Welcome to the second installment of my trip to Japan! This is all about the ryokan we stayed at in Kyoto. A ryokan is a traditional guest house with mats on the floor, bathroom shoes, a whole room as a shower… the things that are boring day-to-day items for a Japanese person that a Westerner can’t help but notice. And, being a Westerner, I was curious about everything. A big, huge thank you to Katie, my best friend, and the reason I visited, for putting up with my questions every .26 seconds of the week-long trip. But back to the ryokan.
When we arrived, we were greeted immediately with goodies. The cinnamon cookies are a specialty of the town and, of course, we sipped green tea while they prepared our room.
We made it a point to stay somewhere that included a traditional Japanese dinner and breakfast. We were so glad we did, partially because we were starving by the time we checked in (See my ridiculously excited face on the left and Katie and Samantha sharing the food-thusiasm).
The personal touches were wonderful too, from the “how-to” guides to the little origami bird in our room.
I tried my hardest to fit this whole less-than-24-hour stay into one post, but I just don’t think it can be done, seeing as how breakfast was quite a spread in itself. So, we’ll call this the dinner edition. Feast your eyes.
This meal is a wonderful example of Katie’s patience with my question-asking, which consisted of, “what’s this? and this? and this? OK, only one more question, what’s this…. oh wait…” You get the idea. And unless it was meat, rice, or tofu, the answer, more often than not, was a Japanese root vegetable that there is no English word for since it is mainly grown in Japan (or maybe Katie was just saying this to shut me up ).
This wasn’t totally a mystery meal since many foods, besides these nameless root vegetables, were recognizable. Much of the difference lies in the fact that they were presented in such an extraordinary fashion.
This was not just food, it was art. I almost felt guilty eating some of these beautiful creations…until I tasted how delicious they were.
It was also fun to eat! The meat and vegetables below went into a steaming little pot which our server lit for us. The meat cooked almost instantly and was served along a nice acidic, fruity yuzu dipping sauce.
Some things took more guts to try. I’m a sushi-lover and I’ll try almost anything once, but this fish below was probably my biggest challenge. How can you put the whole thing in your mouth when it’s still staring at you?! But, I would like to state for the record (with Katie and Samantha as my witnesses) that I ate the whole fish. Staring eyeballs and all.
When all was said and done, we were stuffed and incredibly glad we’d chosen to stay at the Hirashin Ryokan. We settled in for the night with girly magazines and girly Japanese beer… for cultural appreciation purposes, of course.
And breakfast is still to come! So check back for The Ryokan Part 2: Breakfast!
As some of you may know, I recently took a trip to Japan to visit my best friend, Katie, who is currently teaching English there. I’m going to have to take a few (or a lot of) different posts to highlight parts of the trip, but I feel like this is a good place to start. Let me preface this by explaining that Japan is steeped in tradition and order. The beautiful simplicity found everywhere from the food to the temples was astounding. The respect people treated each other and society as a whole with was what struck me the most and was incredibly admirable. However, this post is about something that I also feel like encompasses all aspects of the Japanese lifestyle. It’s the fact that everything from signage to commercials is filled with quirky, cartoony, silly and, well, adorable things of all sorts.
Above are warning signs at the deer park we visited in Nara. Not only were the warning signs not intimidating, but the deer were far from it. Except that moment close to feeding time (sorry, Sam!).
A cutened up vending machine at the deer park.
But the baby deer weren’t the only animals that were freakishly adorable. These little snow monkeys were so expressive and fun to watch. And so fluffy!
It wouldn’t be a Japanese commercial without an adorable animal character.
Joyful little character showing us how to go to the onsen.
Romantical bathroom shoes.
A couple of cartoon tour guide foxes (note the waving little guy in the background) informing us of customs that should be followed at the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine.
At the shrine, you didn’t have to read Japanese to interpret what this guy means.
Quirky vending machine characters.
More cartoon signage.
When I first saw this amusing elevator sign in Tokyo, I had to take a photo. Little did I know I would see this symbol on elevators all over the country over the next week.
Hope you enjoyed a sneak-peek into cute little tidbits from Japan!