and a bed at night by putting a futon mattress down on the floor. Our hotel includes a Japanese breakfast which consists of pickles, rice, miso soup, miso paste over hot coals to put over rice, a small piece of salmon, two pieces of tofu and a few local vegis.
Last night for dinner we had some melt in your mouth sushi. We have finally been able to distinguish between a good and an amazing sushi joint- here is our test: salmon roe. Normally salmon roe makes me want to vomit, anytime I:ve accidentally taken a bite of that crap in Cali I:ve almost lost it. Here the salmon roe varies between fishy but not nasty and absolutely delicious. When it:s good its heavenly- a gift from Buddha even. In Takayama it was so good we had some for lunch today and my mouth is watering just thinking of those orange fish eggs. Mmmmmm...........
Life is pretty slow here. There isn:t much drama except when we try to figure out when to wear which shoes which time. In most places in Japan you have to take off your shoes before entering but it doesn:t just stop there. If that was the only rule we wouldn:t have any problem remembering that. Most places also have slippers for you to wear inside the house, restaurant, museum, whatever it is after you take off your street shoes. Brett got yelled at in one of the merchant house museums we visited because he first forgot to take off his shoes then he forgot to put on their slippers to walk around the house and to make matters even WORSE he also neglected to put on the museum provided outside shoes/slippers when we explored the rock garden in the back of the house. The woman was so fed up with him she hit herself in the head pretty freakin hard to show her frustration after his third shoe mistake.
Good thing he didn:t use the bathroom. Although I never saw this in Tokyo, most of the venues in Takayama including our inn have a third pair of slippers you use when you go to use the toilet. Each of these slippers says *TOILET* on each shoe. WHY?? Either they don:t trust the foreigners to use the normal slippers in the toilet area or it:s written in English just to be cool like those menus I told you about in Tokyo where only the headings are in English. !Que guay!
Brett and I have both also gotten in trouble for leaving some shoes in our room on the floor instead of in the intermediate area between our room and our hallway. Whoops.
I understand not wearing your shoes in the house, borrowing the slippers is kinda cute but is it really necessary to put on a third pair of shoes just to enter the bathroom? I guess so.
Everyone here continues to be blow your mind kind. The world would be a better place if Japan wasn:t the only country where if you go into a yogurt shop just to use the toilet and don:t buy anything, each and all of the 5 employees chant *Thank you so much! Thank you so much! Thank you so very much! Oh thank you! Oh thank you thank you!* on your way out the door. Talk about hospitality.
I think part of the shock is just being in a country that is actually safer than the US instead of somewhere that you have to wear a money belt with your passport, a fanny sack with your cash and a undercover money belt necklace contraption under your shirt and some extra robbers cash in your bra just in case.
Did I mention that we don:t even have a key to our room here? You just leave the door unlocked with your passport, all your cash, etc... apparently nobody here steals. I would feel totally comfortable taking 10 grand out of an ATM here and walking around counting it all day. I:m sure nobody would even bother me. According to Nels, our local guide/expert the only thing that people steal in Japan is generic umbrellas. Apparently there is some unwritten rule about umbrellas where if you see one you can just take it. Maybe thats because the Japanese are really worried about their hair frizzing up in the fog like my mother is.
Come to think of it that theory makes a boat load of sense. In Tokyo we saw some of the wackiest hairstyles outside of Beach Blanket Babylon. A lot of girls in Tokyo, especially those 30 and younger are into this hair^do where they take their gorgeous super thick hair, add in some extensions, curl it up like they are going to an 80:s prom after party and walk the streets at 2pm on a Monday or Tuesday.
Some of the guys are even worse, I:m about 98 percent sure that a large majority of Tokyo:s hipster population owns ceramic hair straighteners and I:m not just talking about the ladies. Ceramic hair straighteners originated in Japan anyways. I don:t know where a lot of my sorority sisters would be today without the invention of the Japanese cermanic hair straightener. We sure don:t take those devices for granted now, do we?
Some of those ladies in Tokyo do have some great style though. Super unique and edgy. In fact, today I was listening to the Gwen Stefani song Whatcha Waiting For on my ipod when I finally understood a line I never interpreted before *YOU HARAJUKU GIRLS DAMN YOU:VE GOT SOME WICKED STYLE*
Harajuku is the area of Tokyo where all the teens come out on Sunday dressed in Anime. Gwen Stefani even has a perfume named after them. Just a fun fact...
That:s probably enough info for now.