Monday, October 30, 2017

KYOTO, JAPAN: A Day of Leisure, from the Memoir of Aunt Carolyn

Vegetable stall, Japanese market
My husband's Aunt, Carolyn T. Arnold, traveled to Japan in the 1960's and 70's as the leader of a tour group. Here is her description of a leisure day with her group in Kyoto.
Leisure days in any country call for a good deal of resourcefulness on the part of the tour director to keep everyone satisfied and to plan for something that was not a part of the schedule. Seldom did anyone use those days purely for leisure, so I work harder on those days.

In Kyoto my favorite leisure day activity is a stroll along a pedestrian shopping street. There are hundreds of little shops open to the mall. The fish market man proudly displayed his largest fish. At another stall, vegetables are colorfully and artistically arranged. Most people gasp at the size of the white radishes, two to three feet long. The “home folks” slice and pickle these to make a tasty relish. Once I ventured into a noodle factory where large sheets of pasta were taken out of pots of boiling water and hung up to dry, then on to the girls who measured, cut, and tied them into bundles. The girl at the corner was frying bean paste cookies; I bought a few. They were crisp and tasted a bit like chocolate.

We were amazed at the variety of things for sale. Mechanical toys might be beside mannequins featuring ready-to-wear, mostly Western styles.  One of the many delights of Japan is the food. It’s hard to forget the rice, green tea, sake (rice wine), chop sticks, and even green tea ice cream. Dick, the clown of the group, kept everyone roaring as he attempted to pick up a green pea with his chopstick.
Window display of plastic replicas of dishes on the menu in a Japanese restaurant
We tried various types of dinners. Mongolian barbecue was a favorite. A waitress grilled small pieces of chicken, beef, shrimp, and vegetables over a charcoal grill sunken in the center of the table. Then, she daintily picked up each piece, dipped it into a bowl of soy sauce, and placed it before us. A thimble-size cup of sake completed the meal.

Perhaps the original intrepid tourist was Carolyn Arnold, my husband’s aunt.  A single school teacher in Des Moines, she began traveling abroad when she was in her forties, beginning with a bicycling trip through Ireland in 1950.  She went on from there to spend a year as a Fulbright Exchange Teacher in Wales, to more trips to Europe and beyond, and eventually became a tour leader, taking all her nieces and nephews (including Art) on her travels.  When she retired from teaching, she wrote of her experiences in a memoir called Up and Down and Around the World with Carrie.  Today, as I read of her travels and look at her photos, I marvel at her spirit of adventure at a time when women did not have the independence they do today.

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