13 months
Jan 16:
where did i put that building?
Jan 22:
too-tall charlie
Jan 22:
meat & greet
Jan 23:
black eggs & boiled octopus
Jan 28:
roley poley fish market
Jan 30:
spot me a yen?
Jan 30:
the low down
japan gallery
all galleries
next location

Doraemon unjustly trapped in a claw vending maching
Tokyo (Ueno neighborhood), Japan; Jan 27, 2005

winter wonderland (nikko)

part of Toshu-gu temple complex in Nikko

We took a break from the city and decided to go on a 2 day trip to Nikko, a town a few hours north of Tokyo very popular with Japanese tourists. We boarded the train early in the morning and quickly fell asleep. We awoke an hour and a half later surprised to see the beautiful countryside covered in snow! (Luckily mom and dad had insisted on buying us big jackets and other cold weather gear before we left Taiwan.) We knew it would be cold, but we didn’t expect snow.

Nikko is famous for its beautiful shrines and temples and seeing them covered in snow lent them a fairytale-like quality. It snowed lightly the whole afternoon which made it more and more beautiful as we traipsed through temples and shrines, but made it more and more difficult to take off our shoes when we arrived at each entrance. The floors are unbelievably clean but get icy cold! We wondered how the temple keepers (dressed only in traditional robes) could keep from freezing.

We were rewarded at the end of the day with a soak in our inn’s onsen, or natural hot spring bath. In the burning-hot bath our chilled bodies quickly obtained the deliciously rubbery state the Japanese rightly call “boiled octopus.” (We stayed at the Turtle Inn, which we certainly recommend.)

After a short nap (induced by our hot bath), we braved the elements again and went in search of dinner. We found the most adorable little home-style restaurant. The owner was very friendly and urged us to put a new pin on his map showing where his customers visited from (there were a few others from San Francisco, but we stuck a new pin in anyway). He then took our jackets, set them by the heater, and made us a wonderful dinner. Afterwards, our tummies completely satisfied, we bowed our goodbyes, hurried home in the snow, took another hot bath, and then pretended we were Japanese by relaxing in our yukata robes on our tatami beds.

© 2004-2012 susan & grace, all rights reserved

-- comments from readers --


I enjoyed reading about your trip to Japan. I just thought I would explain to you the meaning of "Hai" with a smile (Japance is my first language and the culture is my background). I expect that the "Hai" was with a big "?" when you asked the questions to the ticket agent. "Hai" means "yes", but also means "YES?" - sort of re-asking your question. The rule of thumb for business is to always smile to the person you are speaking with. Many foreigners who visit Japan think that "Hai" only means "Yes;" they cannot tell if the "Hai" ends with a question mark due to the smile on the face they see. In any case, this is one of the issues the culture faces due to not being able to express a "No."

--Edward R. (Hawaii, USA); Jun 7, 2005

Thanks, Edward! Yes, that does make more sense now. In retrospect, it makes the conversation even more funny since we are even more in the dark.

--Grace & Susan; Jun 11, 2005