My friend Yurie -who came to my house some time ago and tough me some
japanese recipes- and her mum came to pick me up from Narita --doing a
3 hour-trip from they house, which I'm so touched about!-. As their
home was so far away, we went to her aunt's house that was in Narita.
She's a sweet maker, and a really sweet person. Even if I don't speak
japanese and she didn't spoke english/spanish, I felt incredibly
welcomed and comfortable since my first hours in Japan. Miyuki made a
delicious traditional japanese dinner, full of small dishes and ended
up with delicious Sencha -green tea- and japanese sweets. You'll be
able to see all the food details on an specific post :) After that
they offered me to have a japanese bath -they're so so so hoot!- but
it was incredibly nice, specially after such a long trip. I slept -or
tryied to, because I had a terrible Jet-lag- on a traditional japanese
room, with it's tatamis and hard pillows I loved so much. Another
funny characteristic was that in the bedroom there was a yellowish
light that didn't bothered but gave some visibility of the room.
The day started with a detox traditional breakfast, very common of the
days after the over-eating of new year's parties, which consisted on a
nice soup made with rice and vegetables.
After that we went to visit Narita Shrine -Narita San- with Yurie's
family, and walked on the road that lead to it, which was full of
traditional houses and artisan shops and food. We were able to taste
many free especialities and, on the way back, we ate delicious sushi
on a very charming place.
After that, we left Narita to go to Yurie's house at Chigasaki, and
she helped me planning everything for the following day -made me many
maps and looked up a lot of informaton for me-, had some relax and
delicious snack of Osenbe -japanese rice bread/cracker with soya
sauce- and Daifuku -traditional japansese sweet-.
Then we went to the bar I'll be helping at after one month, who'se
owners are Yurie's friends and my mum's -and now that I know them, of
course also mine :)-. They have a really cute wine bar/restaurant and
they cook many kind of food, with just one thing in common: all of
their dishes are delicious!
I took the nocturn bus at Yokohama, and it was really comfortable to
sleep -but I couldn't beacause I had stll Jet-lag-, so I stayed awake
for 10 hours until we arrived to Okayama the following day.
I had to go to Okayama to take a train from there at the afternoon and
be able to meet with my hosts for my first workaway in Japan. I
arrived at 8:30 so I had 8 hours left to spend there on my own.
Surprisingly I was able to find every shop and place I wanted and get
to understand the people I needed to buy something to. I had lots of
laughs while doing that, as japanese people don't speak english and my
japanese is just starting, but all the people I found was really nice
and wanted to help so at the end we ended up understanding eachother
in a really nice ambient.
After some shopping and getting lost on the streets, I went to visit
Okayma's castle, which s destroyed and re-constructed. It's beautiful
and majestic, but I don't recommend it so much because on the inside
is completely new, and even if they're lots of interesting masks and
interesting rests of the old castle, most of the information is in
japanese. It's still nice to see but just don't expect to find a
castle like the Himeji one.
What did was great was the Koraku-en garden, even if that wasn't the
greaest season -it's much better when it's snowed, or cherry
blossomed, or with the green grass, or on autumn, when maple trees are
red-. Still, as you can see on the pictures, it was stunning, and I
had quite a magical experience there: I was sitted in front of the
lake drinking my favorite ginger tea, when a 79 years-old japanese man
who suprisingly spoke really good english asked me where was I from
and what did I thought about the garden. We started talking and he
ended up inviting me to a hot coffee. We spent around 2 hours talking
and he told me many interesting things. During these time, we met many
nice people -turists and natives-, and one of them was a volunteer
guide who told as incredible things about the garden. I think I spent
like 4 hours there, and after that "my friend" -the old man- invited
me to have an Okayama ramen. He was so nice, I couldn't belive someone
like that could ever exist. When we sayed goodbye he gave me a present
he bought when I wasn't looking: some Kibi-Dango, the most typical
Okayama's sweet, filled with peach, which is also Okayama's symbol and
I arrived at my host's house on the evening. They're sweet makers,
they make italian and other countrie's sweets and also japanese ones.
They also sell dried fruits on the market and they're a happy kind
family of three. With me there is another workawayer who's 19 years
old and has traveled in Japan, Korea and China during the last 7
months, knows japanese and with who we get on really well.
This was my first entire day on my new house, and, as I arrived on the
night day, it was also the first time I could see the spot where I
was. I really wanted to discover the rural Japan, and I was very happy
wih what I founded: the area is very nice, with lots of bamboos
forests and nice graveyards -which don't look creepy-. The houses are
traditional, with it's common fish on the roofs, dried persmons on the
windows on this season...
The work consisted on walking the dog early in the morning, which is a
really nice walk and warms you up for the day, also we selected some
beans -separating bad ones from the good ones- and cutted Pione, which
is a kind of big grape that they dry and use for pastry. We work 5h
per day including walking the dog, and as I'm with Salome -the other
workawayer- we don't get bored and sing or talk when selecting beans
in the traditional tatami room, with a small heater and a nice cup of
tea. We also made a break with the couple of the house to have some
tea and sweets, which felt amazing ^^
The food the woman of the house cooks is amazing, and I'm inspired all
the time by it.
After lunch we modeled for some japanese clothes that the man of the
house mother makes, and we got the afternoon free to walk, write,
study or share workaway experiences,contacts or projects.
Today we worked with the same thing as yesterday, and the outside was
frozen so the moring walk was shorter. We took also a break like the
other day and tryed some new japanese sweets with, of course hot tea.
The mother of the man's house prepared some delicous noodles for us
and a salad. Even if we eated a lot, we wanted to visit the market
there is at the end of the road, and tryed mane things there. I love
to visit markets because they represent a huge part of the essence of
one countrie's cusine :) We tryed an "anko" -the bean paste that fills
mochis- from an ice-cream machine, an Osaka typical Takoyaki, filled
with octopus, and we shared one Obanyaki, which is a kind of warm cake
also filled with "anko". And yes, we ate that in that weird order :P
We walked for around two hours and then played with the little girl of
the house, Amika, who's incredibly cute, funny...and energethic :P And I
tryied to write what I'm finisihing now.
For dinner we had a vegetable soup with savoury mochi, pickled radish
with Yuzu -a japanse kind of lemon- and a weird but delicious mix of
vegetables, fish and tempura.
Now we're just relaxing and I pray I'll be able to post that and some
photos tomorrow, because until now any of my devices work correctly
Today Salome and Katsutaka -the man of the house- went to the market to sell some sweets, so I stayed with Yoshimi -the woman- to work with her. I did many variated things, starting from the famous beans, and then ding something crazy, I know: I did contability in japanese. I just had to learn the japanese characters for "total", for "save" and some others and I did it quite well, even though I had no idea about what bottons was I pressing :P Then I did my first outside work at the rice fields, removing huge heavy bamboos -where they dry the rice- and bringing them quite...far away. It was tiring but rally nice to warm up, get to know Yoshimi better and enjoy the beautiful day. I also made a nice walk with Kanta -the dog- during the sunset and realized that in this town -and many others here- they play a loud song around this time to "warn" people about that its getting dark :P Yoshimi made some karee -japanese curry- with non sweet mochi -chikara- and cheese, wich turned out amazing!-. She also introduced me Yuzu tofu with Yuzu "sauce"- a citric paste that can be used as wasabi-, some sashimi -raw fish- and vegetable soup. We ate on a traditonal short japanese table -as we were just two and the table is small- and she put some japanese music behind ^^ I really enjoyed that time with her echanging food culture and talking about lost traditions.
After that, a nice warm bath -and I'm happy to tell you I'm getting use to it's extreme warmness! :D- and went to bed.
Its always a challenge to wake up early to walk the dog, but especially if, like today, its snowing. Even that, to see the sun rising at the country of the rising sun is always a great "reward". Today I've made sweets for the first time here. Some other workawayers taught them how to make italian salaminos and now they're becoming really famous in the markets -plus they make some japanese versions too with matcha tea powder-.We made chocolate and coffee flavour, and also created a new flavour one with dried peach -I told you it's Okayama's prefecture symbol- and almond flour. It turned out a-m-a-z-i-n-g!! Soon I'll be posting the recipe :) Konbawa!
As the trip will be so long, I'll just make big explanations for very new experiences or activities. These to days I've just enjoyed the kitchen work, the cold but beautiful walks and the great conversations with locals. Also created a vegan-energy bar made with oats, almond butter -homemade- and diferent local dried fruits.
Today has been a very especial day. Waking up at 6 am, I went to the market with Katsutaka in a beautiful city called Kurashiki. As it was time for my free-day, he told me -at 9 - to do what I wanted around the city until 13, when he'd need my help. Even if I was really excited for descovering thw old traditional streets of this city, I started worring a little bit when I started walking and realized how cold it was and that I had no money -plus I started seeing many warm cozy coffee and tea shops :S-. But that forced me to do something I'd probably hadn't if I had the option of getting into a warm shop: I walked a long way to the Tsuyama Park, beautifully japanese designed, and from where I could get an amazing view of the city. In a temple there, I also got the chance of seeing a traditional japanese wedding, and I couldn't belive my luck! After eating two onigiri that Yoshimi had prepared for me, I walked on the main traditional street, that is separated by a beautiful canal. All the houses of that street were shops of typical japanese food, restaurants or clothes/jewlery. I entered at every single shop -except for the restaurants- and got warm in there. The best of all is that there are tons of things that you can try for free, from mochi to dried shrimps, but also chocolate-coated beans and a warm tea. Amazing. I also met very nice people who answered as they could the questions I asked in japanese as I could. Talking about japanese...the next thing I did once I arrived to the market at 13 was giving promotion about the market to the people in the street. If some time ago someone had told me that I'd be in Japan, on an unknown city, alone in a cold day, giving japanese promotion in japanese....I wouldn't had believed it at all. But here I was, saying "Hai, doozo"!" to strangers -who, unlike spain, were very polite to me, even if I was bothering them :P-. After that, I met some of the producers that were selling in the market, that was especially for small producers, and I also made friendship with some students that were helping there. I also liked to see how young people had so much respect for older ones and interest on agriculter, traditional process...until the point of spending a part of the weekend there. But I can really say that, in the case of this market, this town and especially this people, It was worthy.
19, 20 & 21
I spent this days basically working on the mornings and discovering nature on the afternoons. In between, cooking a lot and exchanging cultures. The 19th was the last day with Salome here so we went for a walk on the afternoon and discovered an amazing temple -which I still need to take photos of-. When she left the "catalan kingdom" started and, with it, the long mediterranean meals with mediterranean background music and nice talks with our guests comparing cultures and explaining about our political situations, way of living/being...On the afternoons we went to walk for many hours and discover incredible spots, mountains, villages, temples. We also made an amazing almond flour "plum cake", "arròs a la cubana" -"cuban rice" with tomato sauce, fried banana and fried egg-, tomato soup...It's funny that I feel more catalan here that in Catalonia. When you're abroad you learn a lot about your country, by explaining it to others and, in my case, talk about it with another catalan. I've never heard Lluis Llach or Serrat as much as I hear it here, when trying to explain our passionate and in constant rebellion culture. Also by "missing" -just kind of, because here the food is amazing- our traditional catalan dishes and talking about them with Raquel, I cook them constantly, when at home I'm normally more a miso, quinoa, azuki eater. I'm enjoying very much showing our japanese hosts what "vermut", "berenar", and all the hundred breaks with food whe have mean. I realize, by seeing the contrast with japanese culture, how we -or our culture used to- live with many parties, breaks, meals, music...to make our life better. And it's great to be able to show some "ways of being happier, or more relaxed" to those who need it a little bit, when also learning to be more "sofisticated", and to care more about details or respect, as japanese people does so well.
Today it was our day off so Raquel and I decided to spent it in Okayama, and do some visiting and shopping. The only thing is that the transport in Japan is the most unaffordable thing in this already expensive country. Luckily, another characteristic of Japan is it's safety, so we decided to go there by hichhike. I highly recommend to have this experience in Japan, even if you can afford the train. From a small countryisde town we wait for a car to take us. In less than two minutes, a Mercedes Benz stopped. As it was a japanese-owner Mercedes, of course it was shinning clean, with warmed seats and other comodities. Inside there was a man, not very young but not too old, who didn't speak english. My small dictionary and I tried to start a conversation with him and he must had been touched by it, because he even called his wife to tell her he picked up two funny catalan monkeys. At some point he indicated us where he worked -where he needed to go-, but kept driving for around 40 km until Okayama, to leave us exacly in front of Koraku-en, where we said we needed to go. When we said goodbye he took a photo with us and we gave him some sweets...We stayed amazed for his kindness during the rest of the day, and began to worry about the shock we'd have once we get back to our country :S
Apart from the stunning Koraku-en, Okayama has nothing special and it's a quite ugly city itself -kind of industrial unorganized buildings that aren't welcoming at all-. We tried to find the "center" of the city, but there wasn't any, so, after buying some stuff we needed and visiting a library while being amazed for the variety of manga's subjects, we decided -with the help of our hungry stomach- to do tabearuki. This amazing japanese word means "eating while walking", and you can find incredible places to do it. Even if small old towns as Kurashiki are way more interesting and cozy, to see the japanese shopping malls is also amazing and worthy, at least once...or twice. There you'll find a market, supermarket, shop and restaurant all together and mixed up in this famous japanese style -all so good looking, all so yummy, all so particular-. From the fish shops with whole roasted fishes, to the japanese version of french pâtisseries -making from the traditional croissant a hundred versions-. From a thousand kinds of onigiri to the traditional, handmade, made at the moment taiyaki. You can also take many prepared dishes, vegetables by weight or some sticks with meat, veggies, fried roots...You can take anything and pay it all together at any restaurant you see. Sit, eat, relax...and then...who cares if the city is not nice?
To go back by Hitchhike is completely insane, because we needed to go in the middle of nowwhere from a big city. Like trying to go from Barcelona to Guardiola de Font-Rubí. I'd say we were lucky, but it's not that. Japanese people are amazingly kind and willing to help you: a 22 years old guy arochated to us and tried to ask us what was our problem -by showing us the google translator's traduction of his words, which was really confusing-. At the end, after showing us the tran's map and understanding that we had no money,he offered us to pay our ticket. At the beggining we didn't belived it, but when we did of course we sayed no. After some time and some calls, he appeared with a car -his mom's?- and sayed the name of where we needed to go. An hour trip. He didn't expect anything "bad" from us -because before he offered to pay us the tickets and leave-. He didn't expect money -for an obvious reason-. He didn't even expected a nice international talk -because he didn't spoke english and neither did us japanese-. He just kept singing and I sang with him, and, without still realizing what had just happened, we arrived where we needed to meet our host, Yoshimi. To finish the amazing day -or that's what we thought-, we went to an onsen with her and her daughter Amika. You probably already know what an onsen is. Traditionally, it's a natural hot spring water, heated up by geothermy. It allows you to be bathing in hot water when being on a snowed traditional japanese garden. Nowadays you can find them also covered -which is very nice for the steam and it's magical effects- or outside ones warmed up artificially. We went to the one inside and then came to the exterior, from where you could see the stars, walk naked through the garden or sit at some natural rocks. After a busy day in a polluted city, all this water felt so good. After all those amazing experiences, to relax and realize/think about it was what I needed. Onsen is like a present to yourself, both spirit and body, and now that I got used to it, I'll need to find something similar in Catalunya the first day of getting there.
I said "we thought" that onsen was the last amazing thing of the day, but when we arrived and found Okayama's sushi on the table we realized we were wrong. :3
The following days have being caractarized for a mainly market work -the catalan team was amazing at selling ;)!-, and on the last ones, for a big change on the daily rutine at the house, since 4 new workawayers from Australia, New Zealand and Germany arrived. They were all really nice and I enjoyed very much sharing time, recipes, and work with them. The last day there for me and Raquel, the mother of Katsutaka prepared an amazing, incredible, orgasmic, epic dinner to us. I'm not exagerating, everyone of us was making plasure sounds and nobody talked for around half an hour while eating. She made the kind of sushi I already showed you, but this one did came rolled. Actually, it didn't came rolled, we had to take nori sheets and rolle them orselves. We also had bonito sashimi and an egg, veggie, dashi -japanese fish soup-. We also sayed goodbye to Yoshimi, with who we became so close, and gave her a guide of "How to be a catalan girl in some steps". We echanged the spanish two kisses and writte on a book they have for the guests. She also offered some jam and cookies for the trip. I miss her already!
Today Raquel and me left our traditional japanese house to make our trip to Osaka. We didn't need how was it going to turn out, since we wanted to hichhike until there, and it was snowing. The snow was a great goodbye gift because it envolved the are where I spent three amazing weeks o a magic atmosphere. But when it comes to cars, it sucked. Luckily, one of the few cars that passed was a woman who picked us up and brought us to a parking on Okayama where she said we could find someone to drive us to Osaka. We started to go to the bathroom there and she came running to tell us -in japansese- that she founded someone who could bring us. We couldn't belive what was going on when we saw a shinny black car-limousine. It had 6 huge seats, with place to rest the feet, space for drinks, courtines...We couldn't stop laughting at our amazing good luck. The seats were incredibly confortable so I felt sleep and the trip went very fast to me. Once we got to Osaka I let Raquel guide me, since she loves this city and she's so used to it. If the hitchhike that we thought would take us so long turned out so easy, finding her hostel -to leave our baggages-, took us ore than three hours. In between we had lunch as a short give up, and at the end realized we've been in front of it a thousand times, but the letters were so small... I snicked in her hostel with her beacuse I really needed a shower, and, after leaving my bags there, we walked to meet Salome -the deutch workawayer with who I stayed my first week in the countryside-, who was also in Osaka. We visited Namba, which is not the old centre of Osaka but is the centre of most of the social activity, restaurants, clubs and karaokes. They showed me the canal, sorrounded by many lights and high buildings, and the shock of landscape was huge, but really nice to, because that's what Japan is about: contrasts. We visited a library, because it's really fun in Japan to see all the manga's dedicated to so many strange subjects. We shared a heavenly "oishi" mochi ice-cream and, curious about it, went to a "Free powder room" on a shopping mall. We thought it was a place for woman to make up, but we discovered that it was actually a princess-looking room with free make-up to try, full of girls who brought there their hair-dryer, curl-maker...
Then we went to eat Okonomiyaki, a tyipical Osaka's kind of pancake-omelette and shared two other "yakis" too, next to the canal, with an XL beer. It doesn't get any better.
After that Salome wanted to take "Purikura" -which Raquel thought was "pedicure" until we got there-. Purikura is a sick-funny-japanese -or probably asian- that consists on a photo room, that is normally placed at some Pachinko or recreative room saloon and "makes you pretty". You go in there, take many pictures, and the machine turns your face into a barbie one. It's stressing because it goes so quick and it's in japanese, but it was really fun to experience one of the japanese ways of having fun -even if it's so different from ours-. Then I took the subway to meet my couchsurfer host, Reiko, who brought my view of japanese hospitality to the next level. She lives in a very spaceous nice house -incredibly clean, but japanese clean, so more than shinny!-. I got a very spaceous room with all comodities -heater for the feet, heater for the room, cofortable bed, towels...- and I also had a bath, and oh my god, what a bath: I always have a positive shock with all the japanese baths, but this one had even TV to watch from it! Again, I couldn't belive my luck or be more gratefull. I think my smile didn't desappear during all night ^^
I woke up at Reiko's -my couchsurfing host- house, full of energy and excitement for the next day. I already knew she would take me to Nara, a city that I love, but I had no idea of all the surprises that were waiting for me that day. At first, Reiko prepared to me a delicious -and abundant- western breakfast with grilled sandwich, scrambled eggs, orange juice, salad with sesame dressing and yogurt with fresh fruit. His husband took us to the station and we took the train, which takes 30 minutes from Osaka to Nara. Nara was were the imperial capital was before Kyoto -as Kyoto was the capital of Japan before Tokyo-. The most famous thing of this small city are the deer colony that lives in there. Instead of pigeons on the streets, there, the deers are the ones ho make cars stop in the middle of the street, steal or break things from the stores, or recive food from tourists. You can touch them with any danger, but make sure you don't have any food with you! There is also the biggest wood building, which guards Nara's Buda statues. Many temples, gardens can be found there, and beautiful walks throught the city, gardens, mountain an temples can be enjoyed. That's what we did to start, and then we stopped on a small traditional house to have a tea, when waiting for my surpise ^^ Reiko had booked a kimono trial for me, and it's something I always wanted to do. The kimono trial was placed at an old-woman house, where they asked me to choose a kimono -and also recommend some of them to me-, "belt", the piece tha goes under the kimono, the string for the waist, the flowers for the hair, the sandals, the hand bag...Apart from all the pieces I could use, to put on a kimono requires an incredible ammount of pieces and ropes, to make the "sraight shape" desired. The woman put a rope around my breasts to make them "flat", and towels on my waist to make it straight. Also a kind of "pijama" goes before the under kimono, and many "belts" that need constant pulling to get the desired shape. I don't know if it was the excitement for wearing kimono, but I didn't found it that uncomfortable or cold, even if it looks quite complicated, tight and thin. We did a your in Nara with me in kimono and took photos at beautiful gardens and bridges. Still with the kimono, Reiko brought me to the second suprise: a tea ceremony experience. Also another thing I really wanted to do but didn't expect at all. It was also her first time, and we enjoyed it very much. After choosing a bowl from a "menu", another old woman brought a plate with a bowl, a kind of flat spoon, a case for the matcha powder and a tool for mixing it. She explained how to mix the powder with the hot water, which, if you want to do it on the polite-traditional way, is not easy at all. You need to use an specific hand, hold the tools on a specific way, and make determinated movements to mix it. It's also tiring for the hand, but it was really nice and funny. When drinking the bitter but delicious matcha tea, you also eat some japanese sweets, to balance the flavour. After that we visited a traditional japanese house -city kind-, which photos you can see below. I changed my clothes and we went to the station. I had matcha latte when waiting for the train, which I'm so addicted to since I'm in japanese cities :3 After relaxing a bit at home, back in Osaka, Reiko, her husband and her co-worker took me to try the japanese barbacue. In this kind of restaurants, you have your own grill at the table, and can cook there anything you order. While cooking it, there's also the option of ordering pickles, soup or rice. We laughted a lot and I felt more than comfortable, no matter the age difference and no matter if I just knew them for one day. Once more in this trip, I realized how beautiful life and people can be, even if sometimes it seems the opposite. Thanks so much to Reiko and her family/friend for all the experiences I couldn't have had without her, and for the amazing time shared with her. I miss you already!
Another amazing breakfast to start the day, and Reiko and her husband brought me to Kyoto -also something I'm more than grateful for! :) -. Not only the brought me there by car, but they also waited with me for my next couchsurfer host, while relaxing at a cafe. Reiko already knew my matcha-latte obsession and appeared with it :3 We sayed goodbye with a warm hug, because my next host, Yuta, arrived. After leaving my baggages at his house, he took me for a nice walk thorugh the "path of philosophy", where many writters got inspired; a famous bridge tha provides Kyoto with water; some temples and, after stopping for some udon, we hike to a mountain. It took us 30 min of non-stop way up, while snowing. It was more than worthy, beacause the views from the top of the snowed mountain were stunning. You could see all Kyoto city, the three mountains, and even Osaka at the horizon. He explained many things about Kyoto's city, showed me specific spots so that I could get orientated easialy -and it was really useful for the following day-. After going back down, we took the bus to Gion -the famous neighbourhood of Geishas in Kyoto-, which was really beautiful at night, with the warm and cozy lights on the streets -unfortunately, I'm terrible at taking photos and don't know how to do it at night :S-. He also explained me many things about geishas, maikos, religion, temples, shrine rituals...After walking some more time, we went to a mediterranean restaurant, which brought our conversation to basically cultural particularities of our both countries, food, music...It was really nice and delicious -and it felt good to have some of my country dishes for the first time in so long ^^-. Guess what I ordered when he invited me to some warm drink -reaaaally convenient on such a cold night-. Yep, Matcha latte again, and I doubt I'll every get tired of it!
I woke up late for the first time in this trip, and full of energy for the day that was waiting for me. I wanted to start discovering Kyoto just walking on my own, and enjoy my freedom on such a beautiful city. Basically I walked for some hours seeing many shrines, shops, parks, traditional houses, high buildings...I stopped at a matcha "coffee" -I can't tag the place- where everything had matcha on it. Basically they had matcha ice-creams, "parfaits", cakes...I had -no way!- matcha latte. But in this case I have a good excuse, in the menu it sayed "matcha hot chocolate", and I thought it was something different. Btw, I want to make a catalan "xocolata desfeta" -the thick one- with matcha as soon as I get to Chigasaki :3 With my inspring latte on the heart of Kyoto, I wrote for a couple hours and then walked through Gion again, with it's evening cozy ambient. Great thing was that I hanged out there around 5pm, and it's the time when all the hundred traditional shops that have thousands of free things to try, give even more stuff to try. "Tirando la casa por la ventana", as spanish people would say :P At once store I was given a cup of tea and two half "manjus" ; on an other, the owner started to open whole individual cookie packages and give them to people...
I took the subway to go home and I promised -even if I didn't acomplished it- to NEVER take it again, at least here. I already sayed how expensive is transport in Japan, but the situation in Kyoto is even worse because there's no option of buying a 10-trip cheaper ticket, as in Barcelona...or Osaka.
I guess it shouldn't be a problem if you're willing to excercise and discover the city by walk, but on winter at night it's sometimes too much :S
That's why yesterday I didn't planned anything but just walking: when I plan, I NEVER acomplish it -which sometimes means doing something better-. The two main things that didn't let me go where I wanted were: 1, I'm TERRIBLE at reading maps...especially if it's in japanese like mine. So I couldn't find the places. 2, when trying to find my way, I discovered other interesting spots that made me forget about my initial route. So my plan was to visit Sanjuangen-do Temple, Fushimi-Inari gates and a couple coffees. If you have read a little about me you'll probably guess what I did found of this list. Yep, I went to both coffees, even if I just ate at one. It's name was Iyemon coffee, quite an expensive-luxurious place, with views to a very beautiful japanese garden. My tip for enjoying expensive coffee places is always the same: eat instead of drinking -especially if, as in Japan, drink can be free-. Because if you spend the money on drinking, then you'll need to spend again on your meal. So I had a very healthy balanced lunch: an amazing japanese "ice-cream"! :P, "parfait", or however you want to call it. The funny thing is that, compared to western desserts, it was actually quite healthy. I still don't know why but the japanese ice-creams taste way lighter, and made of fresh -"healthy" ingredients: green tea and sesame ice-creams, with rice-cake -"mochi"- and fresh fruits. Of course, with my notebook and my huge-satisfaction-smile :3 When looking for the temples, I found...-or it founded me?- the market. Nishiki market is known as "Kyoto's kitchen", and it's a long, long covered street full of small shops with mainly fresh ingredients. From fresh vegetables and fish, to pickles and "senbe", or hot fried delishes, handmade mochi...Of course, this is also a great spot to do "tabearuki", either for buying small best-quality things, or to get full by just trying all the free samples ^^
My grandfaher had been ill for some years and those last weeks he got worse. Still in Okayama I wondered about coming back home to be with him, but he wanted me to keep on with my adventure, as he knew how especial and unique it was...and how much I needed it.
The thing is that this night I recived a message from my mum telling me that he was dying, and I talked to my family -walking for hours in a seven eleven, as there was wifi :P -. I also recorded two songs for my grandfather from there, and I think he would have laught a lot seeing me singing in the middle of a convenient store in the shy, quiet Japan. I think most of you know how much I love my grandad, how close I was to him and the huge inspiration and support he had always been to me. Still if that moment was the beggining of a sad end, it was still sweet, and Japan's reaction since this moment also touched me very much and made me feel at home, even if I was on a strange country, alone with people I barely new. When walking the streets in tears, or sitting on the ground crying, I learned the word "Dajobu". It means: are you okay? Because sooo many people stopped to ask me if I was fine -one of them even stopped a phone call-. It was cold, it was dark, I was alone and I was sad. But I didn't FELT alone, neither cold...and my sadness was also acompained by a feeling of "world is beautiful", that got even bigger when I arrived to my host's house. He showed me pictures of his grandfaher and talked also about his loss, his love, his regrets...I talked about my dear friend-grandfather and our relationship to him, and so did him about he's. Even if the culture of family in Japan and Catalunya is ver different, and so they were our ages, we both shared a unique deep love for our grandpa's, who had always been both example and friends to us.
The night before my grandfather died. My best friend, soul mate left leaving my dear country covered with snow. It was the first time it snowed that much in there for many years, and it seemed that the powerful my grandfather had always been during his life, lasted even for saying goodbye...with a big show -as he always, always used to do-. Maybe after that, he went to visit me in Kyoto, because here the sun raised for the first time in many days.
All this spiritual things I'm thinking this days made me wonder if all the spiritualism, religion...can just be understood when you really love, loose, or feel a huge -bigger than words and even bigger than life- feeling for someone. Even if I've never been the stereotypical religious, I've always been spiritual. But now more than ever, I understand -or maybe understanding is too much, I FEEL- that there's something else bigger and longer-lasting than life...Call it feeling, call it spirit, call it God. Or, as I do, call it love.
So, after waking up I went to Fushimi-Inari with a girl that I also met through couchsurfing, and who was incredibly nice and interesting :) You've probably seen photos about this place, which are thousands of red gates that create a path throught the mount Inari, which lenght grows every year -people pays for constructing these gates, and the name of the investor is written on them-. It's a way-up-warming-up route with amazing views of the forest and, when at the top, of Kyoto's city. The impression of all the human's effort for building such a lot of gates for an ideal is something tha always amazes me about temples, shrines...
After walking a lot in Kyoto, we went to a very famous coffee-shop and cosmethic store, where they have also menu, and had lunch together. I felt like a sandwitch but wanted to have it on the japanese way, so I chose one with salad, prawns and umeboshi sauce -delicious-. On the dessert menu I was surprised to see one of the cultural-mix dessert I thought one day on doing: Matcha Crema Catalana -in that case, Matcha Crême Brulée-. Also a kind of tofu macaron was really interesting, and blowed my baker-mind up. I'm so grateful to all the people I met throught couchsurfing this week for the time they've spent with me and the amazing places they've shown to me, that I cannot wait to come back home...to host them!
Today was my grandfather's funeral, and my family found the way of connecting me with skype when in the ceremony, so that I could say some words. At the apartment in Kyoto there was no wifi, and I wasn't going to do it from a noisy Starbucks. I couldn't sleep thinking about it, and the morning after I recived a message from my friend Reiko, who hosted me in Osaka, aksing how was I. Suddenly I thought on going to her house to make a quiet call with my family, because I really wanted to do it properly. She sayed "yes, of course!" and hosted again with her best hospitality. It was so nice to sit down and recive the peach water I tryed there the last time, which she remembered I loved. Also when doing the skype call and be crying as a baby, she took care of me so, so much, putting paper tissues, water and rubish next to me :P Even if that loss is the deepest I had experienced until now and I doubt I'll never get over it, I was so happy to assist to the funeral on this particular way, which probably he'd be amazed for. My uncle called me thorught the phone so that I could hear the ceremony, and then I appeared through skype reading a text to him. The classical music, Lluís Llach's music and, mostly of all, my cousin's and uncle's greetings made the ceremony very touching, but also full of hope and love. The united family Garriga's are is the best gift he could ever give to us, and I love them with all my heart.
Reiko prepared a really nice dinner for me, with tempura veggies, spring roll, chicken and Okonomiyaki -typical from Osaka!-, handmade one :3 I felt I had many "homes" around the world, and I had another amazing bath feeling huged by my dear catalan family, supported by all my japanese friends, and seeing my grandfather's smiley face looking at my crazy adventures.
Thanks so much Reiko, I'd never be able to thank you enought!
Thanks to Yuta for all his support and comprehension!
And thanks to my amazing family, their understanding, their effort to let me assist to that important event, and to their unmesurable love!
Since I've been some days with a proper internet connection, many things to do and constant traveling, I haven't been able to write on an organized way. That's why I'll explain about these four days in Kyoto at the same time and probably mixing timings.
I love Kyoto city for many things: of course because it's the icon of traditional japanese beauty, and it's full of amazing things to explore; but also beacuse of it's variety of things to do, depending on your mood or the weather. Kyoto is located in between three mountains -and it's rare to be on a city where you can get to the deep mountains by subway!-, full of temples and traditional gardens, but also with a lot of social activities, beautiful neighbourhoods, coffee shops -or tea shops!- and many beautiful stores. I was grateful for receiving the bad news in this city and having a whole week with no need of working neither hurrying to explore everything -because I had quite a lot of time-. So I could decide to stay on a cozy tea shop and chilling when I didn't felt able to walk, or visit the mountains when willing to be far away to the society, or to be sorrounded by nice people in Gion neighbourhood or gettng distracted by visiting Kyoto's most famous places.
One day I visited Arashiyama mountain in Kyoto, with it's beautiful river, walks, gardens...and many sweet shops for free tabearuki :3 Another I went tu Ginkaku-ji temple -silver temple- and Nijo-jo castle. My friend Yuko -who lives in Barcelona and I've known her for a quite long time- came to Kyoto with our wine distributor and I also had dinner -and wine, wine, wine- with them ^^
I took a nocturn bus from Kyoto to Yokohama, and from there train to Chigasaki, and got there at 6. Even from the early timing, my friend Yurie took me from the station, and we went to an onsen together. This one was bigger than all the ones we went before, with many diferent "pools". You could find the covered steamy one, the silk bath -for the skin-, a kind of big pots on the outside -this ones were amazing, you could feel the cold of the fresh early morning on your face while your body was really warm-, a kind of sits on the water -with some parts of your body on the outside-...It was really convenient after a long trip -tha always makes you feel dirty-, and for how tired I was. After getting to her house and eating onigiri made by her, I rested at her bed because I didn't slept on the bus, and we went to have lunch with her and her mum, who's japanese teacher and with who I always learn a lot :) After that we met Pancho and Yuki -his wife- and went to their house, where I'll stay until I leave Japan. Yokohama is a sunny-surfer city, which climate is similar to the mediterranean one, which I really missed during this month. The house is very comfortable but especially the couple are amazing and incredibly nice people, with who, even if we don't speak any language in common, we get along so well.
I've spent these days at the sunny Chigasaki, and started my work through internet -distanc ehigh school, IOC- while begining also to work at Pancho's bar-restaurant on the afternoons. But all it's on a relaxed way so I don't feel stress at all, and still find it my holidays. My friend Yurie has visited me many times and translated things to me, but I'm basically using gesticulations and some japanese words to make people understand me, and that's very helpful for my nihongo -japanese language- learning. Pancho's wife is an excellent cook and her meals are always an art job. -many small varied, delicious, traditional or innovative dishes for lunch-. I also love working at the bar, laughting with my bad japanese, finding spontaneous people who suddenly come out saying they can speak french -and I find myself practising french in Japan-, or reciveing friends who came to see me working on the bar. One day we had a Temaki party for lunch, at Pancho's place with some friends, and it was really nice. Because of the great company, and the really nice food. "Te" means "hand" and "maki" means "roll", so this sushi party consist on a lot of "sashimi" -raw fish- presented on a beautiful way, with shiso leaves; and other small bowls with other ingredients, as "natoo", "tofu", tuna paste, pickles, sweet omelette, miso soup...You also have the vinagered steamed rice on a big wooden bowl and nori -dried seaweed- sheets. So with your "te" -hand-, you roll your own sushi, by taking a nori sheet, adding rice to it and whatever ingredient or convination you want with. You can spent a glorious hour. Just eating this...and of course some beer and many, many laughs :)
In the most unexpected place and situation, my 17 years old came, and I celebrated them with Yurie-s family. God must know my mochi-passion, because exactly this day there was a "Mochi party", with free mochi, soup, tea...and, the best of all, with the possibility of seeing how mochi is done, and even making it. Nowadays these rice cakes are made with machines, but some years ago the method used to be to hit the steamed rice with a huge wooden stick -making turns with men- while a woman -trying not to be hit- keep twisting the dough and making shape. There, in honor to all the famous people that was born in Chigasaki, rice was steamed at opened air, mochi dough was made, and many volunteer woman made the final cake, by adding anko, kinako -soya powder- or nori to them. After that you could visit the house of famous writers or be amazed at how many famous people was raised in that small city.
We walked to the sea, which was crowded of surfers, but really nice, and from which you could see the Mt Fuji. We had "oden" for lunch, which consists on a pot with many fish derivates, veggies and soup. It-s funny because nothing looks like what it really is, and it-s kind of a game of guessing what are you actually eating :P But it-s sooo good! -so good, that I ate it three times on a row!-.
Since the day of my birthday either Yurie and my hosts were working, I celebrated it with them the following day. After trying a really nice fried pork -which turns out to be very famous and I hand-t tried, either heard about it-, they took me to Kamakura, a beautiful city full of old streets, sightseen...and the famous Daibutsu -the great Buddha-. When the sun was going down, we went to Enoshima, a famous island that has amazing views, seafood and lighthouse. We tried the three things, and get breathless with the scene. After that, back to Chigasaki we had really nice dinner with great sake ^^
One day, serving beer at the bar, I met a japanese woman who spoke french. This coincidence was the first of many other things we had in common, and she told me that she wanted me to meet her daughter, who had the same age as me. I was really excited because I hadn't met any japanese teenager yet, and she organized a nice dinner at an Oden restaurant with four mums and four daughters who were the same age. It was really nice to meet them, and even if we could just speak some words, I felt very comfortable with them and quickly close to this sweet girls. We ended up going to a karoaoke together, which I had been wanting to go for a long time, since it's so common in Japan, and we had an incredible nice time. I sung a catalan song to them, we shared many crazy songs and laughts, and I also lsitened to nice japanese songs they sung. I saw them again...and you'll see where soon.
These days I basically studyied and worked, bu none of this on a normal-boring way. I had nice studying moments with tea and mochi breakfast, amazing meals that Yuki prepared for lunch, and funny work moments at Bar Pancho, meeting amazing new people and trying new wines and dishes. Also, we went to restaurants a couple times -or probably more-, and I ended up trying pretty much every single japanese thing -and some korean, chinese, thai...- ^^
Today I went with Yurie and her mum to Yokohama, which s a famous city that is near Chigasaki, and we visited a very beautiful garden there. After that, we went to an amazing restaurant in the famous Yokohama's chinatown with Yurie's sisters and boyfriend. After that we walked around the neighbourhood, tryied chinese mochi -^^- and I studyied a little bit more japanese with Yurie's mum. I really enjoyed that day and the crazy chinese neighbourhood, full of colours and...tabearuki options! :3
Since it was almos my last day in Chigasaki, I used it to buy some souvenirs, I met a japanese actor who invited me to delicious ramen, and I recived thousands of presents from my friends -which ended up with a bag of 12 kg just for presents!-. Since we were having a goodbye party at night, I cooked "truita d'esbergínies" -aubergine omelette- for them, and also romesco sauce. Pancho cooked a similar thing to the catalan "calçots" -spring onions-, instead of on the ashes, in the oven, but they were still wonderful, and it felt kind of like home. The dinner consisted on many small differentt dishes from many countries, and 6 bottles of wonderful drinks -which inlcuded japanese beer, catalan sparkling rosé, and, of course, sake!-. Minami and Fujiko -who I went to the karaoke with-, Pancho's family, Yurie and some other friends frome the bar came, and we ended up dancing salsa together...or something like that :P
Today Fujiko took me to Minami's high school, so that I could see from the first hand how schools are in Japan. It was a great experience I'd never thought I could have. I visited the school, which is not different from the ones here -except that the building was older and...that they wore slippers in the school!!-. As you probably know, uniform is also worn. They also have a lot of subjects we don't, as japanese caligraphy, and many clubs -from cooking clubs, to volleyball ones-, that people joins before or after classes. I think that's a great idea to promote children's interests and team work ^^ I also assisted to an english class, and I was happy to be able to experience "the problem" from the inside -since I've experienced from the first hand that almost no one in Japan speaks english-. For what I saw, the problem is basically that the teacher speaks mainly japanese when they should speak mainly english, and also that the subjects they study -text from the book and others- are very complicated and difficult to focuse on -such as economy subjects, electhronic ones...-. Maybe if instead of that they practise with more casual subjects, and make more listenings and dialogue, it'd get better.
Also it was really nice to meet the students, who were very, very friendly, and met Minami and Asuka again -who I went to the karaoke with-, and I miss them already :'(
After that I went with Yurie to Hakone, a famous natural Onsen that was more than awesome, beautiful and worthy :3
Today I sadly left Chigasaki and went to the busy Tokyo. These following days I didn't visited the city because I had few time, I was tired and I already visited mostly everything two years ago. Even so, when looking for Raquel -who was also there!- it took two hours to find eachother in Shinjuku -the busy comercial neighbourhood-, and afterwards we also walked around. I was so happy to see her and we had many funny -and not so funny- experiences to tell eachother. After that, I went to ISETAN shopping mall, where there was a wine tasting and I helped to explain our wine and sign some bottles, when also meeting amazing people. The two coworkers invited Raquel and I to dinner and asked me to choose the food, so I took eel, because it was one of the few things I hadn't eaten in Japan yet. It was more than delicious, and after that we visited many bars, where people was waiting for me to sign some bottles -yep, it felt like being famous :3- and we had a couple glasses at every place ;P Arai San -or wine importer- was hosting us both, and him and his wife took us from a bar. It was quite late and we were hungry again, so we had nice Okonomiyaki and beer at another restuarant. At some point we arrived to Arai's house and I guess we felt asleep just immediatly, beacause the day after we were still on clothes :P
Today I signed some more bottles and we chilled for a while. Since we also woke up quite late, I had work at 14 and in Japan they have lucnh very early, at 11:45 we were already leaving...to have the higgest suhi place in Tokyo -a 59 floor!-. It was in Ikebukuro, where there's a lot going on, and the view from the restaurant was stunning. The suhi was even nicer.
After that we went to buy some mochi for souvenirs and I started work again. I recived presents from people I didn't knew -but they did :P- and the experience felt very good -too good for my selfsteem ^^-.
With Arai, his wife, his daughter, Raquel and I, we went to my last japanese dinner. It was korean food, but it actually made sense because I think by then I had already tried everything. It was korean barbacue, like the one in Osaka, plus other korean dishes -as many rices, soups, tofu, spicy as hell vegetables...- all more than delicious. Nice drinks in between, that made us decide to go to karaoke again.
It was really funny, and the view from our karaoke room was also very nice, located in Ikebukuro, on a very famous busy street. I sung desesparate songs "my girl, don't lie to me" and "cry baby" with Raquel...and I guess our partners felt scared at some point, but it was too funny. It got funnier when we asked Arain San to choose a song and he took "la Bamba"...;P
And this day I left the beautiful, traditional, high-technology, shy, crazy, "freak", delicious, elegant....Japan. I left it, but went back with an enormous ammount of great memories, adventures, experiencies...and wonderful people. Thanks so much to Yoshimi and Katsutaka from Okayama, for their hospitality and showing me so many skills; to Reiko for her kindness, love and giving me the chance of experiencing such wonderful things; to Yuta for hosting me, sharing funny talks, supporting me on hard moments and showing me Kyoto; to Shizuka for that beautiful day in Fushimi-Inari and central Kyoto; to Pancho-san and Yuki-san, for hosting in such a heart-warming way in their beautiful and comfortable house, and for being my friends even of the language difficulties; to Fujiko for introducing me such nice teenagers, let me discover japanese high schools, and making me improve my french ;P; to Kyoko for her kindness, love, company...and making me study japanese!; to Arai-San's family and team, for hosting me and my friend and being so flexible, for taking me to such amazing restaurants and bars, for making me feel like a star :3; to...to...to...Especially to my friend Yurie, my big sister, my manager! For organizing all the trip to me, helping me with my catalan mess, and putting some japanese organitzation to my trip and showing me everything she could ^^ To Yuko, for introducing me Japan more than two years ago, and making me fall inlove with it. And, again, to my mum, for supporting me with all my crazy adventures and plans, and letting me go even if she'd worry and miss me. Thanks so much for taking care of my dreams, I love you <3