Japan 2014 post 17

October eighteenth
Today Yatchan and I went south to the Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara areas. We woke up early, Yatchan even earlier than I since he had to take his father to the train station, then showered and had a bite to eat. I had a yogurt, mikan, and cheese bun. Yatchan had planned everything out, timing wise, but our plans were thrown off a bit when we arrived at the bus stop to find that the schedule had changed. Instead we walked a couple kilometres to Musashi Uruwa, and from there took a train to Tokyo Station. There we bought our Shinkansen tickets to Kyoto. The guy who gave us the tickets didn’t seem to know what he was doing, and Yatchan had to teach him how to write the Kanji for the place we were going. Then even so he made a mistake, and the automated gate wouldn’t let us through when we out our tickets in. Luckily Yatchan was able to sort things out. Then we got onto the Shinkansen. Also known as bullet trains, they’re some of the fastest trains in the world, and the most precise. The fastest Shinkansen could reach speeds of 581 km/h.
However, the train Yatchan and I went on (Nozomi) ran at 300 km/h, which is still amazing. The trip from Tokyo to Kyoto took about two hours, and it’s 476.4 kilometres away. I really liked traveling on the Shinkansen, I thought it was really cool. Maybe even more enjoyable that flying, although flying is cool because well, you’re flying. One cool thing with the Shinkansen is that since it switches switches direction and goes the opposite way at the start and finish Sioux turning in a circle, the seats swivel so that you’re facing forwards. That’s also why both the front and the back have the aerodynamic noses.
The seats were really comfortable, and I got to sit beside the window, so I could enjoy the views. Even though we were moving so fast I could still enjoy the scenery. We saw lots of towns and cities, but tons of countryside too. One thing that I noticed is how close rice paddies are to cities, often even inside the city! The views were really gorgeous since we were traveling past and through the mountains. Most of them are smaller and more lush than the Rockies. And even more spectacular was Mount Fuji. We passed right by it! It was really incredible, the snow capped peak was well above the cloud line. It was just immense, and beautiful. I’m really glad it was a fairly clear day and we could see it. Yatchan got me some chocolate almonds to eat, on the train, and they were delicious. I got a good bit of writing done on the trip as well, so that was good.
When we arrived in Kyoto we took a local train to Kusatsu, and then another from there to Koka. Then we hopped on a makeshift bus (it was actually a minivan with a crazy driver) and drove into the mountains to the ninja village. It was awesome! It was set in a beautiful place is the mountains, and it felt great to breath in the fresh air, and see the trees and plants all around. So in this gorgeous place, there was lots to do. They had set up died fervent obstacle for ninja training, simulating what a ninja would have to do. There was an eight or nine foot stone wall to scale as an example of climbing castle walls, so we started out there. There were a few different sections of the wall. The first was ended lower, and there were lots of cracks between the rocks, and they were sort of misshapen to make it easier. And the hardest was the full height, made with large smoothish stones. I loved it! In between there were two other difficulties, one almost the same as the hardest, and one that wasn’t quite eight or nine feet, but was higher than the first. In between those two difficulties there was a long stone jutting out that you could use if you wanted. After I climbed the wall, we had to get over a smooth, roofed, wall. The peak of the roof was perhaps six feet off the ground. I did a bit of a wall run, grabbed the peak, pulled myself up, and slid/vaulted down the other side. Totally parkour training there! There was a narrow ledge that we had to cross next. It was less than a foot wide, and there was a wall on one side of it so we had to cross facing forwards, with our backs against the wall, moving very slowly. And maybe it was just me, but it felt like the wall was angled outward a bit, like it was trying to push us off. That was pretty challenging, and I had to slip my fingers into cracks in the wall sometimes to keep myself from falling. There was another wall after that, vertical logs with notches cut into them that you had to cross from one end to the other. It was really busy when we went to it though, so we said we would come back to it later. Unfortunately we forgot! Anyways, we moved on to the next set of obstacles. There was a long, narrow, log that we had to cross over a pit, and a steep hill to climb. On one side of the hill there was pretty much huge steps cut into it from so many people climbing it, but the other side was even steeper, and had no steps. I used my parkour skills to get up the steps and then down the other side as fast as I could. Then I turned around and did it the opposite way. That was fun. But I think the funniest training was the throwing star range. We had to pay a bit extra to try, but it was worth it. We got real metal throwing stars, and were put into stalls. In front of us there were several sets of targets at different distances. The man who we payed taught us how to throw the stars. He was pretty funny. The first thing he said to me was, “Do you speak English?” Yatchan and I were pretty impressed because we thought he was going to speak English to us, but that seemed to be the only English he knew. Maybe he had picked it up from foreigners when they came to the range. Anyways, he then started to explain (in Japanese) how to throw the stars. He showed us how to hold them, then said to take several deep breaths and say “tanoshii tanoshii tanoshii!” Happy happy happy! I doubted real ninjas would do that, but it was funny. The first few stars were nowhere near the target (though we were aiming at the farthest away) but eventually we started to get the hang of it. Yatchan told me later that the guy came up to him and said, “You’re stiff, *deep breathing* happy happy happy!” It was a blast. And as we improved, I started hitting the target in a way that the stars didn’t fall out or just bounce off the wood, and then I got a bulls eye! The man said that only happens something like once a month. I was pretty pleased. Beside us in the stalls were three young women who had bought (or maybe rented) full ninja costumes, and they were being funny as well. It was a very fun environment at the throwing star range.
Also in the village was a shrine, which was very beautiful. It wasn’t too far away from the ninja house, which we got a tour of. I think that it was an original ninja house, but had been moved onto the site. But I could be wrong. Either way it was super cool. I enjoyed checking out the architecture, but what was even cooler were the secret hallways and traps inside. There was an ordinary looking wall panel that swung open when you pushed in a certain place. But it only spun 180°, so if someone was chasing you and saw you go through the wall, then they tried to push in the same place, nothing would happen. I got to test it out and go through. Also in the house were four normal looking sliding doors, but really only one was a door, the rest didn’t move. It lead into a tatami room. But the tatami room held it’s secrets too. There was a secret hallway leading outside and to the kitchen behind a tapestry, and another sliding panel leading into the same hallway. And though you couldn’t tell from looking, it was a trick ceiling, which was weighted with rocks upstairs, and could be dropped on your enemies heads by cutting a string. In the kitchen the bottom of the cooking pit came up to reveal the entrance to a tunnel/maze. Sadly we weren’t allowed to go into it though. In front of one of the double doors leading into the house, there was a shallow pit, with wood around the edges. It was designed so that invaders would step into it, bash their shins, and then you could attack them from the second or third floor with arrows or throwing stars. I thought the lit was a bit obvious, but I assume that in the ninja’ sadly it would’ve been covered by a thin mat or something, so that it would be invisible but still effective. All of these things were designed to win you a few seconds if you were trying to hide from someone or leave the house. And apart from all of those things, there were interesting architecture features too. For instance from the outside, the house looked like a normal, one floor house. But the reality was that it had three floors. The two upper floors were lofts, so though we weren’t allowed to go up, we could sort of see up there. Another cool feature was that in one of the tatami rooms, the ceiling was very low. This was for several reasons. Ninjas were usual short, so it wouldn’t bother them, but it would reduce their enemies mobility. And should it come to a sword fights, the exposed beams and low ceiling would prevent the invader from using his katana. But the ninja, being shorter and having different swords and weapons, could attack just fine. The coolest thing was that despite all of these secrets, the house looked normal! I really enjoyed it.
Very close by there was another house, but this one had been turned into a small museum. It showcased lots of cool weapons, as well as some armour, and ninja tunics. There was also a large collection of ninja scrolls. I couldn’t read them, but Yatchan said they were very interesting and detailed. He said he learned that ninjutsu wasn’t just fighting and espionage, but also astronomy, and medicine, among other things. The scrolls had all sorts of secrets apparently, including a trick to not sleep. Apparently you have to put the white part of hawk poop in your belly button, but we didn’t try it. Yatchan also told me that every ninja clan’s scrolls would be slightly different. Pretty cool.
Although we couldn’t go through the maze in the ninja house, there were two things like that we could do. One of them looked like a well, but there was actually a narrow slit cut out of it. Then if you could drop slip through, you dropped into a small cave. The entrance had bars over it, but there was a small door in the bottom corner. If you could dive through the door, you could probably lock the door and then trap anyone who was following you. And the well entrance was made in a way that if would be almost impossible to get up and out. I made it through, but it was hard!
There’s was also a sweet underground tunnel you could go through. On one end was a circular pit with a ladder down, and on the other end was a staircase leading to a concealed door in a building. I went through the tunnel, and it was awesome. The whole place was! We didn’t do the water spider activity, where you pulled yourself across a (shallow) pond with only a rope and special ninja shoes. They were floating circles, sort of like a lifesaving device, with webbing on the bottom. Real ninja shoes would have been a lot smaller, but it was still cool. I sort of regret not doing it, but it would’ve sucked if I had fallen in. And even if I didn’t fall in my lower legs would be wet. We even say someone who did fall in… Oops!
I bought a few things at the gift shop, then the same “bus” picked us up and took us back to Koka. Then we took a train to Kusatsu. I really had a great time at the ninja village, and I think Yat did too. I wish dad could’ve been there as well, I think he’d of really enjoyed it.
Yatchan and I stayed in a small yet fancy hotel room overnight, I think it was meant for one person, since the bathroom was glass walled! Thankfully there was a curtain on the side facing the bed and desk. Yatchan figured that the glass was so that you could sit in the bath and watch tv, because there was a sound system inside the bathroom connected to the tv. It also did make the room seem a lot bigger, it would’ve felt tiny if the bathroom had opaque walls. In the hotel, there were vending machines, and I noticed that they were selling beer in the vending machine. Right beside the coke, and tea. Anyone could’ve bought it! There was also a cigarette vending machine, but you did need a special card to buy those.
We had supper at a noodle place within walking distance of the hotel. I had an amazing noodle dish with lots of veggies, meat, and a delicious broth. On the side was popcorn chicken and tartar sauce, and a several small yummy dumplings. For desert we picked up some candy at the convenience store. I saw some candies that were sort of like Turkish delight, but softer, and they had Calpis in the centre. Yatchan saw me looking at them and said they were really gross. Then I had no choice but to try them. We picked up some ice cream as well, and ate it while watching baseball back at the hotel room. I tried the Calpis candies, and I thought they were delicious! Yatchan tried one as well, but he still thought they were nasty.
It’s been an amazing day, and I’m so glad that I’m getting to travel around Japan a bit and see more of the country. Its been great so far. More tomorrow, Christopher



4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by ecosophian on October 21, 2014 at 1:06 am

    Ninja village!!! I’m living vicariously through you!


  2. That’s good!


  3. Posted by jacquee on October 23, 2014 at 6:13 am

    I’m just catching up but am completely ‘sucked’ into your experience with the ninja village!!! WHAT A BLAST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You could write a short story on just that alone! I’m off to my next experience with you! Thankyou!


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