Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Roadtrippin' with the Yoshidas- Maple viewing in Hikone
The ever-awesome Yoshidas asked me and fellow JET, British Simon, to join them on a daytrip driving "maple (momiji) viewing" as well as all the other "koyo" (colorful leaves), culminating at Hikone, a castle town several hours away. Of course, we went!
A bunch of us had celebrated Becky's birthday with a big potluck dinner party at Leigh's the night before. Since Leigh lives about 5 minutes from the Yoshida's, I ended up just sleeping over at the Yoshida's sprawling house, which was an experience in itself. Getting back at 1 or 2am and then having to be up at 6am totally sucked, but Simon and I settled nicely in the backseat of the car with a loaf of warm, fresh-baked bread as well as several full baskets of fresh sushi, vegetables, coffee, cookies, oranges, etc. (do these people ever sleep???)
Anyway, the mountains and leaves were spectacular. We stopped a few times on the way to Hikone to enjoy the shrines and a little village at the base of a mountain. Seems like we weren't the only people to have the same idea though. It rained most of the day but I can't imagine how many more people would've been out if the weather was nice!!
It took about five hours to get to Hikone- Simon and I exchanged stories about everything from dream houses to monkeys to traumatic childhood memories... with that much time in the car, you end up knowing a lot about the people you're traveling with! (Thank goodness he is so awesome and chill).
The castle was actually not as exciting as I thought it was going to be- it was really bare and pretty "small". I guess it looked more like a "tower" to me. Unlike European castles, there wasn't any furniture or any sort of context. Instead of showcasing weapons, suits of armor, period costumes and tapestries, there were cases and descriptions of ancient roof tiles and maps. It was also a risky, litigious experience- we had to carry our dirty wet shoes and umbrellas in separate plastic bags while traversing the extremely steep "stairs"- more like ladders with really really low handrails- defiinitely not ADA) throughout the four story structure. Not sure how the 80 year old obachans were doing it because I was ready to have a heart attack. Then again, I'm the one with the arthritis and back pains.
The nearby Chinese-inspired garden was much more beautiful, despite the rain. We enjoyed a brief Japanese tea ceremony in the teahouse overlooking the pond and wandered around the grounds. Despite the cold weather, there were some uplifting "winter-blooming" cherry trees. Then we got back in the car and drove back. I think it was like a total of 8 or 9 hours in the car in one day!! The Yoshidas rock.