Kami Watch Over Me (Japan Day 29 – Okayama)

Saturday, Nov 19 2022 (Day 29)

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
ට  Day 29 – Saturday, Nov 19 2022 – Kyoto (with Xuanjie), Autumn Okayama Momotaro Festival (You are here)

So after five days in the Kyoto area, two more in Osaka, one in Kobe, three in Nagoya, and one in Okayama, I spend my second day in Okayama.. going back to Kyoto?

The backstory for this is that while I was walking through Aeon Mall Okayama the day before, my phone was buzzing madly because someone from my Dunman High group chat (with most of the people from my Secondary 1 and 2 years) had mentioned that he was in Japan currently, and then someone else chimed in that they were too, and then a third person saying that he would be there late next week — this was on top of me and Yaoxiang, who had already planned to meet later on in my trip. Our schedules didn’t work out to meet up anyway for the most part, we were largely just laughing over the fact that so many of us — 5 of 28 — were in or about to be in Japan for some reason, and if we had coordinated our times better then maybe more of us could have met up anyway.

In particular, one of the people that was in Japan was Xuanjie, who was arriving in Tokyo in the late afternoon on the 19th, and leaving Tokyo for Singapore in the morning on the 20th. He had offered to meet anyone if our schedules matched. With my JR Pass, I figured I could abuse free tickets and relatively short travel times on the bullet train to go meet him in Tokyo, but it didn’t quite work out like that — Okayama was three hours and change from Tokyo, and I would have had to abandon what I wanted to do on both the 19th and 20th as well as the second night at Shuji and Noriko‘s home, in order to make this work. We hadn’t seen each other in 24 years, but that was still a lot of upheaval for a meeting. Did I really miss my old friends THAT much?

Thankfully there was a better answer that came to me on the rooftop garden in Aeon Mall Okayama — instead of meeting him in Tokyo after his train there tomorrow, I realized that his train was from Kyoto, which was only about a 70 minute ride from Okayama. Much more doable. This would mean an early morning ride there, and then meeting Xuanjie (and his girlfriend) for lunch before they left for Tokyo, at which point I would also return to Okayama. Much more doable! Their train was slated to leave a little after 1 pm, so we planned to meet at around 10:45 am near Kyoto Station, after they checked out for their hotel.

Breakfast at Shuji‘s

The next morning, I awoke at something like 4:00 am, fell asleep again, then woke up a second time at 7:00. While doing my morning wake-up routine, I made a mental note of how clever these toilets were.

This was the second place with a toilet I’ve seen bult like this, whereby after the toilet is flushed, the water to refill the toilet tank comes in via a tap, which lets you wash your hands there too in lieu of a sink, since a lot of Japanese homes and hotels have the toilet and shower area separated for some reason.

Anyway, here are a few pictures of cats and dogs. This is Hanako coming to check in on me in the morning.

She didn’t want to follow me down for breakfast at first, so I was a little worried that she was going to mangle Tigey while I was gone, but he turned out fine in the end. Downstairs, Taro had taken Hanako’s spot on the table.

And occasionally went over to Noriko to try to get hugs as well.

Melon was also around, slinking between the chairs and hoping for stray human snacks.

He would put his snout on my lap as I was eating, but would pull away when I reached my hand out to him. Tsundere.

This was the breakfast that Noriko provided, completely free of charge, a potpourri of little dishes to eat with a small bowl of rice. Pickled cucumbers and carrots, shredded daikon, miso souip, and many weird and wonderful things that I couldn’t actually name. The eggs were really, really nice, and she said she’d make them again tomorrow.

To Kyoto

After breakfast, Noriko took me to Hayashima Station. There were three stations within driving range, and although I had arrived at Chayamachi Station aboard the JR Marine Liner the day before, today I caught the JR Marine Liner from Hayashima Station, which was one stop “closer” to Okayama Station. The Marine Liner doesn’t always stop at that station though, it sometimes skips it, but it did this time (and on my return trip), and Shuji and Noriko knew this from the train schedule, which they were always well on top of. For me, it was just a fun new station, one of dozens that I had visited now on this whirlwind trip.

It was an unmanned station with just a little automated gate that one could walk around. The gate could process tickets or IC cards to denote that this was the station that the passenger boarded the train from, so that they could pay the appropriate amount when getting off, but the JR Pass didn’t exactly need any processing. There wasn’t even a way to insert the card when exiting the station through that gate, only boarding.

I went to book my tickets at Okayama Station, and found that the earliest train that was covered by the JR Pass would involve a transfer at Shin-Kobe Station, and would dump me off at Kyoto Station at 11:02 am, a little after our agreed upon meeting time at 10:45. That was apparently okay though, as they were arriving in Kyoto Station with luggage in tow and needed some time to find lockers to put their suitcases in.

I didn’t take any pictures of the trip there, nor did I buy a bento to eat on the way, since I was literally going to Kyoto to have lunch. I did, however, bring along my laptop, and my power brick, though this time I used my backpack instead of my shoulder sling bag so that I would be able to store the entire laptop in it. This was the one and only outing on my vacation where I used my backpack instead of my sling bag. And this time, I knew to book window seats on both trains on the way there.

Once I reached Kyoto Station, I texted Xuanjie, who said he was waiting outside a store named The Cube out the center/western shinkansen gates of the station. I went to that store and looked around — nothing. Puzzled, I went back to wait by the shinkansen gates, he came over to pick me up, and on the way back to where his girlfriend was waiting, we found out that there were two different branches of that The Cube store less than a minute’s walk away from each other. How weird! We had a good laugh over that.

I was delighted to see Xuanjie again and I assumed the feeling was mutual. We chatted a bit as we walked back to where his girlfriend was, and I was introduced to her — she was Sara (I think, unsure if there’s a H on the end..), and I would learn over lunch that Xuanjie was in the gaming industry and Sara was trying to break into it. Sara was here because her current company had sent her here for a temporary posting, and Xuanjie had come to meet her for a short week-long vacation and then go back to Singapore together after that.

We couldn’t find a restaurant in the attached mall to eat at that didn’t look like it was going to take prohibitively long for us to get in due to queues, since Xuanjie and Sara were on a timer to get onto their train, so we ended up walking out of the malls and crossing a road to a little ramen bar called Jiro Ramen to eat at instead. I was able to more or less translate the entire menu, which did make me happy. I ate the one thing I couldn’t fully translate — the top item on the right row, which turned out to be a Chicken Nanban Set Meal or something. I realized later after comparing daily spending logs and photo analysis that the meal had cost 950 yen, but I only paid 900 yen back to Xuanjie, who footed the total bill for us. Or rather, I gave him 1000 yen but he gave me back 100 yen instead of 50 yen, so now I owe him 50 cents. Phooey.

We had a nice, long chat over lunch, although it was not nearly long enough to ask all the things I wanted to ask after two decades. I did, at some point, ask about this astronomy camp incident though, and Xuanjie did confirm that he dimly remembered the event, but not much more about it, nor who the third person was. He wasn’t even sure if it was his house at first, but eventually came to the conclusion that it probably was. I had apparently already also come to the same conclusion on my blog, but I had actually forgotten what that conclusion was while in-person with him, so I’m glad that our thoughts on that matter lined up in the end.

Sara was surprised that we were classmates from that long ago, and surprised that we were the same age in general, since she said I looked a lot younger than Xuan did. Hehe! That was probably only due to me dying my hair black to hide the multitude of white strands though. Also, Xuanjie now wore glasses — that was a surprise to me, because he always had perfect eyesight when I knew him. Conversely, it was a surprise to Sara that he didn’t used to wear them, since she only knew him from a time period long after he had already started wearing them. I think it was said that they had known each other for about 5 years, whereas Xuanjie found his eyesight deteoriating in Pre-U or something like that. Definitely after I left and before he was enlisted to join the army.

After lunch, we went out so Sara could deposit a postcard to the mailbox in the local Japan Post building, and then we took a picture with what we assume was the post office’s mascot, on top of a mailbox outside the store.

Tigey had his day in the sun there, too. He met (and touched) both Sara and Xuanjie.

After that, they both had to leave to catch their shinkansen to Tokyo, and I abused my JR Pass, which allowed me free entry into the shinkansen paid area, and followed them all the way onto the train platform, and saw them off as they entered the train. How very anime. Though it’s an interesting sidenote on how characters in anime do it — they aren’t allowed to get the JR Pass, and thus don’t have a free way of getting past the paid gates when running after their childhood friend/long lost love/sensei/crush/whoever that’s leaving on the bullet train to meet them on the platform just before the bullet train leaves, as far as I know. Maybe they can use an IC card, and then explain it to the station staff afterwards to get out of the paid area for free, but I’m not sure. (One usually cannot tap out of the same station after using an iC card without staff intervention — it is possible with the JR Pass though).

I noticed that because they didn’t have JR Passes, they went for one of the faster train that the JR Pass didn’t cover, the Nozomi train. They even went for the slightly more expensive Green Car option. They might not have had a choice, since they specifically needed two adjacent back row seats for those with oversized luggage, of which there were only five per train carriage, although the slower trains usually had plenty of spots this time of year.

Anyway, once I saw them off, I went out and bought my own ticket home, then bought a small bento and eyed this vending machine.

I needed to take a picture so that I could figure out what it was much later on — it apparently was yatsuhashi, some sort of local confection souvenir. I didn’t buy it.

My bento box was a 2022 Unagi Sobaro Bento or something like that, and looked like this:

Overpriced at 1299 yen, but with lots of meat (and apparently rice underneath the meat too), and the noodles looked real good. I snacked on that in stages on my direct train to Okayama, because I was uncertain about dinner plans that night.

So many empty seats from Kyoto to Osaka to Okayama.

Autumn Okayama Momotaro Festival

Now that I was back in Okayama, the second reason I had visited Okayama at this time was for a particular festival that was going on, the Autumn Okayama Momotaro Festival being held at Okayama Castle. What can I say? It sounded interesting.

To actually get to the Okayama Castle area, I found out that I had to take the colourful streetcar that I had seen yesterday, for three stops. This was called the Okayama Electric Railway. It’s a little tram that runs on rails right on the road itself, and there were many other patterns on them besides the Okaden Chuggington one I had seen yesterday. This one, for example, was the one that I rode on.

To actually board it, I just stood in line with everyone else at the streetcar station.

The payment method for this was exactly the same as a train or bus — board by the back door, take a ticket (if needed, no need if getting on at the first stop), and pay the fare when getting off. There was a board at the streetcar stop saying how much it would cost to get to another particular station from there — 120 yen in my case. It also accepted Suica cards, but mine errored out because it was low on funds (so much so it couldn’t even cover 120 yen, heh). The streetcar was packed, and I barely squeezed on at the end. This meant that I was standing right by the driver’s seat on the back of the streetcar, for when it was going in the other direction, and I got a photo of that.

I had to pay at the front of the bus before getting off, and I was slightly worried that I wouldn’t be able to reach it before the streetcar closed its doors and moved off since no one got off at the first two stops. I figured half the streetcar would get off at that third stop though since it was the one nearest to the festival, Okayama Castle in general, and a park, Okayama Korakuen. I was wrong. About 80% of the passengers got off there.

There was still a short trek before I reached Okayama Castle. Firstly, the streetcar stop was on an island in the middle of the street, so we had to all filter out of the streetcar and down a set of narrow stairs into an underpass area that had tunnels and stairs sprouting out in every direction to allow people to cross the road in any direction under it. It was actually quite a lovely underground chamber, a hangout spot in its own right.

Following the crowd and the signs, I resurfaced across the road and began walking along the side of the Asahi River toward the castle.

There were a line of stalls set up along the side of the river, although they were not actually part of the main festival area. The stalls here ranged from festival food to slightly more upscale coffee and tea shops. Nearly everyone going to or from the festival walked this way.

Though maybe some floated down the river like Momotaro.

Finally, I arrived at the castle. There were plenty of people taking photos here, ripe for me taking my own photos of them, though I took a couple of the actual castle too.

The actual festival was in a courtyard area behind the castle, but that was no issue, the weather was very pleasant there and it was a beautiful afternoon/evening for a walk. The festival grounds itself wasn’t very big, but it was decently-sized, with about 40ish stalls in all, some devoted to games, some to interesting food and drinks, and several devoted to nearby cities/towns who had stalls and were giving out information packages to try to promote their city as a nice place to live in. There was a caricature drawing stall, a stall where children could pose with a sword for photographs, and even a little train for children that went around and around on a small circular track. There was also a stage, but it looked like all the performances were slated for the morning to mid-afternoon, and they were all over for the day before I got there.

ok my

I had two things to eat here — some Mee Goreng for 350 yen, which I was surprised to see on sale here, and which they gave me extra spice for but which had no effect whatsoever on me, as well as non-alcoholic strawberry amakaze. Amakaze is a traditional fermented rice drink usually drunk during New Year’s, but it was on sale for 450 yen here anyway so I had a cup. It was weird. Wasn’t bad, but wasn’t particularly nice either, and is probably an acquired taste that I don’t have yet.

Besides the festival, there was also the actual castle nearby, and I wandered up the stairs toward it after some time. However, the interior of the castle was a museum of sorts that required an entrance fee that I was unwilling to pay at that point in the evening, as well as a small art and light exhibition.

I basically retraced my steps from there to get home. I was tempted to visit the park across the long bridge from earlier as well, but the sun was setting and it looked like a large park, I would easily have been able to burn an hour and a half in there. Instead, I returned to the streetcar station, and this time got a ticket when getting on because it wasn’t from the first stop. I showed my ticket to the conductor and paid my 120 yen when getting off, like a smooth local.

Back home

I had been told to bring less food back this time as they were also cooking more side dishes for me, so I bought a rice bento for myself, and a small pack of baked potatoes for the three of us, since they were on sale in Aeon Super, the supermarket in Aeon Mall Okayama. It turned out that Shuji was making potato gratin that evening as well, which was wonderful, but also meant that we had a glut of potato dishes. Shuji and Noriko seemed to like the potato either way though. Taro watched over me as I had the gratin.

Hanako was nowhere to be found here, as she had burrowed underneath my blanket upstairs and spent dinner there hanging out with Tigey as he sat on my desk.

Melon was with us and begging for food again, and his rewards eventually paid off.

Noriko and Shuji plied me with food, not just the gratin, but some side dishes for the bento, a sponge cake for a snack, and some tea as well.

Like Akira, they would not let me do any washing up even though I wanted to help them with the dishes.

I told them about my family and Edmonton, and they told me that Okayama, and specifically Kurashiki where they were staying, was a nice area, although about 4 years ago, they were hit particularly hard by the 2018 Japan Floods. Their area wasn’t affected badly, but other parts of Kurashiki less than 30 minutes away from them were one of the hardest-hit in Japan, with water levels that rose all the way up to the roof of two-storey homes. Yikes. If I had more time, I’d have wanted to visit some sort of museum or memorial about that event to see/learn more about it, but time did not permit this.

After that sobering story, I went for a shower, then went to snuggle with Hanako for a bit before working on my blog and then retiring to bed.

Tigey had more or less made up with Hanako too, and the two stared each other down from a distance.

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)
ට  Nov 19 2022 – JR Marine Liner 17 (Hayashima to Okayama) – 240 (unreserved seats only)
ට  Nov 19 2022 – Hikari 574 (Okayama to Shin-Kobe) – U: 5170, R: 5700
ට  Nov 19 2022 – Hikari 504 (Shin-Kobe to Kyoto) – U: 2860, R: 3390
ට  Nov 19 2022 – Hikari 509 (Kyoto to Okayama) – U: 7140, R: 7670
ට  Nov 19 2022 – JR Marine Liner 51 (Okayama to Hayashima) – 240 (unreserved seats only)

Running Total

Unreserved: 62,610 yen
Reserved: 69,420 yen

Previous Entry

Kami Watch Over Me (Japan Day 28)

Next Entry

Kami Watch Over Me (Japan Day 30)

guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments