Trains, trains, trains. Sadly started off with a bit of a tough note, I missed the train I needed to take to get to the airport on time and ended up getting Mom at 10 pm instead of 7 pm. She was beat after all the flights (she flew direct from LA, but flew from her house to LA on a different airline hours and hours earlier). So my first sight of my mom was of her red-pink silk rain coat and scarlet hair, head tilted back at in her seat, an closed-eyed brightly colored slight little person (she's five foot tall) waiting amongst the drab colors of the quietly emptying airport. Of course then there was the nearly two hour train trip back, and then the fact that I got to introduce mom to the "excitement" of my 20 minute uphill walk to my apartment from the local train station. When we couldn't catch a cab though, she kicked serious ass by basically iron willing herself to practically charge up the damn hill. It was impressive. And totally my mom.
Day one was her rest day - jet lag is a thing! But she was awake enough to want to come into school with me, which was great because Sam was willing to try to guide us to his favorite china-town restaurant afterwards. Of course, it wasn't open, but at least we went to China Town! And Mom's second meal in country (after the breakfast pastries we got at the Pompadour bakery), was Chinese. LOLZ. That was quite enough of a trek though, even though on the way back to the station from Chinatown we walked through the gardens in front of the baseball station where they'd planted hundreds of tulips in rainbow colors. The quote of the day was Mom turning to me to say, as we came around the edge of the little pond in the park (before we hit the tulip beds, "what a nice little Japanese garden!". If it's not funny to you reading it, it may be one of those things that you have to be there for.
Day two we wandered around my neighborhood so Mom could see how people actually, you know, lived in Japan, instead of vacationed. And we managed to find a second-hand kimono shop where she bought two incredibly beautiful (one hand-painted!) kimonos for $70 (US), which is just kind of unheard of. She didn't seem totally impressed by the tonkatsu we did for lunch (which is my favorite 'fast' food of japan - it's breaded-deep-fried-pork cutlet) but then again, it's kinda junkfood. :D Even if we did go to a kind of nice-restaurant to eat it. For dinner we met Sam and Kat and Colin at our favorite local bar and Mom had gnocchi for dinner (you'll see, this is a theme, sort of). The bar is run (and probably owned by) this awesome old man who pours exquisitely perfect drinks (like he actually squeezes a tiny lemon rind over the top of the drinks to scent the air for your first drink). The hostess is this beautiful woman in her 20s who is always so incredibly polite, and the food is delicious, even if it is a mish-mash of italian/french/american. Sam & I have a favorite dish that's now out of season - smoked oysters on crackers with goat cheese with olive oil. It's like little bites of salty heaven. ANYWAY, it was a good night - got to introduce Mom to my friends over drinks, had a good time on a Friday night, smiled and laughed and smoked and talked.
And then we headed out for the Fuji Lake district! I don't think Mom quite anticipated how much training it was going to take for us to get out there - we got out of the house at a great time, but it still took the middle part of the day for us to go further and further away from the cities. Everything was green except for the bamboo (not quite rainy enough yet), and we delighted in pointing out mountains covered in multi-colored bunches of trees - some dark pine, some lighter almost mint green. In total it was like four hours from doorstep to doorstep? Maybe more? Mom had a great time taking pictures of people's gardens out of the train window as we got further and further away from the concrete jungle that is Yokohama and the surrounding areas. We stopped in the cutest little tourist town for lunch - Otsuki - where we had what I'd consider our first really real Japanese meal: mom had a fish, egg and rice dish, and i had seared maguro (tuna) in this amazingly beautiful fresh spring vegetable/onion broth. It was in this incredibly adorable restaurant with only Japanese people in it - a couple of chatty men at one table having sake with their lunch, and a couple of women at another whose voices floated over to use despite the wood dividers. It was pretty perfect actually. And after that we got onto the special direct to Fuji train line with specially big windows - and finally we spied Fuji out the window! The train actually took us closer to the mountain and then a little backwards to our train stop.
That first afternoon after we checked into the hotel we went to the gem museum at the end of the block (literally at the end of the block from our hotel - which was also the lakeside road), oohed and awwwed at the sparkly things on display, especially the four and five food amethyst geodes. And then we tried to find someplace that was open on Sunday afternoon for dinner, which for some reason was *much* harder than expected! Mom's theory was that, because it was the Sunday before the official start of Golden Week, everyone was closed in preparation for the coming season, which I think is as good a theory as any. We finally found a place where she could get a bowl of soba with veggies and I could get a pizza (of course Japanese pizza, so special in it's own way), but the woman running the place pushed us to order and practically dragged us out the door before we were done eating.
the next day Mom got introduced to a traditional Japanese ryokan breakfast (ryokans are Japanese vacation hotels that generally have a communal spa and sorta special 'dining out' food), and hit the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum. It houses the kiminos of Itchiku Kubota, who perfected the Itchiku Tsujigahana dyeing technique which is like the most ridiculously painstaking kind of hand painted tying technique ever. Take, for example, this kimono:
First Kubota paints the pattern he wants on it in special ink. Then he ties the parts he's going to die (every part that looks the slightest bit 'wrinkled' is that way because it was tied), and then hand paints the color onto the each area (so he has to keep the whole design in his head while it's tied). And then the larger silk is put into a dye bath to get the larger swaths of colors, sometimes two and three times. When you look at the sheer complexity it's kind of boggling.
And that was only the first museum! We also saw one of the world's biggest music boxes (it was actually an entire room) and a live duet of piano/sax at the Music Box Forest Museum, and some really fascinating modern art pieces at their Museum of Art (no, seriously, really cool - one was a video instillation of this cool narrative about a six-legged wolf, a half-insect person, and a woman). And we capped the day off by climbing up to the Kachikachi-yama Ropeway to get photos of Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi from up high before we headed back to the hotel for dinner. After the fiasco of the previous night we figured we'd rather stay at the hotel than have to hunt down food again. Besides, it was shabu shabu, which is always fun.
That night Mom introduced herself to Japanese TV, and discovered she totally had a penchant for it. No, seriously, even though she didn't understand the words, there's a bunch of variety-like-shows on, and people performing = people performing. And she liked the food shows. It actually gave me a whole new perspective on Japanese TV (i haven't watched much here myself, partially because i'd have to deal with housemate if i did, partially because i wasn't into it), but we totally made it an active thing - me trying to translate as much as possible and her trying to figure out from context what was happening.
And the next day we woke up and found it was raining, so after another Japanese breakfast with lots of pickled things and some salmon, we packed our bags and got ourselves back to the train stop, and began the journey home.
Next up: Karoke and Kyoto!
also posted to katekat on dreamwidth | you can reply here or there