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The Last Straw Posts

JaDa – Day 49

Nothing could match yesterday’s adventure and excitement. So it felt like a a perfect day to go back and feel home, and talk to people. Called up a couple of relatives back home, engaged in long conversations and settled in for a calm evening. To top the day, Divya came in with her awesome idea for dinner. We made poori and aloo, and they turned out awesome! The closest-to-home taste so far!

JaDa – Day 48

The excitement from the previous night wasn’t any low in the morning. As Divya said, I am indeed bitten by the travel bug. At this point, I just want to get into any train, go somewhere and do something different. Kobe is exactly all that I want in a trip. We hardly knew anything about what to expect, though we did have an itinerary. Going into the tourist information at Sannomiya, we were left with new places to visit and more confusion. Time was chasing us, as it is as almost noon.

We headed to Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, from Sannomiya. Reaching Maiko in about fifteen minutes was a trip worth remembering. Travelling by the coast in a train was again part of my perfect journey. The very sight of the bridge made the trip worth it. Walking by the glass panes and feeling like walking over water was priceless. We didn’t want to leave, but the day was long and promising. Back to Sannomiya, we walked to the ropeway and the spice garden at Mt. Rokko. Kitanocho was only a bypass in our plan, but we spent quite some time walking by the houses-turned-shows – the Sherlock Holmes House, Trick Art Museum and many more. Nothing got our fancy as much as the ropeway, and we kept walking. I am not sure if I have been on a ropeway as a child, but this felt like a never before experience. Suspended from a thin rope, floating in air, it was an amazing experience – the waterfalls, the dam, other travellers cars in the rope way, and the safety net below you. Spending some time at the curio stall and food place, clicking a couple of pictures, we were good to go down the rope way. The spice garden was conveniently ignored, as we floated down the rope way, to foot of the mountain.

Shortly after getting into a bus, we reached Mt. Maya. The cable car was waiting for us, but we were preoccupied with Pepper, the robot. Seeing him talk, dance and pose for photos with us, we spent a while at the foot of the mountain, waiting for the next trip. Hopping on to the car, sitting next to the ‘locopilot’ and watching him take us uphill through the tracks, we couldn’t wait for the ropeway that awaited us at the end of the cable car. It was getting darker, but the ropeway was still beautiful. We were at the top of the mountain for the sunset. It was a cloudy evening, unfortunately. Not any lesser, Mt. Maya is famous for its lit-up view of Kobe and Osaka. Immersed in the view, we spent a while there, until we realised we were getting late for China Town and Harbor Land.It was barely ten when we reached China Town, famous for its street food, but the place was almost completely sleeping. The shops were all closed, much to Divya’s and Saikat’s dismay. Online reviews were not completely to be trusted after all. Grabbing some makeshift dinner, we headed to Harbor Land, to make the most of the rest of the trip. As anticipated, it was a beautiful place by the backwaters, with a majestic Ferris wheel. I wished I could be more scared of the Wheel, but it was all the more exciting to see the lights from the restaurants, and the Kobe tower, from the height. It was worth spending more time there, but the last train was not much away. Running late, almost all the shops were closed and we had no dinner, and was exhausted after the long day. Reaching Minami Kusatsu after midnight, we had to walk all the way back to hostel. One of the very rare instances, when I was still up and energetic for an hour long walk, I realised how deep the travel bug had bitten me. All the more, the night stays lovely as a cherished memory.

JaDa – Day 47

Lately, my obsession has clearly drifted away from food, towards travelling. I practically spent the whole day wondering about the next travel destination. After much discussions and confusion, we finally settled on Kobe. Throughout the day, I have also been thinking about how much have I grown as a person. Amidst the profound thoughts, I keep looking at myself. And surprisingly, I find myself better than yesterday. And I am assured that I will be better than this tomorrow. I am not sure if this is the travel fever speaking. If travel can do this to me, I want to travel more and more.

Can’t wait for tomorrow!

JaDa – Day 46

The day is never complete until you travel. Especially when you are in a new place. Everyday looks out for a new place to explore, newer things to do, and the newest experience. Going Aeon mall was one such. It’s the closest place to hang out, from our stay. Yet we never went that way so far. Everything has a time and place, and today was Aeon’s. Going to the western side of Minami Kusatsu felt like stepping into a whole different land. We usually use the eastern side, as that’s the side where the University and I-house are. It was the same set of shops, similar houses and buildings. Yet, it felt different in many unknown ways.

Aeon had a lot of things that we went searching for in Kyoto. It had a familiar ambience of a mall, yet an intriguing aura. The supermarket, shopping, food court – they all felt the same. Except that, shopping was cheaper and food court was not confusing; head straight to any shop that serves French fries and you are done. Luckily enough, I had McDonald’s. By far, food decisions have been the easiest for me, here! I did try the half and half pizza – thanks to Divya for her ‘kindness’. The Margherita and Four cheese were perfect for me. It’d been so for her too, had it been not too ‘veg’!

Coming back home, it wasn’t a satisfying day yet. The desire to travel more is growing stronger after each passing day!

JaDa – Day 44

The best thing in Japan is how accurate their weather predictions are. The predictions have never been this accurate back home. Or maybe, back home, I have never depended on weather patterns. Honestly, I can’t think of a single instance where I checked the weather forecast to plan my day. But in this new land, not a single day has gone by without looking at the weather reports. It’s gonna rain tomorrow apparently. And by rain, I assume a light drizzle!

JaDa – Day 43

As expected, my body is fighting against my travel dreams. Every time I go out, I come home like a sick kid! This is so unfair, considering the fact that I didn’t even go to the top of Inari! I walked more than usual, but still. So not fair! 🙁

JaDa – Day 42

I went to sleep yesterday night with great plans for today. The much awaited trip with the Foreign Students Society was suddenly not that interesting, as Divya called in sick. I was wondering if it’d be better to call it off and stay home. But somehow, it felt a bit too rude, and I went along with Saikat to Minami Kusatsu. The rest of the day was amazing and very happening day!

We met the FSS group at the station and was introduced to the members of the trip. It was nice to travel in a big group of 10-12 people after long. Our first stop was Fushimi Inari shrine. I had too many questions to the Japanese trip members, and it was adorable to see them Google out things they didn’t know, or use translators to provide me with all the answers. The ascent of Mt. Inari was not so much an effort with too many people to talk to and click photos with. I don’t remember the last time I got to talk to so many people at once! The Omokaru stone wouldn’t have been fun had they not explained the belief behind it. Nor would the thousand gates felt so special. As the belief goes, if you are able to assess the weight of the stone correctly before lifting it, it’s considered lucky. If the stone turns out to be lighter than you thought, your wish would come true; if heavier, better luck next time. And the Senbon Torii (thousand shrine gates) are offerings made by worshippers. The weather was pleasant, and the ambience was amazing. But again, it would have been much better if one could make it for the sunrise. The shrine gates and the surrounding forest gives the mountain a divine aura. All that said, I still did not climb the final lap of the mountain. One, I was pretty exhausted. Two, I was kind of trying to keep something unexplored for the second visit with Divya. After spending some time at the view point, we started walking downhill, to our next pitstop for lunch. We took a different route than the one we took uphill. At one point, it seemed we were lost, but that wasn’t really concern to me. I was walking with people who knew Japanese and English! They could talk to me and make the time enjoyable. So could they find the way out of this place for us!

After a really long walk, we reached a nearby station on the Keihan line. We took a brief stop for lunch (read French fries for me) and started on the next train to Uji. The Byodoin temple, the one on the ten yen coin, was a beautiful place. We couldn’t make it to the Phoenix Hall, but again, it was a nice place to be around. It felt like any other shrine in Japan, though each of them has a different story to say. The Phoenix was an eye-catcher on the top of the shrine, so was the Buddha on cloud series in the museum nearby. Uji is famous for its Matcha. But again, I was not tempted enough. Tasting the ice cream Saikat got, I was convinced not to try it again. (Disclaimer: Food preference is very personal! I have heard amazing comments about Matcha – green tea, as a matter of fact.) The Ujigawa – the river Uji – was far more beautiful than the shrine premise. The flowing river and the mountain range was captivating. If you ask me, the bridge and the river are the sights where one must spend more time on.

We were all pretty exhausted by the time we took a train back to Gion in Kyoto. But when we changed lines in between, I had a total lift in my mood as we got into a double decker train! I quite didn’t know there were functional double deckers in India. But again, they wouldn’t be anything like the one I saw here! It was a short journey to Gion, yet amazing. From Gion station, we walked to the famous Yasaka shrine. (more on JaDa – Day 40) After a quick tour around the premise, we walked to the Yasaka tower. Somehow, that was the happiest sight of the day for me. I have been meaning to see the multi-layered shrine building, ever since the idea of the Japan trip began to sink in. And it was indeed a sight to watch. Not to mention the macho with the Jinrikisha. And the Japanese friend I made who told me about the cart pulled by men, to carry around passengers – the Jinrikisha. And all the new friends from the FSS family. As we bid bye for the day, I was left with a handful memories of an eventful trip.

After a routine visit to Jupiter at Kyoto for some ready-to-eat MTR, Saikat and me hopped on the next train headed home.

JaDa – Day 41

And today, while I was looking out of the window, I had this existential dilemma in mind. Though I said it out in the passing, as a joke, to Divya, I have been thinking about it for longer than normal. It’s the same land as back home, but the sky seems different here. I feel different and same at the same time, from perspectives I have never imagined.

That said, it was a quite evening, making a friend’s ‘Statement of Purpose’ and homely gothambu dosa.

JaDa – Day 40

A good Friday evening suddenly turned super awesome when Divya and me made an impromptu Gion plan. We started slightly later than planned and was not quite sure if we would make it on time for the Gion Night walk. But as luck had it, we made exactly on time, as the tour was beginning. We joined a group of around twenty people, all of them tourists, for the walk around the Geisha District of Gion.

Geisha is a part of the culture and tradition at Japan. And Kyoto is the epicentre. As history has it, Geisha culture originated at Kyoto. The tourists who visited the Yasaka shrine were treated with tea, and over the years, with traditional music and dance as well. The origin of ochaya, the tea house, and that of Geisha are attributed to this popular belief. Eventually, Geisha grew to be a trained form of art and culture, which required special centres of training – the okiya. An aspiring girl can sign up to be a Meiko at the age of fifteen. Meiko is a Geisha under training. The young girl, after five years of learning and practice, grows up to be a Geisha. The okiya mother – the trainer – guides the girl through her apprenticeship.

The life of a Geisha is challenging. The attention and adoration they get are the perks of a very demanding life. The training period puts the body to a lot of pressure – the make up, the dressing and so on. And beyond the training, the profession in itself is a tough balance between career and marriage. A Geisha can continue her career only till marriage. But despite all the troubles and challenges, they seem to enjoy their way of life, and embrace it dearly. The aura around the Geisha way of life is one of unattainable beauty and perfection. The charm and grace of a Geisha takes your breath away. The flawless beauty and the elegant demeanour grab one’s attention. They earn respect and admiration.

Walking around the streets of Gion, listening to the narration of our guide, the desire to meet a Geisha strengthened. Though we weren’t lucky enough to see a Geisha, we caught a glimpse of a Meiko, as the tour ended near a concert hall. Rushing past us, radiance emanated from her. Lingering around the streets for a while more, we set out on our way back to hostel.

I was caught off guard at a convenience store when Sangeetha asked me if I were an Indian. She absolutely didn’t look Indian to me though. Next thing we know, she was walking with us to Nishiki. Sangeetha, our new found acquaintance for the evening, was on a business trip and was looking for some English speaking company. The rest of the night, however, she was mostly speaking in Hindi. Meanwhile, Divya was throwing a tantrum for the salmon and the caramel ice cream from Nishiki, despite it being way past the closing hours! We walked around Nishiki, in pursuit of other food options. 😀

We walked into the Wendy’s at Teramachi as our last resort for dinner. While Divya got a burger and we got some French fries, we all tried out all the dips they had, and stuck around beyond their closing hours, till they politely kicked us out. The conversations with Sangeetha started with what we saw in Gion, and went beyond our perceptions on the cultural differences between India and Japan. The evening suddenly got a lot more vocal, and engaging. Walking back in the rain to the bus stop, we bid bye to Sangeetha and promised to keep in touch. I am not sure if we would. I don’t think I even want to write more about her. Some people make an appearance in our lives, for no real reason. But they leave behind a memory to cherish. She has left one such with me. A very memorable evening, that’d always be cherished. Getting into the last bus, we reached hostel in no time. It was still raining. Like a day that sheds tears, as it meets its end.