Monday, June 21, 2010

Nagaokakyo City

The last Saturday of the Japan trip was set aside as a day off to enjoy with our host family. Okaa-san decided that on this day, we would travel to Nagaokakyo City (located in Kyoto Prefecture) and visit her parents.

This was the first time that we saw Japanese highways. They are considerably different from American highways. Firstly, you drive on the left side of the highway, and the right lane is the passing/fast lane. In addition, the highways are expensive! It cost Okaa-san 1300 yen each way. We described to her how American highways are almost always free, except for in a few cases, such as the Ohio Turnpike -- and even then, they aren't nearly as expensive. Most exciting, and disconcerting, was when the highway went straight through the mountains, which was often. It took us several minutes to drive through the longest tunnel.


It took us about an hour and a half to reach our destination. Nagaokakyo City seemed much larger than Higashiomi, and it was certainly more busy. After navigating many twisting, narrow streets, we arrived at the house of Ojii-san and Obaa-san. Their house, as Okaa-san had described, was more Western in style, and, since this house was in the city, considerably smaller than a house in Higashiomi. Obaa-san served us a very tasty meal of onigiri and daifuku, and we chatted about Marquette, Michigan, and travel to the United States. As it turns out, Obaa-san and Ojii-san had traveled to the American Southwest.

After lunch, Okaa-san, Obaa-san, Steph, myself, and Miyu-chan, Okaa-san's neice, took a short walk to the Nagaokatenman-gu Shrine. One of the first things we saw was a group of children feeding a flock of pigeons. Nearby, in the large pond, a group of large koi and even turtles were waiting for handouts!


The shrine was absolutely gorgeous. We climbed a series of steps to get there, and it was simply magical. Here is just a glimpse of the whole experience:

Mossy Purification Basin



Trees from Below

After exploring the shrine for a while, we headed back. On the way, we saw a few things of note:

Waiting for the train to pass

Train crossing! I've had to wait for trains to cross in Michigan (and other states), but I've always been inside a car. This was the first time I've been a pedestrian, waiting for the train to go by.

Bicycle Parking

There was also a massive bicycle-parking area outside a grocery store. Bicycle parking lots are taken quite seriously in Japan; in Hikone, we saw a policeman ticketing bikes that were left in non-designated parking areas!

We stopped briefly at the grocery store for sweets, then continued home. Obaa-san surprised Steph and I with some very pretty gifts, then we bid farewell and headed back to Higashiomi. Exhausted, both Steph and I fell asleep.

Okaa-san, Miyu-chan, and Obaa-san

1 comment:

  1. That bicycle parking lot is SO COOL. I wish bikes got that much respect in America. :c I'm looking forward to living in a city that has bicycle RACKS, let alone whole bike parking lots.