Originally published on 14 June 2006. This post is part of a series of “e-mails to home” from my first every trip abroad to Japan.
So, I woke up to overcast skies on my day off on Monday, but I’d prayed it wouldn’t rain because I’ve really REALLY wanted to go back to Naiku (the Inner Shrine). After catching up with my family for the first time in a few days, I made a quick grocery run and got on my way!
The sky was already starting to clear up, and the weather was getting warmer, so I decided God’s answer to my prayer was a resounding “Yes! You will have a sunny day off!” and set out in shorts and a t-shirt, leaving my rain gear behind. (This was a substantial leap of faith for me–I always try to be prepared, and usually end up causing myself agony and woe from over-preparedness.) Here goes nothing!
Armed with my map and bicycle, I was off on my grand adventure! Naiku is about 4km from my apartment. I think there’s a faster way to get there, but I wasn’t quite sure how. The backroads of Japan are pretty complex! So there I was, biking my way through the bumpy sidewalks of Ise. I stopped to ask a couple of people along the way if I was headed in the right direction, and they said I was (I’m getting good at motions and body language, I think!). There was only one turn to make, and it was at a major intersection with a sign that said “Naiku (Ise Grand Inner Shrine)” in English, so I went that way. I made it in about 20 minutes or so.
I went to the traditional Japanese town to look at the shops first. I bought a couple of little things to go on a bracelet, but that was all. I just wanted to look around and see what was there, since I didn’t have time when we went before. I saw a few things I might go back to get another time. I want to make sure I have reminders of this amazing summer I’m having!
Around 12:30, I decided I was hungry. I went back to the same restaurant where we ate previously, just so I could get a picture of the Takonezushi, which is Bonito Sushi that is special to Ise–very famous, so I’m told!
Thankfully, the menu was in English, so I was able to get the right thing and just point to it so the waiter knew what I was ordering. I took off my shoes and was seated on the tatami floor with pillows to sit on. How fun is that? You get to eat without the discomfort of shoes and sit on a pillow on the floor while you eat. I love it!
I was brought some roasted tea, too. The Bonito fish has a good kick to it, which is a funny way to describe the taste of fish. It might just be my favorite, though. The rest of the stuff was good, too. Expensive by my penny-pinching standards, but how many more opportunities will I have to eat Traditional Ise Shrine food at THE Ise Grand Inner Shrine after this summer?
After lunch, I looked around some more and then went to the Shrine! I took lots of pictures and just marveled at how beautiful everything is. The trees are huge, and all the greenery is SO green, which is a nice side effect of being here in the rainy season! I met a couple of Australian folks there. It was nice to see people who look kind of like me and speak English fluently, without a Japanese accent!
So then I left and yet another (mis)adventure began. Surprise!
So there I was, determined to explore and find my way back using a route that would be closer to my apt. I got on Route 23, which usually takes you anywhere you need to go, and it’s the road with all the businesses in downtown Ise. I found Jusco, which is the mall/grocery I went to last Friday, so I knew kind of where I was. Kind of!
I got off of Route 23 somehow, though, and ended up going up and down (and UP!) several hills, thinking maybe this next hill was the on ramp or something. No such luck. I asked some rice farmers where Route 23 was, and they pointed me in the right direction (the way from which I had just come, of course). I got some neat pictures of a couple of things along the way, so getting lost wasn’t a total mistake. Getting lost in Japan always proves to be a productive experience. Everything is so beautiful, especially in the real countryside.
So I found Route 23 and thought I’d follow it to the place where LaLa Park (another grocery/mall) and Sushi Lo and some other familiar places are. I was getting hot and thirsty, though, so I stopped by a Lawson Convenience store and bought a 500 ml bottle of Lemon Water. Now that I was confident I knew where I was, I decided to drop by the Koda’s car place (called Sankyo) to say hello, since the convenience store is on the same road as their car place.
They were happy to see me and wanted to know what I was doing on my day off. They’re so funny. Talking with them is fun because they speak more English than I speak Japanese, but it’s still a little confusing at times. Mrs. Koda brought out some iced coffee for me, which I couldn’t turn down for fear of being rude, plus I was still hot and thirsty. I gave up caffiene for a while ago and haven’t picked up the habit again yet, but as I said, I couldn’t exactly turn it down and seem ungrateful! It was very good! Japanese coffee tastes sweeter, I think, even without cream and sugar. I wasn’t sure how I’d like the iced kind, but it really was good. I might have to pick up my habit again!
So after I left there, I decided to go back to a little shop where I’d gotten some souvenirs before. The last time, a sweet lady gave me a bowl and a couple of chopstick rests as gifts before I’d even bought anything! The same lady wasn’t there, but I picked out some more chopstick rests to take home to family. The man working there gave me a discount of over 1,000 yen (around $10.50 US) b/c I bought so many! Then the lady from before came and gave me some toothpicks as a gift, too. So sweet. I took my treasures back to the apartment and set out again. With no rain to slow me down, it was becoming a most productive day!
This time I decided to go back to Route 23 and try it again. I was specifically looking for this clothing store called Uni Qlo, which is like Gap or Old Navy. Yoko had taken me there once, and they had some really cute stuff. Japanese clothes fit my much better than American clothes because I’m petite like the Japanese!
When I made it there, I looked around for about an hour. They had some stuff majorly on sale (hehe), but I quickly discovered that even Japanese pants are too long for me. This was too bad because I was hoping to get some jeans that are the right length for once, but alas, my search must continue. I did get a couple of cute tops, though! I saw a funny shirt with a picture of Skippy Peanut Butter on it that said “Spread the Fun,” but it wasn’t on sale, and I can get t-shirts with English writing on them in America at Goodwill. So I resisted. So funny to see things like that outside the US!
Then it was time for supper (at Sushi Lo!) and then to head home. God has definitely kept me safe and protected me from things I couldn’t handle. Every day teaches me more than I ever thought I needed to know. Know that you’re in my thoughts and prayers, too. Love y’all!