The day Typhoon Fitlow was due to hit Tokyo, I raced out to the Chinese Embassy to pick up my second visa. Lots of sprinting through streets that morning. The weather was eerily nice in Roppongi. As soon as I had my passport back in hand, I shot back to Tokyo station to race over to Nagoya. I was meeting my friend Tania and her sister Elsie there around 11 and heading out to Kyoto with them in the afternoon. I had been overly optimistic in thinking I could run to the subway, get from Roppongi to Ebisu on the Tokyo metro, hop the Yamanote JR to Shinagawa, and jump on the Hikari bullet to Nagoya by 11am. That's a lot of frookin' trains!
Once I was on the train, it felt like I was escaping the typhoon. Passing through Shizuoka, the rains and gloom were approaching. But in Nagoya, things were pretty rosy. I was thrilled to see another familiar face in Japan. We grabbed food from the local mall before grabbing the next bullet to Kyoto. Mall food in Japan isn't like the string of fast food joints you get in the US. There's everything from onigiri to sushi to bentos to an amazing French bakery (The smell of fresh bread from Johan's made me salivate as soon as it hit my nostrils. Pavlov would be impressed.) It's a dangerous place to be when you haven't had anything to eat and your pockets are full of Yen.
Hours later we were in Kyoto looking at temples, Buddhas, and pagodas. Real geishas shuffled around the Gion area as the sun went down. A beautiful rainbow spread across the sky, stopping people in their tracks. Camera phones were snapping away. The three of us decided to have Shabu Shabu. Marbled beef, enoki mushrooms, and 'invisible noodles'. Pretty tasty. (Thank you Rich!)
When it was time to grab a train back to Nagoya, we encountered the typhoon madness. While we were enjoying our walk around Kyoto, trains were shut down and delayed throughout Japan. We packed into parked trains like sardines, clueless to what was happening. Announcements would come over the PA system and hoards of people would shuffle out of one train to another across the way. Eventually we made it back to Nagoya. Tania and I grabbed some steaks at La Piedra. The beef was so good I was making those uncontrollable 'mmm' sounds with each bite.
The next day we had a late start and ended up in Hiroshima after dark. We took a walk through the Peace park before trying to grab the next bullet back to Nagoya. But after a mix-up we were stuck. It took a half hour to find a hotel in Hiroshima that wasn't booked up. We settled on a Comfort Inn and had a late meal at Watami. In the morning, the girls headed to Miyajima and I took one last walk through the Peace park before a five hour journey back to Pin's.
Last night we grabbed Indian food for dinner and hung out in a park afterwards. I had fun playing with a huge sculpture that I've deemed "The Shimizu Ring of Wonder":
Japan's been a nice break from lonely and rough travels. The best part's been spending time with old and new friends. But in a few hours, it's back on the road again on my own. Next stop: Beijing.