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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tanjobi Omedetou Ema-Chan!

I had many adventures on my free birthday day in Kyoto yesterday. The day began with my group trying to get to the bamboo forest, and luckily enough, we stumbled upon it (mostly) by accident. We emerged from the bamboo forest and walked through a small park down to the river. We walked along the river, passing boats that seemed to be for dining, ice cream stands that sold balls of fried dough, and a number of appealing restaurants lining the streets. We walked across the bridge after getting some ice cream and fried dough balls to the monkey park up the hill. It was not exactly a hill though, but rather a very small mountain. After struggling up the many steps, we had almost reached the top, but then encountered the alpha male of the monkey pack. We had not known this fact at the time, but it made sense when someone told us the alpha male had gone down the hill to survey his territory. He was especially aggressive towards Ryan. When we finally finished our hike, we stopped to look at the monkeys, though we were not allowed to look them directly in the eye. Everyone was particularly enchanted by the baby monkeys wandering around. I was fond of the wistful, old monkey pensively sitting on a tree trunk. After we left the monkey park, Abby, Ryan, Spencer, Devon, and I went to eat lunch at a noodle-oriented restaurant. We all had udon noodles, some with shrimp tempura, and some with chicken. We went to explore the nearby shops after that and were happily surprised to find Mami walking down the street with her okasa (mother). We journeyed to the trolley station after that, which was unfortunately hidden away (so it took us a while to find it). Nevertheless, when we found the Toei Kyoto Studio Park, we had plenty of time to look around. The idea behind the park is to let its visitors into the world of old Japanese filmmaking. There were old sets, and a surprising exhibit focusing on Japanese power rangers. We saw people dressed up in traditional costumes and even encountered a live show (with exhilarating fight scenes). After leaving the Studio Park, we went to Tenzan No-Yu hot springs. The boys left earlier, but Abby, Devon, and I stayed for at least two hours. Usually, we would spend less time in the hot springs or bathouses we had previously visited, but I had no idea that the long stay had a secret purpose. Even when Abby called Earle to tell him we were going to be late for dinner (because we had missed our trolley), and Earle (on speakerphone) said that we were "going to be late, 'wink'", I still did not comprehend the true meaning behind his comment. When Spencer greeted me at the door asking for his adaptor, and Abby and Devon were pulled aside, I still had no idea that anything strange was happening. When I could not find Spencer's adaptor, I went back into the lobby with my computer, but he slyly led me into a different room. I was met with a chorus of "Surprise" when I walked through the door and was genuinely shocked to see everyone and a table of delicious food (including two strawberry cakes) greeting me. All in Japan.

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