After our sumptuous lunch in Taiwan, we bid adieu to Danny and his family, and headed north for an easy flight to Osaka. We were on the clock, because another new friend had made arrangements for us to stay in a very old and traditional Ryokan (a small inn/hotel) in Kyoto (about a 2-hour drive from the airport), and it was getting late. We landed in Osaka after a very short flight, scooted through customs, found the waiting car and headed to Kyoto.
We arrived at the Ryokan, via the skinniest cobbled side street ever, found the sign and were hailed by the proprietors. Welcomed roundly. they took us to a Tempura restaurant half a block away for dinner. We were too late for their in-house dinner (served traditionally in each room), but the Ryokan owned this restaurant, TenYu, and we loved each successive course, even the indeterminate creatures with legs, while sitting at a small, cozy counter. As you can imagine, the service was stellar and the food delicious.
Then we entered our exquisite spot, *Hiiragi-ya * (please see https://www.hiiragiya.co.jp/en/customs/). The sensibility of every room, every space we entered was classic, simple and completely refined. We donned our provided kimonos, snuggled into our comfy futons and fell fast asleep.
While we couldn’t make it in time for dinner the night before, the Japanese breakfast was the full experience! Traditional foods, were served in our room by a very accommodating staff person. While we weren’t naturally drawn to everything on our plate, we enjoyed the ritual and newness in front of us. We readied for our very quick walkabout in Kyoto (did I mention that Julian had two baths in the deep wooden tub in the 12 hours we were in Kyoto?) and headed out to explore. I had done some research and found that there was a clinic just 6 minutes away that could provide the second series of rabies vaccine required for the surprise monkey bite (smile)...and then we roamed a bit, finding souvenirs and tea here and there. Then it was off on the drive back to the airplane in Osaka, where we met Travis and Vishal (another lovely new friend) for the flight to Tokyo. The flight was quick and beautiful. On our arrival, we were delighted to be invited by Mr. Fujino (inventor of the HondaJet, and the company’s CEO) to dinner...and loved being in his presence again. Our trip had begun with dinner with Mr. Fujino in Greensboro, North Carolina...it seemed very fitting to be with him in Tokyo on the way home.
The next day we went back to the Narita airport to be part of several interviews about the HondaJet. Over the weeks, we managed to get a bit of a handle on the process of being interviewed, and grew to enjoy it all. Later, we found our way to the university, where Mr. Fujino gave a talk on HondaJet to an engineering class, and where Julian joined him to speak from the point of view of an owner/pilot. The students were engaged, had great questions...and if I might say so, Julian was eloquent!
That night we headed to Tokyo station (good grief what can I say...think a wildly crowded train station with turns and corners and levels, filled with a thousand or more small shops!) It was a bit overwhelming! But we found our quarry: an authentic Pokemon store (cause, you know, we have grandchildren!). The next day we had just the morning to look around a bit, but we were able to find a Shinto Shrine to visit, and then walked the streets for a while.
Our visit to both Kyoto and Tokyo were ridiculously short, and I hope we are able to return for a more satisfying visit!
Next, we headed to Sapporo on Hokkaido Island. After settling in our hotel, we then headed out with Travis and Vishal for the most delicious soup I’ve ever had--Japanese curry, a specialty of the city. Yum.
And then the plane had one last demonstration in Sapporo, and we bade Japan, our new friends, and the official culmination of our trip goodbye. We headed to Khabarovsk, Russia (Siberia no less) for our first night on the long trek home. Customs was more...mmm...arduous than in other arrival cities, but we got through, and after we found the right hotel, we had a good dinner! and a good sleep.
Next--en route to North America.