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Mom taught me to travel in a series of expertly planned trips during my pre-teen years. She single mom took her two sons and one carry-on bag for ten days each through parts of North Africa and Asia and Europe and Central America.

In June 2002, my Mom came to visit me in Japan. This time I was to plan and coordinate a trip for us. So we traveled as I know best; planning little the day before but waking up and deciding where to go, and then participating fully once you're there. Mom had been to Japan before, but only Tokyo for three days. Never stayed in traditional lodgings, never traveled outside of the city. Never ate ramen!

My mother was a strong willing participant, tasting all foods, sitting on the floor, smiling at flirtation from old curio dealers as I translated their compliments. We wandered well together, actually a bit more focused than wandering. We were invaluably served by Gateway to Japan (Kinoshita & Palevsky) with their detailed listings of attractions, dining and lodgings in fairly small towns. Also, some very focused information on history and culture in the introduction. Also we enjoyed National Geographic's Japan and Berlitz Japan. And some emailed essays from Jane.

Here is a rough list of our locations, activities, eating and lodging, with some photo moments inserted as well. The grainy photos that blow up to 640 by 480 were taken with an Eyeplate camera.

Day City Sites/Activities Lodging Meals
May 29
Tokyo Arrival, check-in, make and follow-though last minute dinner plans. Fall asleep on the train ride home. Shigetsu Ryokan Basement izakaya - Chapon in Shibuya
with Mimi and Scott
May 30
Tokyo Travel to Tsukiji, the first market for the world's largest dead aquarium and delicious sushi breakfast
Brief visit to my primary working haunt, the Foreign Correspondents' Club
Stop by Kinko's to print out gallies of the Tokyo Guidebook and deliver them to another Kinko's for speedy printing of 70 copies.
Afternoon visit to the Asakura Choso Museum - a sculptor's house and gardens with a contemplative courtyard Mom enjoyed.
Walk through Nippori Graveyards and Ueno Park
Shigetsu Ryokan Sushi breakfast at Tsukiji
Lunch recommended by Christian receptionist at FCCJ
Too long to travel to Hiroshima Okonomiyake where I accidentally ordered yaki-soba instead of okonomiyake and then ordered okonomiyake anyhow. We were jetlagged and overfed with bacon and egg greasy food. Whew!
index.html Mom enjoys some food with her new chopstick fingering.
May 31
Tokyo -> Nara Pick up fresh printed guidebooks at Kinkos, deliver to FCCJ for sale.
Check in to Nara and relax just a bit; eat and walk around.
Seikan-so Ryokan, a former Geisha house with big courtyard Korean "Babeque" lunch near the FCCJ
Ryozanpaku, robata-yaki - grilled and seasonal foods, dark woods
index.html A train ticket vendor peeks his head out from a hole in the wall beside this Nara-station ticket machine to offer some advice to a confused ticket buyer.
index.html Typing in the Nara Seikan-so Ryokan, Mom's overlooking the courtyard.
June 1
Nara -> Kyoto Yakushi-ji - the world's oldest wooden buildings
Todai-ji, the world's largest bronze sculpture
Tawaraya Ryokan, extensive team service, three rooms, calm Japanese garden outside the window. Quiet luxury. Elaborate, drawn out kaiseki dinner at Tawaraya
index.html A school group posed in front of the world's oldest wooden buildings. We were to see legions of school children for a few days, parading cursorily past their cultural heritage, kicking up gravel and occasionally approaching foreigners to say "hello!".
index.html Mom stands in front of crossed beams - admirably woodwork and a nice lady.
index.html The edge of a placid monk about his work to the right, raking back the thin, consistent layer of pebbles artfully rearranged into chaos constantly by a parade of identically dressed girls and boys joyfully making dust clouds.
All this in front of a giant old wooden pagoda.
index.html The world's largest wooden building! No, maybe the world's widest wooden building. uh, either way, inside is the world's largest bronze sculpture! Or at least the world's largest bronze buddha! Or at least the largest bronze Buddha in that part of western-central Japan.
index.html Behind the giant bronze Buddha, many smaller Buddhas sit similarly, refracted, spiraling gilded into psychedelic spiritual space.
index.html A wooden statue of a Guardian deity stands behind the world's largest bronze Buddha. Here the fierce guardian diet is protected by a sign in two languages: "please do not deface this sacred property."
index.html Nara park has hundreds of tame deer who follow humans with anything protruding from their body that might be food. They have hired sweepers, still it's possible to walk without looking and step in something made of all this human-deer contact. Taking your shoes off before you enter the next restaurant or hotel immediately makes more sense.
index.html A slender tree grows from a large moss-covered trunk. Nearby, thousands of stone lanterns.
index.html A woman with a headdress that must be traditional (else why would she wear gauze and mirrors, working in the hot sun?), sits watch in front of a sign at a Nara temple - "Visitors Entrance / Worship 500 yen." Finally, a straightforward price put on human-divine relations.
index.html This lady working at Tawaraya in Kyoto brought us tea and information and dinner and breakfast, always smiling, complimenting my Japanese, accommodating our requests for drinking water. Mom remarked on her workday hours - from breakfast at 7.30 to dinner at 9.30. She must nap, I surmised - Motegi-san did.
June 2
Kyoto Ryoan-ji - prototypical zen meditation rock garden
Kinkaku-ji - the supremely bright Golden Pavilion
Daitoku-ji temple compound and Ikkyu's temple
spectating Noh play outdoor at the bright red shrine
Tawaraya Ryokan Lunch at Ikkyu, Buddhist vegetarian restaurant near Daitoku-ji.
Gion Izakaya dinner
index.html Mom tries to leave Tawaraya Ryokan; two or three staff members notice and accompany her to the cab, wishing her well, instructing the driver, and then standing bowed until she is driven out of sight.
index.html Outdoor Noh Festival at the Heian Shrine in Kyoto. These are the seats we got since we arrived only an hour in advance. Look Mom! That elaborately dressed character, no the other one, they just swung their arm! We were quite far from the stage, and unfortunately seated behind some quite tall foreigners with good posture.
index.html Cedar tub and tiled floors with a window on a small garden - the tub in our room at Tawaraya.
index.html View of garden with lantern from the Western seating area in the Tawaraya room.
June 3
Kyoto Mom alone in the morning while I work on E3 coverage. She went to see Sanjusangen-do, the 1010 Kannon statues, each with twenty arms.
We met up for lunch and in the afternoon saw Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion
A slow stroll on Testugaku no Michi the lovely Philosopher's walk, a meditative preparation of tea we enjoyed before drinking with a small red bean paste snack at Kanou Shojuan recommended by Joi and Mizuka. By this time, Mom had decided she wasn't really into red bean Japanese sweets, so I got two.
Finished with some walking down from Kiyomizu-dera, along Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka, cobblestoned streets with shops clustered into old buildings; some gift-getting. Accidentally skipped the temple at the top - feet tired, religious monument overload.
Hiiragen Ryokan Ramen lunch
dinner at ryokan
index.html Hiirigaya Ryokan featured a "Control Gourd" in the room with a light switch, night light, curtain remote control - brought out at night once the futon bedding was set up on the floor.
June 4
Kyoto -> Koya-san Kyoto: last minute faxes.
To-ji shrine.
Mom returns to Sanjusangen-do to show her son the insane psychedelic refractions of gilded enlightenment. Travel into the mountains. Directed by American Buddhist monks to take the bus. Long walk uphill from the bus stop to our temple carrying bags in the heat. Evening walk amidst the deserted quiet Garan - a collection of religious buildings at the mountain-top monastery.
Yochi-in Temple breakfast at Ryokan.
Lunch - ??
Dinner at the temple.
June 5
Koya-san 6.30am Buddhist services. Okuno-in graveyards in the morning, curio shops around noon. Everything closed early, banks included. Yochi-in Temple Breakfast at temple.
Lunch at 120 year old Hanabishi restaurant "best in Koya-san" perhaps. Couldn't find us an English newspaper in town, but tried awfully hard.
Dinner at temple
June 6
Koya-san -> Takayama Hida village of traditional crafts. Travel. Wonderful baths at Takayama. Nagase Ryokan Breakfast at temple, lunch - ??, Dinner at Nagase
June 7
Takayama Morning markets, antiques fair, matsuri/festival float museum, traditional houses.
Justin bought an old portable calligraphy set.
Nagase Ryokan Lunch with Tomoko at Kakushoo
dinner at Nagase
index.html Shopping for pickled things at the morning market in Takayama. Most things have small bowls of samples provided. And everything here was individually wrapped - not teeming piles of vegetables and kitchen things I've seen at other farmers' markets.
index.html With Tomoko, Jane's mom, outside of the Takayama train station. Self-portrait
index.html Takayama antique fair takes over a few blocks on this main street in the old part of town. Plenty of old implements for sale.
index.html I bought a yatate old-fashioned portable brush and ink carrier from one of the street vendors. For 3000 yen. How old is this? 120 years old. Strange to buy something that old for a few thin bills. There were many pen cases around with heavy ornament and decoration. This one I spied was far simpler; something to be used rather than displayed.
So I took it to a stationary store recommended by the seller; this photograph captures two salespeople and a customer figuring out how to trim a calligraphy brush to fit in the slightly bent old metal tubing.
index.html A wall-paper pattern belonging to the Tokugawa shogunate. This is a 200 or 300 year old wall paper.
June 8
Takayama -> Kanazawa Tried to see regular tourist attractions, but a festival and parade interrupted. Walked along observing kids and adults in old costumes, particularly martial gear. Traveled to one attraction, it was closed. Then our legs hurt too much to see the famous parks in town and the heat had zapped us so we returned. ANA Hotel Kanazawa Dinner at Tsubajin, kai-seki type fancy stuff in a room Bashoo had supposedly eaten in.
index.html Hida village - a collection of traditional homes from near Takayama transplanted here after a damn threatened their original habitat. Now they are clustered maintaining their traditional ways. Before, extended families of 30 or 40 people would live in these two or three stories. Now, one or two craftspeople might be sitting in the ground floor deftly making old things.
Each house had a wood fire running - "we are the only museum in Japan using real wood fire!" They trumpeted. It served to tighten the rope binding the straw rooves, and keep away wood-eating insects. It gave me a headache and made Mom and I wonder about the respiratory health of old Japan.
index.html This old house boasts an old wooden urinal on the front doorstep.
index.html Mom enjoys the view out of the window on one of our many train rides. The train rides around Takayama were remarkable - mountain valleys near the Hida river, green everywhere, small towns, rice paddies and tea fields. I tried to sleep; Mom woke me up for frequent scenic vistas.
index.html We stumbled on the Kanazawa matsuri. A bit more recent in planning and scope than the Yokote matsuri; here we stumbled upon some people wearing felt-covered animal heads walking alongside Country and Western attired dancers. After them came baton-twirling majorettes and a white clad marching band carrying the first completely white tuba my Mom had ever seen.
index.html Young girls wearing armor and carrying weapons resembling perhaps halberds. All I know about these sorts of weapons I learned from D&D and D&D derived computer games.
index.html More men wearing armor on the hottest day Mom and I had yet experienced in Japan. Those poor fellows. The older folks looking suitably serious for their costume, many of the kids in costume just looked itchy and miserable.
Behind the pennant carrier, I believe that fellow is carrying a long bow, unstrung.
index.html Some employees, one would presume, watching the parade in DoCoMO kimonos.
index.html This man is wearing the sort of serious samurai armor you see in museums. And he's sweating. He looked at me stern. He was wearing makeup around his eyes.
June 9
Kanazawa -> Tokyo Afternoon relaxing, broken up into small groups. After dinner World Cup surprise. Imperial Hotel Tokyo Lunch at Hotel Nakata sushi restaurant.
Dinner at Inakaya in Roppongi - lively roasted vegetables.
index.html Mom and I seated happy smiling, both in black, finishing up a delicious meal of grilled vegetables and a bit of fish at Inakaya.
index.html Leaving the restaurant in Roppongi, Mom notices many men in blue clustered about. Why are all these police here? Is this normal she asked? I inquired with an officer - football because they were there he said.
Mom was not afraid of danger the way some police planners may have been, we wandered deeper into the street before returning back to the hotel.
index.html Japan had beaten Russia in Japan's first ever World Cup victory! People were elated, foreigners and Japanese alike cheering and smiling!
People swelled out of the bars, barely restrained at the crosswalks by the immense number of cops waving their red lightsabres.
index.html The flash caught some very happy Japanese folk. People clapped and chanted fervently "Ni-PPon!" with wide smiles.
index.html As the lights changes, two corners of crowd unleashed and as the two sides mingled, arms went up as everyone was cheering and shouting and chanting with each other, slapping high five and crossing the street.
index.html Even on the train: we were seated quietly in our car when a scrawny English bloke (must have been a hooligan!) opened the door, stood between two train cars in motion and worked to raise each car in a clapping chanting frenzy! "NI-PPON!" each car screamed as he alternated back and forth. All smiles! Nice to win.
June 10
Tokyo After working some in the morning, Mom and I convened to see her off to the airport. At the Ueno station, the Keisei "Skyliner" airport line was delayed indefinitely due to an accident. We hightailed it to Tokyo station for the Narita Airport express, which was full. Mom had a rail pass, so she was allowed a standing room only place on the next train. We were running late and I was feeling hungry and to antsy to return to work, wanting to avoid a 180 kilometer round trip just to drop off Mom at the security checkpoint.
"Mom, just take the train to terminal two, and follow the signs that say 'departure', you'll be fine."
As soon as the doors closed and I watched her pull away, I realized that she should have been going to terminal one. And then I realized I still had her primary credit card, which she gave me to buy the train tickets.
So I ate a beef curry lunch in seven minutes, rode a green-car plush seat to the airport and handwrote an article draft for WGR. At the United Airlines ticket counter, I explained that my sweet mother was taking off on a plane soon and could they please get her this credit card? No, she hadn't checked in.
I found Mom wandering near the block long lines to enter the United ticket check-in, looking slightly dazed. She had gotten off at Terminal 2, realized it was wrong and then nearly got on a train to Tokyo by accident. She'd gotten herself to the right place, but not before much time had gone by and she was feeling slightly shaken up. I was sorry to have left my Mom feeling that way, but she was very happy to see me holding her credit card. I used my 1k frequent flyer status to skip her to the front of the line and sent her off smiling again.
Breakfast at Les Saissons in the Hotel