Monday, May 29, 2006

back from the future

kyoto to tokyo shinkansen: 10:46 a.m., tuesday, may 30
utah: 7:46 p.m., monday, may 29

the bullet train [or 'shinkansen', as we say in the far east] is a wonderful contraption, resembling the child of the serpent from harry potter's 'chamber of secrets' and a rocket ship. speeding through the mountain landscape upon which the sun has risen and shines brightly, i wish we could take this all the way across the ocean. the ride is generally smooth [as i type, it's rocking more than i have ever felt, and that's not very much], and last night it got us from osaka to kyoto in under 15 minutes. that's pretty dang.

no matter how many times i do this, i am always amused by the phenomenon in which i leave the airport at 5:00 tuesday afternoon and arrive in san francisco at 9 a.m. that morning. the dark side to this amusement is that, for reasons i don't quite fully understand, adjusting to the time difference is much easier when going from east to west. coming back, it's something akin to a nightmare; i will be getting sleepy around 4 in the afternoon and bright eyed and bushy by 4 or 5 in the a.[m.] looks like i can get finally watch the first season of 'lost'.

yesterday we had the experience to see something quite rare. we were visiting 'sanjusangen-do', one of the ancient city's most famous temples [where temple recommends are sold for 600 yen] in which there are 1,001 buddhist statues [1,000 standing at about 5'; the other 1 is about 10' tall], walking down the incense filled hall and marveling at the grandeur of it. up ahead, in front of the main deity, was solemnly assembled a buddhist wedding ceremony. the couple sat up with the priest, he clothed in rarely-seen purple robes, the bride in pure white and the groom in a black and grey kimono. off to the side were two assisting monks in green, who carried sacred tea and candles, and below sat the parents, who must have had some great influence in arranging such a sacred ceremony [not to mention the two photographers and a videographer in a hall where photography is otherwise prohibited].
simply being there to see such an ordinance was fascinating, and to see the performance of some rites, coupled with the unnusual hand positions of some of the statues in the temple was enlightening.

the last day of our journey, it seems we were finally getting a rhythm down on how to travel with the five of us. hop out of the temple [after buying several charms from the temple gift shop--these charms have become the favorite for souveniers: they are small, affordable, and kind of cool], skip on to the bus, and jump onto the train to osaka.
standing on the platform, a train pulled in across from us, listing 'kakogawa' as its final destination, very cool because that was one of the areas in which i served as all those years ago [and a bit odd, because it's not a major stop in that area]. to make further awesomeness, that train pulled away and the one behind it was bound for 'shingu', another area in which i served and not that commonly seen in the kyoto station. little tender mercies like that are indeed awesome.

from train to subway, we make what was probably the last required stop in the trip, the 'hard rock cafe osaka'. so now i have my shirt.

another subway or two and we were at the osaka aquarium. costing a whopping 2000 yen to get in [~$20], this place was rad, boasting 7 floors of fishies, sharks, seals, and even monkeys! i like monkeys.
cool though the monkeys be, our favorites were the otters. maybe a subconscious leftover from when we would cheer for the fergus falls otters even when our high school played against them, watching these little river otters hobble around and play in the water made us giddy. but the sea otters stole the show. probably four or five feet long [depending on the tail], the were big enough to be enormously cute as the paddled along on their backs past the windows, chewing on something or just washing their ears.
you just want to put one in your suitcase and take him home.

other than the otters, the penguins could have entertained me all afternoon. like ducks, i admire penguins because they are not the most beautiful or graceful of the fowl, but they seem completely content to be the bird they are and do the best can.
they just be penguins.
they waddle around on legs that look to be little more than ankles and feet, so that even a gradual incline requires concentration and some risk, hold their arms out like a little kid when they run, and enter the water essentially by falling over. yet they all stand there, in the their tuxedos, with an enviable expression, seemingly thinking, 'dang. i'm a penguin. rad.'

yes, there were underwater creatures, too. the king of them all was the whale shark, who's name says it all [the largest fish in captivity] and around whom swam a school of little fishes, presumably using him for protection. also of weirdness-note was the sun-fish. probably nine inches wide and 5-6 feet tall, this guy has a fin on top and one on bottom, and that's how he gets around. with a mouth that looks perpetually open, he doesn't look like the brightest star in the sky, and i almost feel bad for saying he looks strange. i'm sure he's very smart and has a wonderful personality.

coming in as a dessert to the visual feast were the jellyfish. i think a jar of two or three jellyfish would make wonderful centerpieces at my wedding reception. simply a biological mystery on how they are even 'alive', they move through the water like blobulous dreams, transluciently phasing between this world and some unseen astral plane. so beautiful and tantalizing, yet when i see those poison wires trailing behind them, the dream is gone and the venom revealed. but from behind glass, they are my 'squishy.'

**it is now 12:30, about 40 minutes out from tokyo; on my right are fields of tea; on my left is mt. fuji, largely hidden in the hazey distance. dad is nervous that we will not make our flight. i'm curious myself, but i think it will happen; i've cut it close plenty of times before. not that i condone such behaviors; i wish we were comfortably ahead of schedule, as the trains going from nippori station to the airport run only every hour, i think. but i am not worried.

No comments: