Tony picked us up at the Tainan High Speed Rail Station and we immediately set off on a drive for the hills. He handed us each a rice ball filled with some pickled vegetables, a local favorite breakfast, and a bottle of water. Driving towards the hills we had time to get acquainted. High in the hills the sky was a beautiful blue looking down on the grey smoggy haze covering Tainan. Tony explained that one of his favorite things to do is to drive up high above the smog and drink a cup of his local favorite coffee. Conveniently, that is one of my favorite things to do as well!
The Dragon and Tiger of Lotus Pond
It was getting late so I was relieved that we were in time to tour the Dragon Tiger Tower. Dragon Tiger Tower is a temple consisting of a pair of colorful and modern pagodas looming over Lotus Pond. The dragon’s throat is the entrance and the lion’s mouth is the exit. Entering a dragon’s throat and coming out a lion’s mouth symbolizes turning bad luck to good fortune. Inside, paintings depict China’s 24 most obedient sons as well as scenes of heaven and hell to inspire people to do good deeds during their lifetime, and to provide threatening examples of retribution for wrongdoing.
Aliens have landed in Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Six hours after arrival in Kaohsiung we discover our lodging is on the seventh floor of a slum apartment building where you really don’t want to walk barefoot! Laurie, in her most loving way possible, told me we were going back to the airport, period! We managed to get the phone fixed at the airport, reserved a new place to stay, and raced to the metro to catch the very last train of the night! We arrived at Drum Fang at 1AM. Twenty hours into our journey.
Kawasaki Lets the Good Times Roll!
While in Kawasaki we had the opportunity to go to our first onsen. An onsen is a traditional Japanese bath fed from a hot spring. The onsen we went to is called Shirakunoyu. There is a proper way to utilize an onsen. The naked part is easy for me, its the unspoken rules and etiquette that can be a little intimidating. We managed just fine. We both felt so much better after soaking for over an hour.
Surfing Tokyo for Tacos!
You see Tokyo is not necessarily world renowned for its tacos! Yes, there are Taco Bells, but local grocery stores do not stock taco shells, refried beans, seasonings, salsa, sour cream and other needed ingredients. I decided that I would need to locate an international market. Online I located Seiko Ishii market next to Shibuya station. Seemed simple enough. Wrong!!! After Laurie and I finished our time at the Meiji Jingo Festival (see last post) I convinced Laurie that we should hop on the train to run an errand that was only three stations away. She had wanted to check out a store called Uniqlo for a light night gown. Unfortunately every where we look all the stores carry is winter fashions as Tokyo gets quite cold in the winter and Uniqlo was no exception. This is where I should have called it a day. We were already wiped from a long day but we were so close to the Seijo Ishii market. Just hop on the train and go one station.
Emperor for a Day!
We started our time in Tokyo by going to the Meiji Jingu Autumn Grand Festival. On November 3rd, the 163rd anniversary of the birthday of Emperor Meiji, the present Emperor sends an Imperial Messenger with his offerings to Meiji Jingu’s solemn Shinto ceremony. In the course of the celebration, Japanese traditional performing arts such as Bugaku, Ｎoh, Kyogen, and ancient Japanese martial arts are presented in honour of the deities. Meiji Jingu is a Shinto shrine. Emperor Meiji passed away in 1912 and Empress Shoken in 1914. After their demise, people wished to commemorate their virtues and to venerate them forever. So they donated 100,000 trees from all over Japan and from overseas, and created an amazing forest in the middle of Tokyo. It is one of the most beautiful parks we have ever seen! This is a very special festival so the park was packed. Even so it remained tranquil!
This is where the Magic Happened: A Blast from the Past in Yokosuka, Japan
I was born on the United States Naval Base in Yokosuka, Japan and moved to Walnut Creek, California when I was three years old. I really remember very little of my early years here. Really just a few snapshots in my mind and stories I have heard over the years. One such story is that my very first word as a little boy was “Godzilla”. Apparently I loved to watch Godzilla movies! It was very important to me that on this trip I touch ground in Yokosuka, meeting Godzilla in Yokosuka was an added bonus. Godzilla in Japanese is “Gojira” and there is a huge Gojira replica at the Kurihama Flower World in Yokosuka. This is where the movie “Godzilla Returns” was filmed and marks the spot where Godzilla emerged from the ocean and began his reign of terror!