Yuki

Following our interlude at Nekouan, we ducked into one of the countless tiny restaurants which dot the streets of Kyoto, and sat down for a bite to eat. It’s remarkable how tightly the Japanese manage to pack such spaces, an effect made possible seemingly only by necessity and sheer will.
Following our interlude at Nekouan, we ducked into one of the countless tiny restaurants which dot the streets of Kyoto, and sat down for a bite to eat.
It’s remarkable how tightly the Japanese manage to pack such spaces, an effect made possible seemingly only by necessity and sheer will.

That and a ridiculous number of space saving inventions.

The Japanese LOVE space saving inventions—and how could they afford not to?!

I had Kitsune Udon, a delectable dish consisting of fried tofu strips floating atop a bowl brimming with udon noodles. We ate ravenously, and pressed on toward Kiomizudera.
Along the way, we even saw a couple of roach coaches, which made me feel like I was back in Portland!
We passed more shrines dedicated to various Shinto gods and spirits, including this one dedicated to an Aragami, or malicious spirit, usually made so by having not been given a respectful death.
According to Shinto beliefs, any entity to which such respects are not adequately paid at the time of death has the potential to return as a powerful spirit of vengeance. So when traveling in Japan beware of that, lest you receive a deitific ass-whoopin’ from a pissed off god.

We crossed one of the numerous gorgeous bridges which stretch across the Kamogawa River, and stumbled upon a pair of obachans, or little old ladies, selling vegetables which they had grown in their own garden.

Not only were they delighted to talk to us, but one of them went out of her way to speak with me, and exclaimed to Hisako how lucky she is to have such a kind and handsome man—LOL!

She then proceeded to feed us samples of the bento which she had made for her own lunch, and quickly escalated her comestible assault by shifting from placing morsels into our hands to feeding them directly to me with her chopsticks.

It was incredibly adorable.

As we departed, she bid us return next year to show her our baby, which she was sure we would have on hand by spring.

The streets of Kyoto are a magical place. So many people going every which way—tourists, shopkeepers, delivery men, residents, and travelers like ourselves, each drawn hither or thither on as many disparate errands. Temples, shrines, shops, and restaurants wait around every corner. There is a liveliness to Japanese streets which can not be found in those of America.
Yet pervading every scene is the Japanese sense of “the moment,” a concept which I have been aware of, yet am still but a novice in fully understanding.
The idea essentially hinges on the realization that all things are transient, and therefore each moment, whether happy or sad, good or ill, is but one small ripple in an endlessly rolling river in which all things, including our very lives, must emerge and fade.

As we pressed deeper into Gion, we began to see more temples, more shrines, more old-style architecture.

Rickshaws quietly rolled passed, and couples dressed in kimonos strolled by hand in hand.

Apparently in the past, holding hands in public was not commonly done in Japan, but new generations are a little more comfortable showing their affection in public places. Love conquers all, even such conservative sensibilities as have been left over from the samurai era.

Of course, it is difficult to imagine not succumbing to such impulses in a place so romantic as Kyoto.

In addition to its rich history, Kyoto is known for it’s fine arts, great food, and sophistication.

Through the various shop windows, we witnessed traditional foods being lovingly prepared by cooks, and shops specializing in various crafts, including a shoe shop selling traditional sandals, and a kimono tailor.

As we neared Kiomizudera, snow began to fall.

Koji-San purchased umbrellas for us, including one for me which looked like a ninja sword (FUCK YES!!!).

(Photos taken after returning to Koji-San’s dormitory for illustration purposes.)

As the snow was intermittent, I would occasionally make recourse to the strap with which the nylon umbrella scabbard was equipped, deigning to carry the umbrella across my back, at which people who walked by would occasionally remark, “Ninja!” as they passed.

I call it a win.

One of the many remarkable aspects of Japan is the immense number of small shops, restaurants, souvenir and food stands which exist everywhere, each always perfectly appropriate to their specific locale.

They cook local specialties, offer items made by local artisans, or serve up dishes associated with specific stories or legends from the temples and shrines in or near which they are found.

In particular, Koji-San treated us to tofu manjyuu, which is hands down the most delicious thing I have ever eaten.

Ever.

Next time you find yourself in Japan, go to Kiomizudera, and eat tofu manjyuu. Do this before you die. Book a ticket right now. It will make existence worthwhile.

We entered the gorgeous temple grounds as darkness descended, snow slowly gathering on the rooftops. Beautiful lights illuminated the scene.

In Japan, Shinto shrines are designated for joyful events, while Buddhist temples are reserved for more somber occasions, and yet despite this dichotomy, Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples frequently exist in conjunction in Japan, Kiomizudera being no exception.

Wishes, written by visitors upon wooden charms available for purchase nearby, were hung upon a specially designated wall at the entrance of the temple grounds.

We wandered through the ornate building, and at length arrived upon an expansive open air deck looking over the temple grounds far below, the lights of Kyoto city glowing in the distance.

By this time it was too dark for any decent landscape photos, as my camera is actually my iPhone, but take my word for it when I tell you that the effect was breathtaking.

Countless others, also attempting unsuccessfully to take photos of the gorgeous scene, all took turns moving to the railing and photographing themselves.

One particular gaggle of about a half dozen young ladies were even attempting, quite hopelessly I’m sure, to take a photo of their entire group at arms length when I intervened in caveman Japanese by offering to play cameraman. They happily agreed, and I snapped a couple of shots with a white iPhone encased in a pink Hello Kitty case.

I handed the overwhelmingly girly device back to the young lady from whom it had been abducted, politely deflected their thanks and praise according to Japanese custom, and took my leave.

As I walked away, one of them called out, “I ruv yiu!!”, to my and the Princess’ no small amusement.

After the temple, we went for food at an okonomiyaki shop in Kyoto Station, and returned home in a short limousine with lace covered seats and automatic doors, which I later found out was just an ordinary taxi.
The quality, cleanliness, and low price of Japanese taxis, when compared to our domestic equivalent, is nothing short of fairy tale magic.
However, before we left, Koji-San took us up to the top floor of Kyoto Station, and showed us a set of beautiful steps, illuminated with thousands of glowing lights. We posed for a few photographs upon the red lit steps, as circles of white light drifted over them.
But as we stood there, the scene changed to one of snowflakes glowing in the night.

2 comments on “YukiAdd yours →

  1. Rickshaws always remind me of my mother. She told me she used to ride in them for transportation when she was a little girl in China. But my grandfather always walked. She said a rickshaw would follow him in case he got tired or the weather turned foul. And he always paid them because that was the kind of man he was.

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