Kyou wa, Peter-san wa Doko?

Where's Peter Today?

14th Oct 2004: Day 8-- Kurashiki

Arriving late the previous night at Naraman, the 200 year old Ryokan (Japanese traditional inn) we were greeted and simultaneously told off by the 70+ year old owner for arriving later than planned. She guided us to our room (we'd booked a medium family room rather than separate rooms) and started to make preparations for dinner.

This being a very traditional ryokan, you get served dinner in your room. It was highly delicious and then we hit the baths--another traditional feature of lots of ryokans. When we returned, the table in the middle of the room had been put away and the old lady had unpacked our futons from the cupboard. The tatami mats that cover the floor had a pleasant smell of hay and the futons were quite comfortable to sleep on, if you're used to a hard mattress.

Next morning, we ventured out into the old quarter of the town. It's a bit touristy, being full of school parties out on history field trips and loads of Japanese tourists but it does have some good museums and restaurants.

We consulted the Rough Guide and made our way to the Ohashi House, a famous preserved building, dating from 1796. In fact, the owner of the house was a wealthy merchant but he was granted the status of Samurai. This is a very impressive house set in beautiful gardens. Given the size of our quarters at Naraman, we soon came to appreciate just how wealthy this guy was!

From the outside, the Rural Toy Museum looked very small but once inside, the extensive displays that were crammed into the small building were quite absorbing. The toy museum was a bit of a misnomer as the greater part of the displays were of fine models and artworks rather than children's toys.

After lunch we noticed a bunch of festival organisers wading in the river, planting glass floats with candles. If we had stayed another day we could have gone to the candle festival that was going to run on Friday. In preparation for the main event, a TV crew turned up to get some news footage for the opening ceremony. They were filming some VIPs coming out of one of the restaurants, with the backdrop of all the candles on the river. We stopped to take some night pictures and then went back to Naraman for our dinner. En-route, we discovered the totally bizarre Cat Shop that sells anything and everything for the cat-lover.

After dinner, the owner beckoned to us and showed us the paper lanterns that she was getting ready for the festival tomorrow. We borrowed one and went out into the night, feeling slightly silly as passers by wondered why we were a day early for the festival. We got to the river and the candles were still burning on the water, so we posed for photos and pretended to have gone to the festival.

Naraman ryokan is actually inside a shopping mall now, they simply built the arcade around the old house and so it's actually under covers. The arcade is called Penny Lane and during the days and evenings, Beatles tracks blare out from the PA system non-stop. Sitting in our traditional room, with its timeless design, it felt like travelling back to another decade. If you look at a black and white photo of the room, you wouldn't be able to tell which half of the previous century you were in--were it not for the new-ish television and fridge full of beer in the corner!

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Prepare For Take-Off

Day 1 -- Tokyo

Day 2 -- Mikawa-Anjo

Day 3 -- Nagoya

Day 4 -- Suzuka F1

Day 5 -- Kyoto

Day 6 -- Kyoto

Day 7-- Himeji Castle

Day 8 -- Kurashiki

Day 9 -- Hiroshima

Day 10 -- Nagasaki

Day 11 -- Nagasaki

Day 12 -- Kagoshima

Day 13 -- Kagoshima

Day 14 -- Tokyo

Day 15 -- Tokyo

Day 16 -- Tokyo

Homeward Bound

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