Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ninja training in Koka Ninja Village

I woke up at 6:30 and spent 20 minutes killing time, resting in bed before getting up to perform my morning ablutions. At 7:30, while Andrea was doing hers I woke the kids. Dragging Ari out of bed was a huge challenge. Two late nights in a row really got to him.

We headed out to the station, bought some food for the journey, and boarded the train to Kooka to see the ninja village and museum. The pecan raisin bread that I ate on the train would give Zingerman's a run for its money.

An hour and a half and two trains we arrived in a deserted station in Kooka, which is in the Japanese countryside. There is a free shuttle from the station to the ninja village. We saw a bus, it wasn't going to the ninja museum. A van came, but it was picking up for the Bayer plant. Another bus came, also not headed in our direction. The driver, got out, found a phone book and called the ninjas who came right over to pick us up. On the ride over I got to hear Andrea tell me for the forty-ninth time about how I had picked the wrong ninja museum and we should have gone to the one in Ueno, which was far more touristy and hence would have more reliable and easy to find transportation. I tried to argue that off the beaten path is often where the best experience occur and was told that people beat paths to places worth going to. Having been told back in the states to just make the decisions and plan our trip, I got snippy.

The village was great fun for the kids. They saw ninja houses with traps, secret doors, collapsing ceilings, and escaped tunnels. The fireplace even concealed a tunnel that you got into by rolling the fire out of the way and then back into place.

The kids and I did ninja training - climbing walls, rocks, and ledges, and throwing shuriken. Andrea vetoed the walking on water, as she saw another ninja trainee almost completely loose it and fall into a murky pond that could almost be described as a very wet field of mud under a foot of standing water.

At the end we all got a ninja diploma, even Andrea who had refused to participate because she was not dressed for the occasion. As if! I wasn't wearing my ninja outfit.

We stopped at the gift shop and I was accused of being unfeeling, after refusing to allow my kids to buy real swords and shuriken. However, they did get key chains and we bought a couple of cold drinks. Andrea pointed to one and asked if it was green tea. I translated for her and the answer came back "No, it's wasabi lemonade" I had to have it. To my surprise, everyone liked it. The wasabi flavor was subtle. They also had curry lemonade - if I see them again I'm trying that next. Joshua had an original flavor.

Joshua's bottle was shaped differently from mine. it had a narrowing in the middle, with a glass marble that rolled around in the top. Mine was more conventionally shaped, but still had a marble.

Exhausted from my arduous ninja training I fell asleep on the train back to Kyoto. When we got back we found a quick, traditional Japanese restaurant for lunch. Joshua got mad at us because (1) we would not let him order items not on the menu (2) we would not let him give specific instruction for the chef, (3) we would not let him eat with his hands, (4) we would not let him suck noodles in a three foot long arc supported only by his chopsticks (5) we would not let him order rice after a meal of noodles with a few cucumber sushi (6) we would not order a third cucumber sushi for him and Ari, (7) we would not let him have a large ice cream sundae for desert from lunch, (8) we would not allow him to proclaim in a loud voice that his table manners were as good as those of the man at the next table (who'd helped us order, using English fluently), (9) we would not buy him a chocolate baguette after lunch, (I could go on, but I'll leave it at that). With each complaint he got more whiney and combative. I pointed out that I'd learned Japanese, taken him to Japan, and spent the morning at a ninja village. Nothing helped until he realized that we were serious about no privileges until his attitude improved.

Once Joshua apologized, we had time to hit the 100 Yen shop in Kyoto tower and a large bookstore with an English section. One of the books was on wabi sabi (enjoying the beauty of imperfection), something I am working hard at, but not doing as well as I'd hope. It's a hard skill to learn with a wife as close to perfect as mine.

After shopping we walked back to the hotel. I stopped on the way at the post office ATM to replenish our cash. Andrea was shocked at the rate at which we'd blown through the money we just got. Don't tell my wife, but I was a bit shocked too.

Once we were well rested we bathed the kids, dealt with Joshua's forty-fifth tantrum du-jour and headed out to meet Charlie for dinner. We ate at a sort of vegetarian restaurant. I ordered a salad and smoked salmon. The salad on its own would have been enough for dinner. Charlie walked us to the subway station and saw us off. Tomorrow, on to Himeji castle with Kumiko and Yoshi.

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