Ryokan are traditional Japanese lodgings. They are interesting wooden buildings with traditional tatmi-mat rooms and futons for bedding. Ryokan range from ultra-exclusive establishments to reasonable priced places with a homey atmosphere. Ours is expensive and homey, with the option for a breakfast in the morning and a dinner made in your room at night. We will most likely plan for a dinner in our room for one night as it is not inexpensive – – about US$85. But still, it’s the experience of it all makes it seem worthwhile and it will be Thanksgiving, so why not?
Upon arrival at our ryokan, Watazan Ryokan, near the ever elusive Starbuck’s that we have yet to see, we were greeted with a deep bow and an even deeper bow after we bowed back. We were told to select a stick from a container that had a certain color on the bottom of it. Mine was black and so I received a special gift of blotting paper. Susan’s was black and so she received a special gift of a writing pen, much to her excitement because she collects such pens from all over the world – – she has them from every hotel room she has stayed in on this journey and carries them with her. Considering how economically packed she is – – and how organized and pared-down – – it made me laugh when she pulled out fistfuls of pens from all over the world!
We were taken to our room on the 2nd floor by a Western-looking woman fluent in Japanese and dressed in kimono. It was an odd juxtaposition until you heard her speak Japanese! She showed us our ~800 square foot room (!) and described which slippers are worn for which situation: the green ones are to be worn around the hotel only but not in the room, the gray ones with the man/woman figures on them are for the water closet only (and ours is literally a closet). There are other slippers on a shelf for use in our room. She then asked if she could make us tea and describe the hotel to us. We sat at the small table on the floor and watched whilst she made tea! What a delightful room and situation with it’s shoji screens all around, mat flooring, and small table!
We enjoyed our tea and took a look around. Then made a plan for the rest of our evening while Susan “skated” around the room on the smooth mat floor! We decided to take a walk and see what’s around us and then grab a bite to eat. We are a few blocks from the night market, as luck would have it! It’s a wonderful place filled with people dressed-up for the evening, including men in traditional Japanesee gowns and women in traditional garb including the socks with thongs! It’s colorful and beautiful and full of good smells. I plan to go back tonight for more photos. We meandered around and took photos, looked at such things as octopus on a stick, bins of slippers made from beautiful silk, piles of fish, marzipan made from bean curd, etc. It was a lot of fun as I loves me a good night market!
Continually asking one another what we should do next, Susan asked where I was with hunger on a scale from 1-10. Maybe a 5, I said. She wasn’t that hungry either, so we continued to walk. And then suddenly, our hunger o’ meter shot up to 10 when we smelled the most delicious smell coming from a beautiful little door. Looking at the fake food display in the window and smelling the food-smells wafting toward us, we abandoned all other thoughts of doing anything else and slid open the shoji screen and stpped in. Stepped in to paradise! It was a tapenyaki place where the food is cooked on the hot grill on our table. And actually, after receiving a brief lesson about how to cook the food, are instructed to cook it ourselves. I ordered the pancake with shrimp and beef, Susan the vegetable w shrimp, oyster, cuddle fish, and squid. Yum to both! We immediately decided to share whatever we ordered and ordered ourselves each a big bottle of Kirin beer. Heaven, we thought, and snuggled in for a wonderful night cooking, posing for photos, and talking! It was a lot of fun and the food was delicious.
It was important, we learned, to make sure to cook and eat the food appropriately because other the soup-Nazi waiter would say, “No!” or ‘More! More!” when I was too frugal with the sauce (I’m not a sauce person but had no choice but to become one with her around!)
We reminisced about the Antarctic and some of the people we met there and generally re-lived how we met. Through Susan’s blogging I have learned a lot about her and have come to know her friends through Facebook and through comments made on her blog so it seems quite normal to discuss our lives with one anther even though we have never stepped foot into each others’ real lives or homes.
Not feeling the greatest and extremely tired, we headed back to the ryokan where we were greeted with our newly-made up beds on the floor! Tatami are futon mattresses on the ground with duvets on top. We were also given kimono dressing gowns so after the shower of my life (hot water, great pressure and yummy-smelling soaps) I donned the kimono and relaxed in my tatami for the night. Susan stayed up later working on her blog (I blog in the morning, she blogs at night) and then went to bed a bit later. Noticing her stirring in the night I found out that she has come down with an ear ache and is not feeling well at all – – she slept about 3 hours the entire night. So we are postponing our geisha dress-up date for this morning until tomorrow to allow her to sleep in.
I have taken a walk, talked to friends from home, and blogged this morning. It seems as though North Korea has attacked South Korea but I don’t know any details except there were a couple of deaths. Anxious to find out about that since I am only 2 hours’ flight away from Seoul…