Sunday, March 25, 2012

My Very First Japanese Bus Tour

Sakamoto-sensei treated me to a bus tour that took us to the Tottori Flower Gallery, a viking (that's what Japanese people call buffets) lunch, the Adachi Museum which is home to the Number One ranked Japanese Garden for 9 years running, and an okashi shop (a store that sells food gifts). I have a very cool Japanese tutor. We were joined by her friend, Araki-sensei, and her student Hannah-san, who is Canadian but has lived in Japan for four years so her Japanese is great.

The Tottori Flower Gallery is a botanical garden and will be really impressive in 6 more weeks. For now the highlight was the giant dome green house. It was full of perfect looking orchids. The outer edge of the garden is surrounded by a covered walk way so one can enjoy the flowers even during a summer rain. The huge glass dome and covered walk-way made me think a little bit about what a colony on Mars would look like. You could also get your picture taken with owls. Unlike in the west, where owls are a symbol for wisdom, in Japan they are a symbol for happiness and people were lining up to get there photos taken. I tried to find out if they were rescue animals but that concept was way too much for my Japanese and, even though Sakamoto-sensei's English is really good, beyond what she could understand.

We discovered something interesting while on the tour. Our guide would give us the time to be back at the bus and our group of four were always the last people to board. We were never late, usually we were five minutes early but always last. It even surprised Sakamoto and Araki-sensei (this was there first bus tour too). It seems like most of the people got off the bus, snapped their pictures, and then got back on the bus. We walked around, chatted, and took our time. Araki-sensei's English wasn't very good but she was one of the most talkative, out going, loud-in-a-good-way, Japanese women I've ever met. I think she and anyone with her (who could understand her) would have a good time anywhere, and be the last people back to the bus.

After we had our fill at the viking (I do miss American style salad bars - here there is shredded cabbage, shredded carrots, lettuce, a couple types of seaweed, corn, and maybe two dressing options) we drove to the museum. This is what Sakamoto-sensei and I were really excited about. However - here is the secret for being the number one ranked Japanese Garden – don't let the tourists walk around on your perfectly raked gravel. The garden surrounds the museum and you get to look at it through windows – a little disappointing for all of us. There was a pretty cool exhibit of Japanese art in the museum to ease our disappointment.

After that we headed to the okashi shop and ate too many free samples of Japanese sweets. I also picked up a seaweed condiment for Craig – apparently it is very healthy and he really likes it.

Here is Hannah-san at the Adachi museum, we were both encouraged to pose like the statues there.
Number One ranked Japanese Garden.
Hannah-san and I back lit from a window out to the graden.

Sakamoto-sensei, Hannah-san, and Araki-sensei.
Sakamoto-sensei in the flower dome.
One of the happy owls, I'm guessing the beak is under all the feathers.
The Mars style architecture.

Orchids and more orchids.
Me in front of the statue.
Sakamoto-sensei and I with orchid dresses.

Sakamoto-sensei and I with the owls. Behind us is a staple of any Japanese event or tourist destination, adult-sized, costumed, characters for little kids to high-five.
Here we are with flower kimonos on.
One last photo of me posing like a statue.

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