Random Japan

Last day in Kyoto and the weather is stunning. Sunshine, 20Cish and no wind. Great for a walk in the city. Today is a day for shopping. Any touristy sites are an adjunct.

I remember using cash in Canada. Now I exclusively use a credit card. Cash is still really important here and the one thing I have had to relearn is coin management. It is unconscious when you deal with cash all the time, something one does automatically. When I hand over bills every time I buy something I get coin change. Soon my pocket is bulging and the weight is pulling my pants down. So I have now got into the habit of seeing if I can purchase things with the metal in my pocket.

Eggs. Japanese like their eggs. (I guess by extension I guess chickens are important.) It is very common to have eggs, raw or cooked, with just about any restaurant meal you can order. Soupish things come with a raw egg. The egg is broken into the boiling liquid and stirred into what ever soup is ordered. Noodle and rice dishes have an egg on top of the food. It can be fried or raw. There are fried egg sandwiches, hard boiled eggs for breakfast, eggs for lunch, and eggs for dinner. With Debbie being extremely sensitive to eggs we have to make sure an egg is not included with what she orders. I on the other hand am quite fond of eggs so it is all good with me.

Kyoto, Japan
Plastic food display with egg on top

Two cool 21st century things in Japan. First is rather basic. The close the elevator door button on the elevator actually works. At home I think they put those buttons on the panel to help with folks who think they are in a hurry and a second waiting for the door to close is too long. Here you push the button and the door responds immediately. WOO HOO!

Kyoto, Japan
Debbie’s fav – tempura prawns and soba noodle soup

The second is something that could be instituted elsewhere but is a little more complicated. At each bus stop in Kyoto there is a pole with indicators telling you what bus will arrive next and when your bus can be expected. I think this is done with some sort of GPS locator and software but obviously it can be done.

Our first day Koyto we tried to get about using the metro and found it to be quite cumbersome. Unless you were near a station and were headed to someplace near another station you are in for a long walk. Yesterday we ventured onto the bus and have used it the last two day. In Kyoto the bus system is the transport system of choice.

Kyoto, Japan

Last night we tried to find a street I had seen photos. We strolled through Gion and did not find the alley I had in mind. We came back to the hotel and I did a bit more research. Today we headed back to the area and strolled down Pontocho Alley. The image I had seen came to life. It would be much better after dark with all the shadowy building facades and the restaurant lanterns lit up but the crowds would be just ugly and we had the place to ourselves so the trade off was in our favor. The highlight was the vision of another geisha strolling down the street a couple of hours before she had to get ready for work. Although she was not made up in white, her clothing, hair, the way she walked and her general demeanor announced her as a geisha.

Something quite common in Japan is seating at restaurants for the people waiting in line for vacant seats. Since the restaurants are so busy they are used often. It is quite a nice amenity.

The other day I mentioned there are not many people engrossed in the cell phones while walking down the street. I think I realize why. It is a social faux pas to eat and drink while walking. If you stop at a food kiosk, to be proper, you are to step to the side of the street to consume your purchase. This has been in place for ages (don’t know how long) and it is a short leap from there to not using a phone while walking.

Debbie was all excited about coming to SE Asia and being able to eat almost everything on the restaurant menus. The reality is things here are not all rice based with grilled meat and vegetables. Most things are deep fried with batter. Batter is a gamble, it is likely made of wheat and could have egg in it. In Japan almost every thing contains egg. The only noodles not made from glutinous wheat are soba and they are not as common as udon or ramon. If we duck into an Italian restaurant for a break from noodles most of the food uses cream sauces rather then the go to tomato sauce used at home. So all in all it is not the free for all expected but very similar to food we eat on a regular basis.

Kyoto, Japan

Silk is another thing that has not matched expectations. Debbie wanted to buy a silk scarf. Japan is regarded as a source of very fine silk. So purchasing a silk scarf, even if it is expensive, should be a simple task. We find silk scarves are not that easy to find and once found the selection is not very good. In the end Debbie did not find one she liked. Instead she chose a cotton scarf tie dyed in the indigo shibori fashion.

We have seen a lot of rabbits in Japan. Not of the live variety, but sculptures, stuffed toys, as graphics on umbrellas, ceramic ornaments, and just about every inanimate form imaginable. Debbie thought they must have some cultural significance. Using the ever accessible internet, she finds out rabbits appear in many of the old myths handed down through the Japanese oral tradition. In olden times it was a symbol of spring, today they represent cleverness and self devotion.

Tomorrow its trains and rain as we venture to Koyasan, south of Osaka and a hot bed of temples of the Shingon side of Japanese Buddhism.

Haiku 1

Tomorrow we leave

To catch a train in the rain

Hope that we stay dry

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