[I didn't post this because I wanted to integrate pictures, but never mind that, I'll make a separate picture post. This was written 16 November.]
I got to speak English all day!
Yesterday, after taking care of a few things in the lab, I met with Wim's dad and stepmom to take them around Nagoya while they're in Japan for a business trip followed by tourism. We had a great time, not least because even introverts really need to chatter easily in their native languages and know people will understand them. (You know, before we go home to hide in a hole badger-style.)
The Hilton lobby is a surprisingly fun place to chill. Lanky Euro guy in top hat and tails, ladies in kimono. Hilton has American-style pillows, hmm, maybe I shouldn't have turned down the chance to spend a night there.
Lunch at Akbar, a perfectly good Indian place with excellent dessert -- coconut milk with coconut shreds, topped with lilikoi puree, is what I think that was -- where I managed to leave my umbrella. Might go back for it and explore that neighborhood a bit this evening. Tandoor with naan slapped on the side and handled with iron hooks!
Then to Inuyama Castle, which is smaller than Nagoya-jou and has simpler grounds. It's the oldest Japanese castle still standing, so presumably it also doesn't have Nagoya Castle's Optimized Walls of Maximum Engineering Prowess. Still pretty impressive. Beautiful, though those are some damned steep and smooth stairs to be taking in your stocking feet while carrying your shoes in a plastic bag. You could walk all around the top, completely outside! There were signs telling you not to lean on the handrail, which did not inspire confidence, but the walkway was pretty wide and it wasn't raining.
On the way down, though, the fox's wedding!
I had predicted puppy-based souvenirs, which was pretty much a gimme since Inuyama means Dog Mountain. Yep. Samurai puppy named Wanmaru.* He has a topknot made of... I don't know. Furry skin? Best not to think too hard about this, like how Hello Kitty's fur turns brown when she's at the beach.
We also visited a museum about the castle town, which is a little run-down especially by the scenic river where they traditionally fish with cormorants. It hasn't changed in a long time, though, and there was a cool model of festival floats being pulled through the town and a slit-based "time machine" display showing past and current layouts. Some artifacts, cool armor and swords and screens painted with military maps. One of the paintings had a lot of guys decapitating other guys, because that was the style at the time.
The best museum was Karakuri! Puppets and doll-automata
, with transformation -- "Urashima Tarou
becomes old" was a favorite -- or dancing, serving tea, writing a Chinese character, picking things up with retractable thumbs, really cool stuff. Beautiful craftsmanship, too: the guy whose workshop is in the building has a tea-serving doll in the British Museum.
We had talked about going to Jakkou-in, which is a temple with a maple festival, but it got late and we weren't very close, so we went back to Nagoya and I showed them the science section of Tokyu Hands instead. It was a hit. Wim, you should expect presents.
I'd been pushing for local cuisine all day, so we got a recommendation from the enthusiastic Hilton concierge for a nice place with Nagoya cuisine, went right across the street to Yamamoto-ya. (Spinoff place Yama-chan has just Nagoya cochin, which is salty chicken wings.) Awesome food: Crab salad; tamago with hot peppers cooked in, served with shiso; tasty soft tofu; homemade pickles of daikon, cabbage, and something else with ginger paste, which was great. Special Nagoya miso on our flat-style udon, pretty tasty and way better than the stuff I had at the station before. I recommend against getting tempura in noodle dishes owing to disintegration, however. And for dessert, royal milk tea ice cream, which was both delicious and inexplicably molded into an egg shape.
J was flagging badly but G had desperately wanted some decaf all day, so we hit the neighboring Starbucks. They had to make the decaf, but they did sell it -- not common here. I convinced her to watch Community, and she agreed Big Bang Theory is mean-spirited, which made me really happy.
They sent me home in a cab, which I shouldn't have allowed but man I was tired, and finding Fushimi subway station was not going to be that easy since I'd gotten a little lost on the way there and didn't have a good mental map. The Higashiyama Sky Tower is lit up only in outline at night, an interesting choice.
* I guess I'd translate it as "Sir Barky"? It's got to be a reference to Mori Ranmaru
, so there's a period/samurai feel, but Maru is also a common pet name and "wan" is a dog's bark. (Note that it's not redundant, just cutesy. Compare the soot sprites from Totoro, makkuro kurosuke
, which seriously means Blackest McBlackerson.)