The one really wonderful thing about this trip is the stay in the machiya. Machiya are the small, traditional houses in Japan. They include wooden floors, low ceilings, and tatami mats on the floors. The space is small, but the feel is remarkable. The smell of the wood, the close quarters make for a real sense of being together on the trip and sharing an experience of the people and culture of Japan. Now, I’m not saying that we’ve made any breakthroughs in human communication; I am saying that by living in a Japanese neighborhood and in the community we visit, we gain an understanding and appreciation of the lives of people living here.
So, we shop at the local market (Happy Roiichiji) each morning for our breakfast meal. We buy the fresh food that is available on that day and adjust when what we had the day before is no longer in stock.
We watch the elementary school children walk to school in small family groups each day. We have seen the same people on the streets each morning and afternoon. In one case, we met a woman coming home from work each day, and today she smiled back at us. These small experiences, I hope, will shape our student’s understanding of the world around them.
As far as our adventures around the city are concerned, I booked a walking tour and we walked for hours in 90 degree heat to little known spots in the city. While the sights were interesting and the tour took is to a variety of out of the way spots, our guide, while very kind, was not as knowledgeable as we would like.
By the late afternoon, we were exhausted and , instead of giving in, pushed all the way to the steep climb up to Kiyomizu Temple. The walk from Gojodori up to the temple was long and filled with excited school children. Since we are fast approaching the end of their school year, many schools have field trips to Kyoto. Groups of elementary school students asked many of us questions to practice their English.
Some folks, like Layla, were surrounded by groups of kids eager to test their language skills….check out the photos; they speak for themselves.
Finally, we headed back into town and went on a food run to find something yummy to eat; because the group is large for Japanese restaurants, we had to divide and conquer. One group joined me for Okonomiyaki….a specialty food from this part of Japan….these potato pancakes are tasty!