Kami Watch Over Me (Japan Day 28 – Okayama)

Friday, Nov 18 2022 (Day 28)

Table of Contents

ට  Day 0 – Thursday, Oct 20 2022 to Friday Oct 21 2022 – Flight from Edmonton to Tokyo
ට  Day 1 – Saturday, Oct 22 2022 – Tokyo, Saitama, Ikebukuro
ට  Day 2 – Sunday, Oct 23 2022 – Autumn Reitaisai 9, Shinjuku
ට  Day 3 – Monday, Oct 24 2022 – Akihabara
ට  Day 4 – Tuesday, Oct 25 2022 – Hakone
ට  Day 5 – Wednesday, Oct 26 2022 – Kamakura, Enoshima Island, Enoshima Shrine
ට  Day 6 – Thursday, Oct 27 2022 – Hanno
ට  Day 7 – Friday, Oct 28 2022 – Shinkoiwa
ට  Day 8 – Saturday, Oct 29 2022 – Akihabara, Matsudo City
ට  Day 9 – Sunday, Oct 30 2022 – M3-50, Moto-Yawata
ට  Day 10 – Monday, Oct 31 2022 – Akasaka, Shimokitazawa, Shibuya Halloween
ට  Day 11 – Tuesday, Nov 01 2022 – Shinjuku, Sophia University
ට  Day 12 – Wednesday, Nov 02 2022Sophia University, Kabukichō
ට  Day 13 – Thursday, Nov 03 2022 – Shinjuku Loft
ට  Day 14 – Friday, Nov 04 2022 – Shinjuku, Hanazono/Asakusa Tori no Ichi, Sensōji
ට  Day 15 – Saturday, Nov 05 2022 – Nagano, Zenkōji
ට  Day 16 – Sunday, Nov 06 2022 – Ueda Sanada Matsuri, Ueda City, Sanada Shrine
ට  Day 17 – Monday, Nov 07 2022 – Zenkōji, Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward
ට  Day 18 – Tuesday, Nov 08 2022 – Otsu, Omi Jingu
ට  Day 19 – Wednesday, Nov 09 2022 – Fushimi Inari, Kashoji, Tofukuji, Shōrinji
ට  Day 20 – Thursday, Nov 10 2022 – Ohara, Sanzenin, Arashiyama
ට  Day 21 – Friday, Nov 11 2022 – Kiyomizu, Ryōzen Kannon, Yasaka Shrine
ට  Day 22 – Saturday, Nov 12 2022 – Heian Raku Ichi Market, Osaka, Juso
ට  Day 23 – Sunday, Nov 13 2022 – Sukunahikona Shrine, Namba
ට  Day 24 – Monday, Nov 14 2022 – Kobe (with Ran)
ට  Day 25 – Tuesday. Nov 15 2022 – Maibara, Toyosato, Nagoya
ට  Day 26 – Wednesday, Nov 16 2022 – Osu, Banshōji, Naka
ට  Day 27 – Thursday, Nov 17 2022 – Obara Shikizakura Festival, Rurikozanyakushi
ට  Day 28 – Friday, Nov 18 2022 – Okayama, Kurashiki (You are here)

Leaving Nagoya

Writing this a few days later from Tokyo — I had fallen in love with a certain drink while at Nagoya — I’m not sure if the first instance of the drink I had found was from Nagoya, or if it was Osaka, but from the best sleuthing I can do from my receipts and logs and pictures, it was Nagoya. Oddly, receipts occasionally omit the bought items and only give a pre-tax and post-tax total price sometimes. Kind of a useless receipt. Anyway, the drink is the Maroyaka Banana & Milk drink — there’s a strawberry & milk version too but I like banana milk quite a bit in general and this drink is a really nice version of it. Also cheap, I’ve seen it going for about 80 to about 120 yen or so, depending on shop. Oddly though, I haven’t been able to find it since I left Nagoya at all — I didn’t try particularly hard in Okayama, but I have been trying in Tokyo, and have been completely drawing blanks thus far in every supermarket, convenience store, and vending machine that I’ve looked at. Very weird. I had made my last plastic bottle of this drink (of four, three banana and one intermediate strawberry) my primary water bottle that I refill with hotel room water and drag along with me from place to place, just so I remember what it looks like.

Why is this here? It’s an eulogy for the drink in honour of my leaving Nagoya, in case I never find it again. Maybe I’ll make someone else go there and buy a bunch for me some day. Though upon Googling, it seems to possibly be available in Singapore and elsewhere too. Just possibly not Tokyo.

Anyway, I checked out of Osu in Nagoya and went to the city of Okayama, the capial city of Okayama Prefecture, today. There were several reasons that I had picked this little city to come to out of all the choices that I still had, and the first was this Airbnb that I had found a few days ago, at the start of the Nagoya leg of my trip, and signed up for. Two days at a rural family home with a kindly couple and their pets sounded like a good time. Just like Akira in Kyoto, this one was located far away enough from a train station that they said to let me know when I was at Okayama Station, and they would arrange to pick me up from one of the nearby local stations. Similarly, whenever I wanted to leave and explore, they’d be happy to drop me off at one of the stations. As this was a personal house, I didn’t want to disturb them too early before checkin, and I said that I would walk around Okayama a little after arriving from Nagoya before contacting them to pick me up. Before all that though, I had to actually pack up and get there.

In the morning, I had my leftover rice and curry so that I wouldn’t have to bring any of that along with me for breakfast. The curry was excellent, even though it was just a supermarket packet from a couple of days ago.

Up until this point, I had not managed to get my goshuin from the Osu Kannon Temple near my apartment yet, even though I had wandered past it a couple times already. As it was the temple that I had walked through and marvelled at when I first arrived in Nagoya, I definitely wanted to get one from here on my way out in the morning, and so I went that way. Lo and behold, I found a random handicrafts market waiiting for me when I arrived.

It was about a quarter of the size of the Heian Raku Ichi Market, the one I visited on my last day in Kyoto, and I didn’t spend a ton of time here, but I did walk through it and it was interesting to browse. Among other things, someone had a pile of something that looked like old newspapers or booklets or comics that would have interested me if I were a local living near there. Must scan and upload the world.

Anyway, I went up the stairs to the main temple to get my goshuin, which was apparently the wrong place for it as the booth up there was closed — I was pointed toward and then led down the stairs to one of the secondary buildings on the ground floor where there was a room with a couple of monk initiates in there penning goshuin for visitors who wandered in. I got mine without much fuss and then left through the market.

A little while area, I arrived back at Nagoya Station and got my usual bento to eat on the bullet train.

It was a Kurobuta Tonkatsu Mentai Ekiben, or a black pork cutlet and pollack roe train bento. Or something like that. It was about average, and way too pricey like every other ekiben I had had.

This was my first time on a Hikari train, although it was functionally identical to the Kodama train that I had taken here to Nagoya in the first place. I had an aisle seat, but I learnt that on these JR West bullet trains, as opposed to the JR East ones (Asama, Hakutaka, etc), there was only one single power outlet per seat cluster, and it was for the window seat, which meant that I didn’t have an outlet to charge my laptop or phone with since there was a guy in the window seat and he warea.as using it. I survived since the journey wasn’t that long, but I learnt the value of the window seat here, even though on airplanes and such I always pick an aisle seat where possible.

Okayama

I soon arrived in Okayama. Ignore the digital signboards in the photo, my phone does not pick them up well sometimes (especially since I had to replace the casing and camera after the USA trip.. I think the replacement that the company used is a bit suspect since it introduced a few new problems like this occasionally)

This was to become a station that I would be extremely well acquainted with, but for now I walked through the station and out, lugging my bags along with me.

I saw a very cute streetcar outside while I was crossing the road to an interesting looking area.

Very nice. I walked around for a bit, glancing about at the shops and noting that my phone wouldn’t pick up digital signs on buses here either (although sometimes it works once I point the camera at the sign and leave it there for a bit… sometimes it just works straight away though, but it didn’t here for some reason)

I now knew the name Aeon well, so I found an Aeon Mall Okayama shopping mall next to the train station and went into that. This was a 6 storey monstrosity that was very clean, trendy, and shiny. The first level had an open area where a Christmas tree as well as some sort of stage was set up — in future days I would also see some sort of calligraphy or drawing event taking place here. The second to fifth levels had a ring of shops and a main cascade of escalators around the central area, and then a side area with more shops and escalators. The sixth level had an outdoor rooftop garden! I walked around the mall a bit, taking the opportunity to put my bags down and rest in the serenity of the rooftop garden. There was a cat café I passed on the 6th floor that had a photo lineup of all their cats in the café, so I took a picture of that too. Then, a little later on, I met someone giving away free packs of tissues with an ad for the cat café in the tissue packs, and I got one of those too. I thought it was serendipitous.

To my Airbnb house

I then returned to the train station and told my host, Shuji, that I was at the station and ready to take the local line to get picked up. Although there were a couple of available options as to which train to take, between local and limited express trains, they were all apparently irregular enough that Shuji consulted a schedule and told me exactly what time the train I needed to take would arrive, and I went off to queue for it. After stabilizing the phone for a couple of seconds, this signboard now captured just fine. Even the scrolling text. Or maybe that’s just because I was closer now.

Tea for 170 and 190 yen is overdoing it just a tad.

I took the JR Marine Liner train from Okayama Station to Chayamachi Station. A very cool-sounding train name, and most importantly a free train for me thanks to my JR Pass.

I think these trains had reserved seats too, but I never really looked into them to know if they were also free to reserve with the JR Pass. Or rather, they were Green Car seats, which are the premium carriage ones, I believe, sort of like flying premium economy or business class on an airplane. So it’s not so much reserved as that one need to pay extra for them or pay for the Green Car version of the JR Pass, which I did not opt for.

Chayamachi Station was nice, except the signboards looked like they were written in alien script again thanks to my phone camera.

Instead of Shuji waiting for me there though, his wife, Noriko, was there to pick me up instead. She was super friendly as she guided me to her car and helped me dump my luggage into the back. Her English wasn’t very good, but she was actively learning and wanting to practice it, and over the next two days, we would talk a fair amount in both English and Japanese, combining her desire to practice English and my desire to practice Japanese. Otagai ni, she said. Mutually helping each other!

The house was located on the outskirts of Kurashiki in Okayama, about a 10 minute drive from the station, down quiet side roads and a few worrying turns. I met Shuji back at the house, as well as their dog, Melon (possibly just Melo), and their two cats, Hanako and Taro. They had told me to buy some bentos for dinner before calling for pickup, which I did, as there were no easy places around the house to get food from. And their tradition was to eat dinner together at the dinner table at 6:00 pm (and breakfast between 7:30 am to 9:00 am) — together included me, and often also included their pets hanging around and watching us, so this felt very much like i was being welcomed into their family.

Melon was apparently a rescued dog of some sort (from the vet?), and would growl at me a lot, especially on the first day, and especially when I was upstairs in my guest room and he could not see me, and could only hear me. Only Hanako ever came upstairs — she actually came into my guest room and cuddled on the super-fluffy blanket several times. The other two stayed downstairs and I only ever really met them around the breakfast or dinner table. Tigey met Hanako on the banisters by the stairs leading down from the second floor on the first night, and Tigey quickly learnt that Hanako loved batting Tigey down onto the stairs from the banister where I placed him.

These are some of the pictures (minus GPS info) of the house that I took on the first night.

I gave the box of Nagoyan sweets to Shuji and Noriko and they seemed to be very pleased with that. They apparently liked sweets, especially Shuji. I also learnt that the Nagoyans were sponge cakes — I had no idea what they actually were from the packaging or the supermarket, they could have been porcelain ningyo or kokeshi dolls for all I knew, but they let me try one of the cakes too. Not bad. Although I had bought bentos, they plied me with various small dishes of food as well, and a couple of cookies and other snacks for dessert. I even had a small cup of some sort of alcohol.

I really like the style of meal where there are little bowls of side dishes, and that’s what they did here, with a couple bowls of vegetables and tofu on the left to complement my bento boxes on the right, and several more dishes in the center of the table that I could take bits from that were shared between all three of us. The cats watched us as we ate, and Melon begged very hard for food and put his snout on my lap, but to no avail. I chatted a lot with Noriko in particular, who was like a very friendly auntie, and would often translate things from English to Japanese for Shuji once she understood them. I thought this was a bit weird at first because reviews had said that Shuji was the one that was good at English, and he did indeed sometimes pipe in with bits of conversation in both Japanese and English but it was Noriko that mostly did the talking, and our conversation was done in about 75% Japanese and 25% English or so.

After dinner, I went up to my room and huddled in there for the night. I read and scanned all the guestbooks — the family used to be bigger, with a grandfather and grandmother and also a young man who had apparently since moved out. They had been welcoming Airbnb guests and also acted as a host family for incoming short-term students for many years and had all sorts of grateful notes and postcards and things from them. i’m not sure if I’m going to ever post these guestbooks though as they aren’t meant to be public and do contain lots of personal information, very different from the other public anime pilgrimage ones I’ve scanned so far. Maybe someday I’ll do a heavily edited and redacted version.

The room was really cozy — the outside corridors got really cold at night but as long as I kept the door shut my room was toasty with the heater on. I had taken the day of, but had received work tickets anyway (meant for Monday) so I decided to work on those to get a head start on them, then did a bit of blogging before falling right asleep.

Shinkansen Running Total

I have a 21-day JR Pass that kicked in on Nov 05 and should last until the end of my trip on Nov 25. It cost $568 CAD, which cost around 61,769.08 yen, as per Google as of the first writing of this section. So I was curious and wanted to keep a running total — was this thing actually worth it?

That’s what I hope to find out with this section. For the full explanation blurb on this, check this corresponding section of the Day 15 blog post.

Trips

ට  Nov 05 2022 – Asama 611 (Tokyo to Nagano) – U: 7810, R: 8340
ට  Nov 06 2022 – Hakutaka 556 (Nagano to Ueda) – U: 1470, R: 2790
ට  Nov 06 2022 – Asama 615 (Ueda to Nagano) – U: 1470, R: 2790
ට  Nov 07 2022 – Kagayaki 509 (Nagano to Kanazawa) – 8920 (reserved seats only)
ට  Nov 07 2022 – Thunderbird 24 (Kanazawa to Kyoto) – U: 6490, R: 6820
ට  Nov 08 2022 – JR Kosei Line (Kyoto to Otsukyo) – 240 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 08 2022 – JR Kosei Line (Otsukyo to Kyoto) – 240 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 08 2022 – JR Nara Line (Kyoto to Inari) – 150 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 08 2022 – JR Nara Line (Inari to Kyoto) – 150 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 09 2022 – JR Nara Line (Tofukuji to Kyoto) – 150 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 10 2022 – JR Sanin/Sagano Line (Saga-Arashiyama to Kyoto) – 240 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 12 2022 – Super Hakuto 7 (Kyoto to Osaka) – U: 1230, R: 1760
ට  Nov 15 2022 – Kodama 720 (Shin-Osaka to Maibara) – U: 4510, R: 4840
ට  Nov 15 2022 – Kodama 748 (Maibara to Nagoya) – U: 3100, R: 3430
ට  Nov 18 2022 – Hikari 505 (Nagoya to Okayama) – U: 10550, R: 11080
ට  Nov 18 2022 – JR Marine Liner 45 (Okayama to Chayamachi) – 240 (unreserved seats only)

Running Total

Unreserved: 46,960 yen
Reserved: 52,180 yen

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