Today I got lost… again.
My plan for this morning was to go to Fushimi Inari, because I wanted to see it before I left Kyoto. I knew that my time was going to be limited, so I woke up early. During breakfast, I ran into Brian and David, and decided to wait an extra hour on them before they decided they didn’t want to go. With the lost time, I had to really hurry to make it to the shrine so that I could spend a good amount of time there.
I began to run to the Gion-Shijo station, and from there the problems began. The first lesson I learned today is that there are different subway lines in Kyoto. I’m very used to the New York transit, where everything is run by the MTA and it’s all one uniform subway system. Here, there are multiple companies that run the trains, and I had no idea. I went to swipe my unlimited pass through the gates like I usually did when I rode the train, but I couldn’t go through. Even though it shouldn’t be expired, I just assumed that it did and paid to go on the train. The cost for a round trip was ¥150.
Once I got on the train I felt like I could relax and forget about the fact that I had to pay extra money. According to google maps, I had four stops to Fushimi Inari, so I was feeling calm. Then I began to realize that none of the stops sounded like what Google had said. In fact, five minutes later, I watched the train speed right past the Fushimi Inari stop. It was at that moment that I realize I had boarded the express train by accident. It hadn’t occurred to me that there would be limited and express trains, probably because I’d gotten so used to riding the bus. I got off on the next stop and had to wait at the station to board the local train back up to Fushimi Inari. Just to make sure, I asked the train conductor how to get there. I know my Japanese has a long way to go, but I’ve gotten even more comfortable with asking strangers questions. Usually they are willing to help, and they can clearly see that I am not Japanese and therefore try very hard to understand what I need and fill in the gaps.
After getting on the right train and realizing the stops seemed right, I relaxed again. But I didn’t realize that even more problems were coming. At this time, I didn’t know that Japanese subways charge by distance. In New York, you can buy a pass, and that will take you anywhere as long as you stay on the train. You can ride from all the way from Queens to Brooklyn, or just from 96th street to 103rd and the price would be the same. I just assumed the same would be the case for Japan, but I quickly realized when I swiped my ticket and the gate stopped me, that I was ¥60 short. Luckily, the workers were very nice to me and helped me out. One woman even took my purse and helped me count out the change in the most efficient coin denominations possible. I don’t think I will ever forget that experience, because I really don’t think anyone anywhere else would’ve done something like that for me.
Once I made it to the shrine, I felt very accomplished. Even if I didn’t have as much time as I wanted, I learned a lot and gained a lot of independence. And seeing Fushimi Inari is a very special experience. I didn’t have time to climb to the top, but I saw enough to have a great time. I even picked up some engraved chopsticks as a gift for my boyfriend.
Finally, we made it to Tatsushige’s house, where we looked at several Noh masks firsthand. I was surprised mostly by how fragile they were. It would make the most sense for an acting mask to be durable and sturdy, but I now realize that aesthetics were the most important aspect of that time. I couldn’t believe how the expressions actually changed before my eyes just by tilting the mask up and down. After watching the actual Noh performance (I’ll admit I fell asleep for some of Haku Rakuten), I still wasn’t fully aware of how detailed the masks were. Getting to see them up close really made me rethink the amount of effort that goes into the basic set up for just one play.
At first, I thought that the way the Noh actors moved was kind of silly and antiquated. It seemed a little awkward and loud. After seeing Tatsushige perform some of the dances for us in his house, I could see the look of concentration on his face, and I could see the workings of choreography come into play. It really began to feel more like a theatre performance to me, because I was so used to western theatre that I began to conceptualize Noh as something else. And Noh is indeed something else and very different, but it still has the basic innerworkings of a theatre performance. It’s much more complicated than that, and I’m happy to say that I developed an appreciation for it.
I couldn’t believe that I’d gone through so many hoops. In the moment it was stressful, but going through these experiences made me feel so much more confident about spending time in Tokyo.