Thursday, June 20, 2013

Edo Wonderland (Nikko, part 3)

Unfortunately the weather is not cooperating with us on this trip of a lifetime. This is the second day (out of five) where it rained most of the day. Again the Japanese all have umbrellas and rain ponchos. We have jackets with hoods. After spending a year in Belgium without an umbrella, I’ve never warmed up to them. I feel as if I get just as wet carrying an umbrella as I do just wearing a hat and a rain jacket.

We were given the choice between two “amusement” parks: EdoWonderland or Tobu World Square (a place with miniature buildings of places from around the world). Figuring we came to Japan to learn about Japan and not about the rest of the world, we chose Edo Wonderland.

We were there most of the day. In the rain, it was not a most-of-the-day kind of place. It is a lot like the Japanese equivalent of Williamsburg. Lots of people walking around in period attire, lots of buildings that explain Japanese history from the 17th-19th centuries, and some entertainment. There were also a bunch of gift shops and places to buy food. Each food stand seemed to sell about five different food items, so we felt the need to visit a few different places to piece together a meal. To be cute, in that Williamsburg-y way, the prices were listed in the 17th-19th century format (i.e, non-Western numbers) so not only did we have to ask what they were selling, we had to ask how much it cost.

There were vending machines for drinks. A word about the vending machines, this is the first time I have encountered a vending machine that sells cans of hot drinks (the hot drinks have red labels, the cold ones have blue labels). Tom was cold (okay, we were all cold). He bought a can of coffee that was warm to the touch. He couldn’t believe we never saw a vending machine with hot cans of drinks in them.

The first show we went to was a comedy about a rich man who time traveled back to the Edo time period. Don was chosen from the audience to play the part of the rich man. Before being taken backstage to be fitted with his costume (a kimono), the man in the cast interviewed Don in Japanese. He asked Don how much Japanese he knows. At this point, about 4 words. The first one he said was “Arribiata,” (Italian for spicy sauce) when he meant to say “arigato” (thank you in Japanese). They got the idea. We are basically illiterate: a good lesson for everyone to experience at some point in their lives to better appreciate people who live a life of illiteracy.

The curtain opened and he was seated in a powerful looking position. He said afterwards he tried very hard to not sneeze as he has already caught a cold on this trip. The man in the cast put cue cards in Japanese in front of him with phrases such as “that’s tasty” and “she is beautiful” written on them. Don had no idea what he was saying, but Masumi translated for Ashley and I. He also had to chug sake in one big gulp. It was Don’s first stage performance with lines. He was a great sport and seemed to have fun with it. He also gained an appreciation for the shows Ashley does.

We were so cold all day long! We tried to hide in theaters to see shows. This wasn’t always the best move as some of the places were highly air-conditioned, though it was nice to be dry.  I think Ashley’s favorite show was of “Kitty Kitty” (who has a different name in Japanese, of course) fighting the bad guys. The 15 minute film was shot at Edo Village. “Kitty Kitty” was helped by his friends – a Samurai monkey, panda bear and a few others. Ashley loved the panda the most. Unfortunately Edo Wonderland missed a marketing opportunity and did not sell any Samurai panda souvenirs.

We also saw a Samuri fighting show and an ancient water show. The tricks in the latter one were quite spectacular.

On our way out we had a group photo taken with Samurai Kitty.

After the village, we were told to choose where we wanted to go for dinner. The three of us were united in our desire for non-Japanese food. They found us an “American Restaurant.” In some ways it was like a diner in that it had a little bit of everything – including a kid’s menu. Ashley had a hamburger, with the obligatory side of rice. Don had a margarita pizza. I had spaghetti with a bolognaise sauce. Hiroko had noodles. Masumi had soup. I’m not sure what Tom had. I splurged for the drink area – lots of hot and cold drink choices. I was thrilled to find ‘Tropical iced tea,” which tasted a lot like peach tea.

After dinner we returned the rental car and hung out at the Nikko train station (a different station from the one we arrived in the day before). According to the tour book, one of the stations was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Honestly, they both looked like generic circa 1950s- 1960s architecture. So much of Japan was destroyed during WWII that they rebuilt during one of the most boring time periods from the standpoint of architectural beauty (or lack thereof). The mountains do provide a beautiful, natural backdrop.

Something else I’ve never seen in the states was a hot springs bath for us to soak our feet in while we waited for the train. It really was a good way to warm up after a day of being outside in the rain.

Tom rode the train with us half way to Tokyo. Ashley and Don fell asleep on the train while I am typing out the adventures of our past couple of days. Tonight we will spend one night in Tokyo. Tomorrow morning we leave for a four day trip to Nara, Osaka and Kyoto. Fortunately we will spend two nights in each hotel (I always sleep better the second night in a hotel, this bouncing between places is hard on my sleep rhythms).

Unfortunately the weather for the rest of our trip is not looking good. There is a typhoon south of us that is moving in our direction. Behind that typhoon is another one. Typhoon season usually starts in July. Unfortunately for us it is early this year. We keep saying “we won’t melt,” but it is still draining being out in the rain all day long.

More pictures from Nikko

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