March 29 and March 30

Went from very warm yesterday to quite chilly today. I went back to Fukuoka for one more try at Yusentei. First I went to Shofuen, the garden that was closed on Tuesday. It is a small garden in an upscale residential area, built originally as a tea house garden, then taken over by the city. It was an uphill walk from the bus stop and then a steep set of stairs. However the wonderful thing about municipally run enterprises is they often consider people like me and put in an elevator, actually enhancing the experience. Instead of seeing the garden in bits and pieces as you clamber up the stairs it opens to you all at once when the elevator door opens.

Frothy, powdered green tea with sweets. Note the pink sakura

Frothy, powdered green tea with sweets. Note the pink sakura

It was noon by the time I arrived and climbing up the hill had tired me, so for the first time, I accepted a bowl of green tea and a sweet, which I was able to eat while sitting on a bench and viewing part of the garden. It was a lovely experience I will probably never repeat but it was nice to try it once.

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80 year old maple tree in the center of the garden

After I felt restored I walked around the garden and the teahouse.

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Before I began this visit I got detailed instructions for Shofuen and Yustentei from the information desk at the train station. Actually not detailed enough, but I was able to figure out details like which direction I should go on the bus. Two buses and help from passersby I got to Yusentei only to find it closed. This time there was a long letter on the door, I think, explaining the closure, which will probably last for months. I can’t read the writing but I recognize dates. Giving up, I got back on the bus then took the subway back to the train to Kumamoto.

March 30

On the train again, this time heading back toward Kyoto with stops at Hiroshima and Okayama. I can’t believe I have been here two weeks already and have only a few more days of travel before I settle down for most of the remaining three weeks. I shipped my bag directly to Kyoto, taking enough underwear and medications for the next four days. Interesting what becomes important as you grow older.

Had a great day in Shukkeien garden here in Hiroshima. I’ll write about it tomorrow or Monday when I’m on the train again. The rest of this post was written on my way here.

Some casual observations.

Alice, sometimes you must read my mind. I don’t remember writing about how clean it is here, but I think about it. You seldom see papers or plastic bags or anything on the ground. And unlike our cities you don’t see trash containers on every corner. I have walked around all day with junk in my pocket and no place to get rid of it. Every small purchase earns you a receipt. I have learned you don’t have to take them. Then it’s up to the giver to dispose of it. This year smokers seem to be largely confined to smoking areas with cigarette disposal containers. Mostly there aren’t even cigarette butts on the ground.

Besides the receipts, the other nuisance here is the one yen coin. Like our pennies they are mostly useless except in supermarkets where they make you think you are getting a bargain if they take 2 yen off. I now have a pocketful of one yen coins that I save for my supermarket purchases.

One of the wonderful things here is that buses and trams all have change-making machines. They expect you to pay the fare in exact change, but you can use the change machines to break even a 1000 yen bill. All lower denominations are in coins, including the equivalent of $1 and $5. In New York, if you don’t have a Metro card, you have to walk around with a pocket full of change or beg other passengers to help you break dollar bills.

I’m in another largish hotel room with a slightly larger bathroom and I’m getting ready to try out the bed.