We are now back at our ryokan after our second day of adventures in Japan and are feeling very pleased with ourselves and grateful to everyone, particularly Nat, who has given us help and advice. Our three main worries were communication, transport systems and toilets! Obviously we haven't learned to speak Japanese but can manage to say "thank you" and with a lot of gesturing and smiling we are getting on fine. People we have met sometimes speak quite good English and everyone has been willing to help us out. The transport system appears completely overwhelming. There is the metro/subway system, the JR (Japanese Railways) and various private railways too but they are all integrated and, fortunately for us, lines are colour-coded and have numbers as well as names. Some maps have just colours and the names in Japanese and some maps also have an English-equivalent name as well. It is actually a lot like using the London Underground once we got the hang of it and if we aren't sure about the fare it's possible to buy the lowest price ticket and pay at a fare adjuster machine at the end! So finally, the toilets! We read all the instructions but have mainly found Western-style toilets with the added convenience (ouch, sorry) of heated seats and built in bottom-washing. Al says to tell you it's warm water too. Quite an experience.
We have been busy making the most of our time here. Yesterday we visited a clock museum and a Taiko drum museum and shop (guess who chose those). Today we went to Nippori - Fabric Town (guess who chose that). We have missed almost all the cherry blossom but we visited the Nezu Shrine yesterday and it is a sea of azaleas, amazing. Today we went to Ueno Park where there was a lone cherry tree in blossom but the peonies were in their prime at the end of a very long queue to view them (national holiday 2). I bought a little fabric... but fortunately for my wallet and the risk of excess baggage charges the biggest shop in Fabric Town, Tomato, is shut for Golden Week.