I was able to get the shower working last night after a repeat lesson from the non-English speaking host. It turns out that Americans cannot understand slow loud Japanese. This morning I got up & made some coffee with my packets I’d bought at the supermarket. It was a real treat to be clean & to enjoy coffee relaxing in my own room. I was reminded of a line from King Lear – something about difficult circumstances making small things seem precious*. I took my breakfast groceries & walked over to the Memorial to the Unknown Soldier across the street. While I waited for the place to open I sat on a bench in the breeze & ate my coconut yogurt (or coconut something) & my ham & cheese bun. Heaven.
The memorial was truly moving. There is a main shrine building in the front. Off to the East side of the campus is the memorial for the foreign soldiers. The words printed on the huge marble memorial are quite moving. There is a bench with an incense burner, & I lit an incense stick in remembrance of the American lives lost during WWII. A room off to the side contains drawers of the names of foreign soldiers who lost their lives, and on one wall is a case with jars of dirt donated from the veteran cemeteries around the world.
Around the rest of the campus are separate memorials for the Japanese soldiers who lost their lives. There is a different memorial for each region of Japan. In a larger building there are drawers with the names of all the Japanese soldiers. Drawers and drawers and drawers. It was overwhelming. In each drawer are hundreds of names on individual metal markers.
While I was there this morning there were many old women who came & prayed & lit incense. I just happened to be at the memorial on a special day. There are a few days every month when the monks perform a special service in remembrance of the lost lives. I listened to the monks chant & watched the ceremony. But the women coming after this many years… it was painful & very emotional to me.
Having soaked up every ounce of that experience I left & walked back across the street to start my trek for the day. Last night I had pulled out a city map & a bus map & had made some plans. I decided to take the bus to visit the Imperial Palace way on the North side of the central city. I was very apprehensive but confident that I couldn’t get in too much trouble with a map to the ryokan & some money for cab fare in my pocket if everything went awry.
I started by walking to the 7-11 & using their international ATM to pull out some money. I also bought a day pass for the bus system (for only 500 yen – about $5). Feeling quite confident after those accomplishments, I walked down the street until I saw some people waiting for a bus. The bus stop listed my bus number. OK, I could do this. Take the 206 to Kumano-jinja-mae & then switch to the 204. Ride the 204 to Maratumachi station & get off at the Imperial Palace complex. Things were going swimmingly.
I got off at the right spot. Then a nice woman who spoke some English told me that the 93 also would take me to the complex. I got on the 93 with her. She told me where to get off the bus & waved goodbye from the window. Wow, I felt like such a big girl! It turns out that the complex is enormous (well duh – it’s the Imperial Palace) & I had about 7 additional blocks to walk to get to the place where they make foreigners register for approval to get in (very proud of myself for finding that out in advance). 7 blocks. Sigh. (Did I mention that I was lugging my roll around backpack with my PC, so I could email all you guys at the first opportunity?) Every now & then I stopped to ask a stranger to look at my map & make sure I was going the right way. FINALLY, I arrived at the correct gate.
I lugged my backpack across the gravel walkway (not easy on wheels) & made my way down the long path to the guard station… where a very kind & apologetic guard informed me that the Imperial Palace was closed on Saturdays.
Oh good grief.
The guard must’ve thought I was insane when I burst into peals of laughter. He gave me some brochures to ease my suffering (or abate my insanity).
So 7 blocks I walked back, & I took refuge in the McDonald’s, where I was able to send out that email to everyone. An awfully long way to go for Coke & some fries. At least there was internet access.
I suppose my confidence was shaken. The ride back went less smoothly. I caught the 202, got off too soon, caught the 202 again, & probably could’ve ridden it back to my area of town, but I refused to be beaten. I was going to use the bus system to actually go somewhere. I got off & caught the 12 (all of these stops involved my going in & asking someone at the Family Mart – a sign I’ve grown to think of fondly – what was the best bus route to take back to the center of town.
At last, I recognized where I was… though, why did I want to come to the shopping district? I hate shopping malls in the U.S., & the ones in Little Rock aren’t nearly so crowded. I fought the crowd for a while, & then sat down with my travel guide in disgust as it started to rain.
Then I saw it:
The Gael Irish Pub. Ohto Bldg., west side Nawate, north of Shijo above drug store. The friendly hospitality of 23-year-Kyoto-veteran, Michael, and his jolly English/French speaking staff make this Lonely Planet’s “favorite Kyoto bar” and “a great place… to see what’s going on.”‘ Relax and make friends at this ‘must-visit’ pub, while enjoying great food and drink; our staff are happy to help you plan your Kyoto stay; fine whiskeys, bottled & draft beers; generous wine glass; lamb kebab; big fish and chips; roast lamp; live music Fri. & 2nd Sun.; major sports on 5 screens; Can’t find us? CALL! FREE INTERNET!
A shelter from the storm. Go in, hang out with some other “big noses,” lick my wounds, & get a good dose of confidence. At this point, I looked at a couple of busses that passed & just hailed a cab.
After much discussion & pointing at the guide, the cabbie dropped me off in the area that he thought should have the bar. One discussion with a drug store clerk, & an elevator ride. Here I am.
The friendly gentleman who greeted me was most definitely not named Michael. But he assured me his boss would be right back & could help me with my internet troubles. I ordered some curried lamb & waited for Michael.
The owner arrived. His name is most definitely not Michael either. He also does not seem too eager to “help [me] plan [my] Kyoto stay.” And, I cannot get my computer to connect to his wireless network. I had to laugh again. Ah well. There is a power outlet here for my ailing PC battery, I know the words to the music that they are playing, & they have Bass on tap. Thankfully, the 5 screens of sports also turned out to be exaggeration (complete fabrication).
All in all a good day. I conquered my fear of public transit, got a satisfying meal, & enjoyed a good malty beer & several smokes while typing to my friends back home at the end of the day.
Now… can I just get back to my room…
*The art of our necessities is strange,
And can make vile things precious.
(King Lear 3.2)