Friday, October 27, 2017

Japan | Four

Sue may be OK jumping out of bed and charging down to the restaurant without addressing her head but I wasn't going to do that again.

So I got up a few minutes before her to put a layer of make up on and deal with my hair. (I've mentioned that I'm growing out my bangs, yes?) I discovered yesterday that I really can't fully enjoy the flavors of foods eaten in a public setting unless I have foundation and mascara on my face. 

We were one day smarter when we arrived in the dining room this morning; we popped our bread into the toaster BEFORE we ordered our bacon and eggs. Timing is everything. 

After eating, we walked over the train station, aka The Centre of All Things, to reserve seats for our train ride to and from Hiroshima the following day. I noted, with that spidey sense I have about sunshine, that it looked like it was going to be a fabulous day. 

Sue left for work an hour later, and I pondered my options. 

Not another bus tour. 

Not another day looking at shrines and temples.

Not another day in a train station, regardless of it's size, beauty and shopping options. 

I wanted to sit in the sun. Next to a body of water, if possible. With a book and my camera. I just wanted to 'be' in Japan. 

So I chatted with my best friend at every hotel I stay in, the concierge. 

Me: Hi. Is there a spot close by the hotel, maybe within walking distance, where I can just go to sit and enjoy the sunshine? Like, a park?

Her: I don't understand. You want to sit outside?

Me: Yes. I'd like to enjoy the sunshine. 

Her: You want to be outside? In the sunshine? It's very hot...

Me: I know. But I don't mind.

Her: We don't sit outside during the day... You sure you don't want to go shopping? Many options... 

Me: I know for sure I don't want to go shopping. And I know for sure I need to be away from all the buildings and concrete. Somewhere where there's grass, maybe? Or a lake? A river? Are we close to a beach? 

Her: I know the place! I go there in the summer. In the evening. But it is perfect! There's a place by the river you will like. You take the subway, and

Me: Waaaaait. Subway? I am barely catching on to your train system. Can't I walk there?

Her: Walk? No. Subway is very easy. No problem. You be fine.

Armed with a photocopied subway map, with the station I was to get on and the station I was to get off clearly noted, I entered Japan's underground. 

Which, truthfully, isn't quite as tourist-friendly as the train station. 

Not a whole lot of English on the ticketing machine. 

I asked the elderly man beside me if he spoke English. 
He lifted his hand and showed me a tiny space between his finger and thumb, "leeetle bit". 

I pointed to my map, acknowledging where I was on it, and indicating where I wanted to go. 

He punched in the numbers for me, and pointed to where I was to put my money. Seeing I didn't have my glasses on, I pulled out a handful of coin and gave him my "I-am-very-confused-and-too-overwhelmed-to-figure-out-the-monetary-values-of-these-metal-disks look" which he understood. 

He carefully chose a selection of coins, inserted them in the machine, retrieved my ticket for me and directed me to the correct track. 

Of course, from that point on, I needlessly wondered/worried who would do this for me on the way back. I suppose I could have paid closer attention while he was pressing buttons and you know, actually learned something, but I notice I've become a bit lazier in my old age about actually learning things. However, I have become bolder about asking for help, so maybe that's something? Maybe my fierce desire to be self-reliant along with my great aversion to talking to strangers is weakening in strength? Maybe I'm getting better at realizing it's OK to ask for help and strangers aren't all evil? People generally are OK about helping tourists. I had a huge neon sign over my head that screamed THIS PERSON IS A TOURIST. My size, hair colour and camera where dead give-aways. So when I approached someone, anyone - they were all very gracious and kind about making sure I got to where I was going. 

But still. Every single day on this adventure had me unnecessarily concerned about how I'd get back to hotel at the end of the day. Crazy.

Anyway, as directed I stayed on the subway tram for 7 stops. When I got off, I found a ticket agent and showed him my map, along with the note the concierge had written on it, in Japanese, indicating what my destination was. Getting off at the right stop is only half the battle. The other bit is making sure I leave the underground at the correct exit. 

He nodded as he looked at my map, and pointed in the direction I should go, indicating that when I got back up to street level I should cross the bridge and turn right along the river bank.

Still lots of concrete, but Oh So Lovely. 
It was about 30 degrees and humid, but the sun on my face felt glorious. 

This is the bridge...

... and then I turned right.

Why did this feel like France to me? 

It was about hot and absolutely perfect.

The only other person that was actually in the sunshine was this guy:

and these nudies:

Everyone else was in the shade.

The library.
And two people painting the library:

I went in and looked around.
The security guards were friendly and welcoming, but advised me that this was the only room I could take photos of.

You'll just have to imagine what the rest looked like. 

This? Below? 

Freshly cut grass. 
Oh my goodness. 

I stumbled upon a photo shoot. 
Two dancers with batons. 

Like I said, no one was in the sun unless they had to cut the lawn or pose for a pic. 

ALL of the tables and chairs were empty. 
So I went to the French cafe (where the menu was all in French) and ordered the only thing I could understand, quatre fromage pizza. And fresh mango juice. To go.

She didn't understand where I would 'go', so I pointed to the empty tables and chairs in the distance, in the sun. She pointed to their seating area, undercover and suggested I'd be more comfortable there. 
I shook my head. 


That pizza?  Was all kinds of amazing. 

At around 5 pm, I started my journey back to the subway, thinking, "I don't want to be out here in the dark because I might not find my way back."

Even as I thought it I knew I was being dumb. 

I love unexpected wedding shoots. Brides always look so happy. 

Even at 5 pm on a Tuesday afternoon.

It's 5:19 pm, and 28 degrees:

And by 6 pm, the sun was setting...

Against all odds, I did make it back to the subway. I mean, really. All I had to do was turn left onto the bridge and there was the subway entrance. 

And once I got down to the ticket area, I asked for help again. And again, I was treated kindly.

I got back to the hotel and lay down for abit. 
I had a head ache, a scritchy throat and my feet hurt like crazy. 

It occurred to me that I'd probably caught something. 

At 8 pm, I got up and decided to look for some unique, not available in Canada, limited edition, very expensive Adidas shoes for my kids. It's all they asked for. I googled "Adidas" and noted that there was a company store in Osaka right next to that huge Osaka station, which was about 5 km away. 

I got on the train in Shinosaka, got off in Osaka, LIKE A PRO, then tried to retrace my steps from a few nights earlier when we'd gone on that ferris wheel ride. (The Adidas store was in that same building.) I wandered around, asking for directions for 45 minutes. The store closed at 9 and I was getting desperate. At 8:53 I found the building (YOU WOULDN'T THINK IT WOULD BE HARD TO FIND WITH THAT HUGE FERRIS WHEEL FRONT AND CENTRE... but I exited out of the station from the back and well, I saw another side to Osaka is all.)

The store is 8 stories tall and is as wide and deep it is high. I had 7 minutes to find the Adidas store. So I went over to a policeman and showed him the Adidas Store address on my phone.

 He thought for a second, then said, "Go inside. Use the second elevator. Go up to the 5th floor. It will be on your left." 

I followed his instructions and HE WAS ABSOLUTELY CORRECT.
You have no idea how impressed I was. 
How impressed I still am. 

They didn't have any unique, not available in Canada, limited edition, very expensive shoes. 
So I made my way back to the train station, then onto the train, then back to 'my' train station. 

I was hungry. 
So I wandered around the station looking for a restaurant. 

It was close to 10 pm and my throat was feeling raw so I ordered this:

And it was exactly perfect for a late night, sore throat meal. 
I was the only woman in the restaurant. 
And the only blonde. 
But it totally didn't matter. 
I had walked a million miles and I ached and that soup?
Hit. The. Spot.

I met Sue back at our hotel afterwards. 
We talked way longer than we should have because. Women. Adventures. Stories. Feelings. Thoughts. 

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