March 13, 2008

Tour of Kitano and The Mystery of Our Tanka Poem Unraveled

As we mentioned, the weather has taken a lovely turn in the last few days. Most of the day has been in the 60s allowing the spring jackets and lighter weight clothing to burst out of the closet. The playgrounds have been packed - everyone is outside on Rokko Island (as we hear is the case throughout much of the spring and summer). The first blossoms (we think plum) are starting to bud on the trees all over the place. It's quite obvious that this is going to be one incredibly beautiful place in the coming weeks. Now we know why people flock to Japan from all over the world for the blossoming season. Some pictures of the kids (Jacob, Lauren, and Jacob's very good friend Jae Won) outside enjoying the weather:

On Wednesday, Ilena spent the day with Trish, from Illinois, who is living in Kobe with her husband (who works for Caterpillar). There are approximately 60 Caterpillar families from overseas living in our area, many of whom have children at The Canadian Academy with our kids. We met these people at the CHIC Carpet Auction a few weeks back, and Trish volunteered to take Ilena out for a day and show her around Kitano-Cho (the Kitano area of Kobe). This area is very unique, and actually a very popular tourist destination for Japanese natives. It is an area with a lot of Western influence as a large number of Westerners and Europeans settled there back in the mid-late 1800s. Many of the original European style homes remain, the streets are cobblestone, and there are hundreds of quaint little shoppes, bistros, and even a jazz park (with life-size bronze statues of the jazz greats - Gillespie, Parker, Armstrong). This area is set into the mountain above Kobe and naturally has amazing views overlooking the whole city and the bay.

After venturing through the cobblestone streets, they went up a steep set of stairs and down a walkway which leads to the Shin-Kobe Shinkansen Station, Shin-Kobe Ropeway, and some spectacular hiking trails. We'll definitely plan to head back there now that we know where it is to check out the hiking, climb the ropeway and see some of the beautiful gardens and temples set upon the mountain. Ilena and Trish had a quick bite at The House of Pacific, where they dined al fresco and enjoyed the breathtaking views of the city below. It was really a great day, and we can't wait to get back to Kitano-Cho as a family (next time Ilena can be the tour guide).

Remember that Tanka poem that the kind old man from Sasayama wrote and gave to us on the train a few weeks back? (We blogged about it here.) We finally got it translated today. Our friend Bob was kind enough to take the time to translate it for us, after Mike scanned and emailed it to him. Thanks Bob! Here is the translation:

"It won't explode.
He is even afraid of his parent's voice.
The child's hand is bathed in the light of the fireworks.
The child glows with aura!

The child's tree hollow is a treasure box.
Beads and marbles
Shining in the morning sun.
Yuichi [a boy's name]
A child's treasures?

Words of blessing for you!
On the ground where the child is crouched
Seaching for treasure are glass beads,
Faintly glittering in the sunlight that passes between the gaps in the clouds.
A spotlight hits the child's treasure!"

In other news, Lauren received mail this week from her Beth El class back home. She was elated to get some mail of her own. The 3s class each sent their own drawings and there was a special note from her teachers. Thanks Jill and Natasha! It made her day!

Our food item of the day is the Tokyo Banana, which Mike brought back as an edible souvenir from his trip to Tokyo. Apparently it is one of the more famous Tokyo souvenirs. (Since little gifts are so popular, it seems like each place we go has its own little specialty gift item.) The Tokyo Banana vendors are all over the Tokyo Shinkansen Station. They are like gourmet twinkies with banana cream filling. Mike actually got a set of chocolate bars, filled with banana cream filling, this time around (instead of the cake). It was a big hit with the chocolate fans back home! (We are counting this as Mike's White Day Gift for the family. By the way, Heartful White Day, as they say on the signs, to all our readers!).

In terms of foods we miss, we came up with one today - Dunkin' Donuts Iced Coffee. While there is Subway and McDonalds, and many familiar food items are available, we have yet to find good flavored iced coffee. Mike was seriously craving one today.

Five days until Thailand!


Matthew J said...

I could bring you some dunkin donuts coffee if you have a coffee maker in your place. Let me know.

Lisa said...

Have a wonderful time on your trip! Takes tons of pictures!
I'll call you in my EARLY am before i leave for mexico. We'll be missing and thinking of all of you!