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Thursday, June 25th, 2009. 10:00pm Japan Time.
Today was another full day! It started out rough, as my feet have blisters on each toe (ow) and on the ankle of my left foot (ow ow), so walking seemed like a dismal venture to me. Nevertheless, I was not going to give up on making the most of our time here! :D
Before we headed out, we asked the hostess what was up with all of the water bottles, and she explained to us that it is in case of fire. Since most structures in Japan are made of wood and are built close together . . . well, you get the idea. I'm not sure why that one person had them all around their car . . . Scary implications there. ;) Today, after she explained it, we noticed that there are fire buckets (they are red and say something about fire in kanji on them) full of water too, so it does seem to be a matter of fire prevention. (Later on, she corrected herself and said that the bottles are to keep cats from peeing on things, a remedy I've heard of before... where are all of these cats? The buckets are for fires).
So, we took the Japan Rail out to Nara, a place rich with culture. Since we couldn't afford to take the bus or a taxi everywhere there is to go, we walked ( painful, but totally worth it!) to the deer park first. OMG . . . These “sacred” deer leave a little to be desired in the manners department. :} Graceful is not the word I would use; perhaps flexible, though! Their poop was everywhere, and we had a deer pee right in front of us. :} It was not a magical Bambi moment, but later on throughout the day there were some resting deer who were very nice, not like the one who assaulted an old woman for her bag of groceries as she walked by. The old woman did manage to snatch it back, though! We also saw an older man trying to sit and enjoy a peaceful meal in the park while three deer kept harassing him. The deer were much more aggressive than the monkeys we saw yesterday!
After that, we circled around to see Todai-ji Temple, the largest wooden structure in the world. It was AWESOME! I didn't think I'd be impressed by giant hunks of wood, but I was! After seeing many “No Smoking” signs around this magical place, I couldn't help but crack a joke about the size of their water bottles.
As we walked up to the temple, two school girls asked if they could guide us as part of their lessons to learn English. One of them seemed to know more English than the other, but it was fun having them guide us around. :) They were very sweet, and I was tempted to ask to be pen pals, but . . . since English was their assignment, I was pretty sure it'd be more fun for me than it would be for them. :/ Anyway, inside of the temple were equally amazingly large statues, and the information the girls provided to us about them were invaluable. I think one of my favorite parts was a hole at the base of a pillar, of which it is said that if you can fit through, then you will definitely go to Heaven. As the girls were explaining this to us, a mother was stuffing her young girl through the hole. :} It was pretty funny and cute, and yet I couldn't help thinking to myself that it was sad that no adults would fit through it. However, the significance of this did not pass me by.
Before we could leave, there was one more amazing thing. They were looking for donations to purchase tiles for doing further reconstruction . . . so, for $10.00 a large tile, you would get to write your name, where you are from, a wish, and donate that tile! I couldn't pass it up! If I had more time (by the time I have internet again, I know that I won't), I'd post a picture here, but you can see it on my Flickr account at http://www.flickr.com/dreamsenshi . We purchased a tile together, on which I wrote our names, the date, my wish for us, and my little Doodle Kitty!! I'm so thrilled that my Doodle Kitty will be a part of Japan long after I've left!! :D :D :D Sugoi!! I wish I could see it in the final project, but it will have to do as a photo for now.
Among other souvenirs available in Nara, we noticed that chocolates shaped like the sacred deer poop was popular. So, all that stuff on Engrish.com ? It's for real! I remember feeling a little skeptical when I saw a picture on there before, but so far it really is like this in Japan. :} We bought some for Terinati's father for Father's Day (belated, obviously, since we were in Japan through it!).
After that, we were both tired and sore, so we managed to catch a bus back to the Japan Rail station in Nara, and headed back to Kyoto. On the trip back, we met a nice old man who is studying English (his English is already extremely good!) and he has been saving up to come to America to visit! So, we talked with him a while and he practiced a few phrases on us before his stop. His dream to see America was so vivid and sincere that even after he was gone I felt really touched. I hope his dream comes true!
On our way out of the Japan Rail station in Kyoto, we noticed a strange vending machine, one of a few, that serves entire meals. Not healthy meals, mind you, but french fries, or hot dogs; the kind of stuff you'd find in a TV dinner section. Even though it's a fasting day, we just HAD to know, so we purchased hot dogs for 350 yen. Two hot dogs for about $4! Complete with condiments and all! We had to stand and wait while the machine cooked them, and then out came a box inside which were the hot dogs, already fully dressed. They were probably the least tasty hot dogs I've ever had without actually being bad, and the food made McDonald's look good, but it is faster and cheaper, so I bet people in a hurry who are starving still use it.
After stopping back at the hotel and refreshing supplies, we managed to find out where a movie theater was. I'd been wanting to go to one yesterday, missing having that sort of activity, and curious about how the theaters are here. We asked the guys at the front counter, and they pointed out two theaters we could go to, both not close. So, we hopped on the rail again to Nijo, where we got off and went to the Toho theater, which is right off of the stop.
To my delight, some of the movies were in English with Japanese subtitles. I do want to learn more Japanese, but I wanted this to be relaxing and easy to understand for a break. The theater was incredibly clean; we started off by purchasing tickets for Terminator 4, since it was one of the few showing soon after we arrived. It was a little different than my experiences in America, because even though it is a smaller theater, they had assigned seating and Terinati had to choose where to put us. So, we took seats about in the middle of the theater.
Next, concessions! No candy to be found on display at all. You can purchase crepe sticks, but not candy. Also, regular popcorn, caramel popcorn, or a mix. Oo! We just got regular popcorn, since it's a fasting day and I already was feeling fat.
The seats were luxuriously spaced out so that no one's head could possibly get in your way, and you can recline and relax, too. The food comes on trays which you can set in your holder, having the ability to swivel back and forth between two people or just sit at a comfortable distance so that it is not in your lap. Awfully convenient for a place that doesn't serve much food! :)
Instead of the fun movie facts that we get in America, the pre-movie just had information about how to get discounts, such as seeing movies after 8pm would save you 600 yen each, and on Wednesday nights it's like a girls' night out, so girls only cost 1000 yen instead of the 1800 yen we paid. That's quite a difference! But, that just played over and over again. Then, when the previews started, it was strange because we saw some previews twice; one in English with subtitles, and then again in Japanese. Also, Sarah Brightman is in some Japanese movie that I couldn't tell what the title was?! Sarah Brightman, why were you holding out on me?! AWESOME! The strangest part of all was the drawn-out video-game-like instructions on what not to do in the theater. Since we couldn't understand what was being said, it appeared to be no cell phones, no talking, no recording movies illegally, and no shooting lasers. Oh, and no kicking the seats in front of you. It seems sad that these things need to be said, but considering how people are in America, I'm glad that someone finally said all of it . . . even if it was a little drawn out and strange. :} There were multiple messages about it!
Finally, the movie was awesome, didn't even notice the subtitles. Got so drawn in, in fact, that for a while I thought I was back in America and almost cried. Yep, I like Japan that much. Although, I do remind myself from time to time that Japan would not be so relaxing if I lived and worked here like everyone else. One interesting difference; the lights don't come on until every last credit is finished with. Not a moment sooner. A few people still left during the credits, but almost all of us stayed through the whole thing. YAY! I didn't have to feel awkward for staying and watching for a change!
So, that was our day today, and tomorrow we move on to a new place. Hopefully, it will have internet! We'll see, though. I can't believe our journey is getting near to coming to a close! Every day gets more and more interesting. I hope tomorrow will have great things in store as well.