Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Weekend with the relatives….

It’s been awhile since my last sightseeing visit to Kyoto- I’ve been down to Kyoto a lot for parties and stuff, but not so much for cultural exploration and all that. Turns out that my uncle and aunt from Australia were in town for a medical conference in Osaka earlier in the week, so it was a perfect opportunity to check out the sights with them.

We met up on Friday night after the English festival and saw a medley of Japanese performances at the Gion Center. It was like a sampler platter of different types of performing arts: Kabuki, Noh, Bunraku puppetry, shamisen (3-stringed Japanese instrument), a tea ceremony, and “ikebana” (flower arrangement) demonstrations, all packed into an hour. It was a good introduction to find out what you would want to see again and what you would rather not!

Unfortunately the weather was rainy and overcast most of Saturday, but at least it was warm! We explored Nijo Castle, although we were much more impressed with the grounds / gardens than the “castle” itself. (Typical of most Japanese castles, the building was stripped of all furniture or context- but we were amused with the “singing” floorboards which purposely “sang” / “squeaked” as people walked on them as a deterrent for sneaky visitors). It’s slightly early for the “sakura” (cherry blossoms) but the “ume” (plum blossoms) and a few of the early spring flowers have finally started to open their colorful petals…. I can’t wait for the “hanami” (flower viewing parties)!!!

Then we wandered over to “Ginkakuji” (The Silver Pavilion) in Higashiyama. We poked around the tourist shops on the little streets winding up to it but somehow the dreary weather and all the wandering throughout the day had exhausted us. Instead of spending that night in Kyoto as originally planned, we ended up just taking the train back up to Miyazu so that I could show them around my neck of the woods on Sunday.

After being awakened by the trembling of an earthquake on Sunday morning (see posting below), we had a lazy morning and made a few calls to my parents and my grandmother in Australia commenting on how cool it was that we were meeting up in all places, Japan! By Sunday afternoon, the sun was shining again, and we took in Amanohashidate in all of its early springtime glory, walking the whole length of it (2.3 km) and then wandering around the temples and shrines on each end and buying freshly caught squid and fish for that night’s dinner. Then we stopped at Miyazu’s shining star- Mipple. I guess Australia doesn’t have the equivalent of Japan’s 100¥ stores or something because my aunt must have spent 3 hours there!!!

And Japanese hospitality at its best... my landlady insisted on treating Uncle Peter and Auntie Angela to the private onsen at the Kitanoya Hotel (the same one that she had treated me and Paul to in January), paying for the transportation costs, and also inviting them into her guesthouse for tea and sweets. When the Yoshidas found out that my relatives were coming, they insisted, along with Jun, to have a dinner party at my house. Monday night found us sitting around the sliding-door-as-dining-table sharing platters of sashimi and o-bentos and stories from our native countries, comparing Chinese and Japanese kanji, and Kumi dressing my aunt up in one of her hundreds of kimonos. This led to me, Jun, and Jannie also dressing up in kimonos and an intensive photo session as Uncle Peter tried to capture every moment. The whole time, Masami had his dictionary ready and just beaming that his wife was making so many people so happy.

All in all, a nice weekend with the folks!

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