Thursday, April 23, 2009 ;
9:02 AM
We actually stayed at Uzumasa till closing time. After the announcements that they were closing soon, we went to return the strollers and walked out. Along the way, we passed by a farmer's market, so we bought some fresh fruits (apples, really red juicy sweet strawberries).

Then when we reached the junction where the bus stop was opposite, we saw a huge supermarket (looked like a chain store). I told Dh we have to stock up on snacks, and buy both ds some dinner, since we did not order for child meals at this ryokan.

In we went, and I think I went crazy shopping for all the different beautiful snacks. Poor Dh was bored after a while and snapped many pictures of us browsing.

I think maybe I bought 10000 different types of Japanese crackers, various forms and flavours.
Some wrapped with seaweed, some with cheese and almond and some local specialties eg the cinnamon sesame seed crackers. And since it is not in the city center or touristy place, the prices are very low.

At the bus stop, we saw these tracts hanging on the post and realised they were probably about Christianity. We can't read Japanese but some of the words are in kanji. Interesting.

That's the supermarket, taken from the bus stop. Notice all the bicycles parked outside? Japanese ride a lot too. But the thing that amazes us, and that we're not used to seeing in China, is that they all ride to the supermarket, park their bikes next to each other, and then go in to shop!

They DON'T LOCK the bikes. Dh was so amazed, he stood there for a while to observe if it was true of everyone or just the one we just witnessed. It was true, every bike was not locked, and we saw a few more ladies arrive who did the same thing.

Now, either they are careless or they live in a society that is gracious and with integrity?

Dh so hopes he can do the same here in Tianjin. He already has 2 bikes stolen. Both were locked and double locked. One of them a motorised tricycle for carrying goods. Stolen at Home Depot, Tianjin. The other was stolen within a housing estate in Hedong district. He lent the bicycle to a girl from church, because she was here to find a job and did not have transport. She locked it together with other bikes when she reached home. Just a few hours later, she couldn't find it anymore.

Friends here had their entire handbags stolen while they were shopping, wallets stolen as well.

In Singapore, when I parked my bicycle at the MRT station, and locked it there, I had the front and back lamps of the bike unscrewed and stolen. At least the lock was not cut and my bike was still intact, but still, I would not leave my bike outside a supermarket unlocked in Singapore either.

You may say, they (the thieves) are poor and destitute maybe? But somehow, I think, for myself, and for my kids whom I have repeatedly taught, we will not steal other people's things even if we really like it or if we don't have money. If my kids are starving and have nothing to eat, we'll ask for help. If we have no shelter, we will ask for help too. It is just not right to steal.

And check out this covered scooter. Dh's brother (my bro-in-law) has this same scooter. He does attract a lot of attention when he rides it in Singapore. It's more common here.

Once we got on the bus, ds2 conked out. He slumped forward and his head just stayed there the rest of the journey (abt 30min?). It wasn't a comfortable position but I didn't want to wake him, so I let him be. Taking buses are quite expensive there, compared to Singapore. Average 220 yen (US$2.20) per ride. But it is very user friendly and it's easy to know how much to pay at the end of the trip because there is an electronic display in front of the bus that states the stops and the fares.

We also love the bus stops which tell you in real time, which buses will arrive next and what times each bus will arrive. So easy to plan ahead.

The staff were attentive and often did a lot of extra things out of their own initiative. The kids were given drinks even though they had no meals. They were given cutlery and bowls so they can eat off us and eat the things we bought for them. No one frowning and telling us we cannot bring food from outside. We didn't bring a lot, maybe. Most were in the room.

Our own food was arranged so beautifully, and they put a sign covering the food. With that kind of atmosphere, I suddenly felt so relaxed and happy!

I like the way they put edible or fragrant leaves and flowers into each dish as decoration. Really enhances the taste, smell, sight of the dish and stimulates all the senses in eating.

Bamboo holder coated in some stone material? Something like beancurd and some roe on top. Salty in taste, so not a dessert for sure. :-)

Glutinous rice wrapped in cherry tree leaf. Some rice cakes at the side. Salty in taste too, so again, not a dessert? Sorry, I don't know the names to everything!

This is the hot pot soup or "konabe". The fluted aluminium allows the soup to boil merrily and effectively. The soup was very tasty, but I was very wary of the white convoluted mass inside, because it looked like some animal's brains, until Dh asked the lady staff and she said it was the eggs of some animal. It wasn't very clear though because she didn't speak much English. So I just tried some and left the rest. The soup and mushrooms I did clear. :-)

All the sashimi.

A dish with seasonal ingredients from the sea, they call it.

Some variations of sushi?

A tofu dish with fresh bamboo shoots, and silver fish?

A brief menu description. But we still didn't know many of the ingredients. We usually eat in faith. haha. Japanese cuisine is very pleasing to the eyes, definitely

After dinner, we decided we had to go to the public bath in the ryokan, otherwise it is not really a Japanese immersion. However, after reading the rules and etiquette, I still decided maybe I'd take my private bath in my private shower. Somehow, I cannot bring myself to do this:
"Please do not take a bath with your underwear on."

And it was a public bath. We had to remove everything we had on, shower at the sides, and then enter the bath.

I read all about how communal baths are great for catching up, chatting and relaxation. I read why they likes public baths instead of small private ones. Because public baths are built much bigger, they feel much more relaxed having a big environment to bathe in.

Also, they feel that since the hot water soaks and melts away all the tension, people are very relaxed and happy in the bath. So they are likely to have deep meaningful conversations that further cheer everyone up.

I understand all of that. But in the end, still don't dare to do it... :-) I did highly encourage Dh and the kids to do it though, but even Dh is not that comfortable being totally naked with others. haha.

The showers at the side. We did take pics of the bath but thought better not post it here. It's still private in a way, I guess.

In our room, there is a shoe rack with all our slippers when we arrived. We were pleasantly surprised to find all our sizes fitting! I only made reservations with the kids' ages, but not ours. They must have just assumed. Maybe for Caucasian-sounding names, they will place larger-sized slippers? The kids' ones are so cute.

Our room maid told us we can wear the slippers anywhere in the ryokan. In fact, it is recommended that we don't wear our shoes at all. We have to feel at home, she says.

We enjoyed the cinnamon cookies and the yatsu-hashi (traditional Kyoto specialties that the ryokan lets us sample) so much that we did go to the stores the next day to buy a lot of them home! We also drank a lot of green tea, and ate them together with the punnets of strawberries we bought at the farmer's market earlier! (don't think they are supposed to go together, but who cares, both are yummy, and we didn't get a tummy upset)

And look at some of the snacks I bought at the supermarket. When I saw the "Collon" cream-filled cylindrical biscuits, suddenly a lot of childhood memories came rushing back! My parents used to buy a lot of that for me. And then it kind of disappeared and I never saw them again.

My kids hadn't eaten that before, so I hurriedly bought 2 boxes. I loved them so much, I only gave my kids one biscuit each, and I ate ALL the rest. I am still shocked at myself now. Dh didn't even get to eat any. Not that he minded. Oh no!

We drank a LOT of Japanese milk too. Because of last year's melamine in milk scare, I had cut down our family's dairy intake drastically. We stopped drinking milk for a long time and then slowly drank only a little. In Japan, we kind of gorged ourselves silly with milk products. And the milk is delicious too.

I sampled all the yatsuhashi flavours. Normal red or green bean paste, apple filling, black sesame filling... Loved them all.

We then had so much fun with the yukatas the ryokan provided for us in the closet. This time the sizes were not so fitting. They did put in the note that if it doesn't fit, we can call the front desk but we didn't use it for bathing, only for posing and being silly, so it didn't matter. My yukata was far too big and ds1's was too small and short. ds2's was just right.

Somehow the kids felt like they were samurai warriors when they wore it. The moment it was on, they kept fighting and playing "kungfu" games.

The kids' yukatas were much nicer than ours, right? Theirs had cute animal prints, like giraffes, lions, zebras...

Then there were jackets for everyone too. The adults had brown ones. The kids had navy blue ones that made them look even smarter!

Naturally, they asked for the shurikens they bought at the theme park earlier, and started throwing them at each other. Later, we directed them to aim at a spot on the wall, else they might just get hurt or knock some vase off!

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

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