Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Getting Wet

(Note from Tech Support and the Special Task Force on Time Management: Moose wrote this post late last night (Wednesday) Tokyo time so that her East Coast readers would have fresh content early in the day. Unfortunately, the moms don't have in-room internets in their Kyoto hotel, and she couldn't get access to a connection in the lobby last night. Bear with us, kids. Our foreign correspondent is doing her level best to live up to her duties to supply a steady stream of eye candy and charming bits of local color to make us all feel that we are right there with them as Moose and Goose explore strange, distant lands. Let's catch up on yesterday's activities.)
(Photo Credit: Park Hyatt Tokyo)

Postcard from Japan (#2)

Dear Rox and LLF,

Today we are here, really here – not looking over our shoulders searching for the thirteen hours of our lives we lost when we crossed the International Dateline, not scared out of our minds (er, my mind) at every little moment of confusion that arises from living in a state of functional illiteracy. Today, we are here, in Japan, and it is glorious.

Paws up to Goose for booking us into a luxury hotel with a beautiful pool 47 floors off the ground. We began the day today with a swim in that pool, and it knocked the last vestiges of jet lag out of our systems, smoothed out all the kinks we got from sitting too long in one place and throwing overloaded backpacks too quickly over one shoulder. Morning light poured in through walls of solid glass, and we had the pool to ourselves for the first ten minutes or so. The water felt smooth as silk, and my strokes felt good, though I am not in shape for swimming, having been in a pool just a handful of times this summer. Still, swimming is such a primal activity, and it’s one that’s always had powerful emotional resonances for me, because I grew up with a backyard pool and spent the summers of childhood on swim teams. I love the clarity and simplicity of the body slicing quietly through water, the balanced movements of pulling and kicking, the gentle rhythms of the breath, in and out, in and out. I stepped out of the pool and felt completely myself again for the first time in a couple of weeks.

We checked out of the hotel and went straight to the train station to catch a bullet train for Kyoto in the middle of the afternoon. The rainy season has officially ended, but the air is hot and sticky – as warm as Washington in August but with an extra dollop or two of tropical humidity thrown in for good measure. We got there early, of course, to give ourselves plenty of time to be dazed and confused and still have a chance to buy lunch. Yes, Geoffrey, we got bento boxes and were on the platform ready to go a half hour before departure time. We stood there, proud and wilting in the sultry afternoon. At a certain point, I realized, you just have to abandon yourself to the experience of moisture like this. You give yourself over to it, because no matter what you say or think or do, your hair will end up plastered to your head, your shirt will be soaked, and even your pants will seem to be dripping wet. Happily, the train was on time and comfortably air-conditioned, so we dried out quickly and ate our lunches while the scenery flew by. The bullet trains really are amazing – fast, clean marvels of efficiency. We’ve got rail passes for the rest of our time here, and I look forward to spending lots of time on these beautiful trains.

We got into Kyoto around 4:30 and checked into our hotel, which is, let us say, modest in comparison with the Park Hyatt Tokyo but perfectly adequate. (Then again, the Taj Mahal might be modest in comparison with the Park Hyatt, so perhaps such comparisons are unfair). We met a few of the Dickinson folk as they straggled in from various places in more or less the same state of jet-lagged enervation. We got a dinner recommendation from the conference director and the desk clerk and headed off on our own to discover the culinary delights of Kyoto. We were not disappointed. The place was called Kamanza, and we sat at the bar, where we could watch four chefs in tight quarters perform an impressively choreographed ballet of prepping and cooking. We ate eel prepared to look like white flowers -- a summer specialty of Kyoto, according to the menu – minced pork in lettuce wraps, sautéed spinach, a couple of chicken skewers, and green-tea ice cream for dessert. It was all delicious, cheap, and served up in a welcoming atmosphere that included a musical backdrop of the kind of bad 70s music I love and Goose hates. Within our first twenty minutes there, we had heard “Reunited,” “Maggie May,” and “All I Need Is the Air that I Breathe (and to Love You).” Sweetie Boy, ya shoulda been there.

Back at the hotel, we found Dickinson pal Mary Loeffelholz in dire need of resuscitation through sake, so we headed right back out to another local establishment, which served equally good food though not very impressive sake. It appears further research on that crucial question is in order, but, hey, we are all trained researchers. I think we can handle it. I will keep you posted.

On tap for tomorrow: Goose is in Dickinson Society board meetings. Moose will be off on a preliminary sightseeing venture with other conference widows and widowers. So many temples, so little time.

Hope things are good on the homefront, Rox. One of the nice things about being thirteen hours ahead of the U.S. is that we blithely live most of our days before George Bush has gotten out of bed and mucked up the world any more than it was mucked up yesterday. That’s kind of nice. Be good for Aunt Isa, Rox, and thanks for giving me access to your legions of loyal fans. As an academic, I am not accustomed to having such a vast and passionately devoted following, but I will try my darndest to deserve some tiny slice of the loyalty Ms. Roxie has so carefully cultivated during her time in the blogosphere.

Back home, you are all settling into your cocktails, but here in Kyoto it's now time for breakfast. More later, if I can commandeer a cable.

Love to all,

1 comment:

  1. Omigod. That musical selection, along with the dining fare, makes ME wet! And I'm not talkin' humidity! ;)

    Have you guys discovered the wonders of the vending machines there? Everything from beer to porn! Enjoy some more yakitori for me, and yakisoba, if you get around to it. And Goose better cross her fingers that y'all don't hear "Send a Letter, Maria" the next time you dine Nihongo-style!

    OPST aka Sweetie Boy aka qs1


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