Travelling--The Worst Thing About Travel
19.10.2016 - 20.10.2016 -14 °F
It's almost 1:30 pm PDT Thursday,, but here it's close to 5:30 am on Friday, and I'm wide awake. So what better to do than work on our first blog post.
Here we are ensconced in our tiny machiya in Kyoto after a 2.5 hr flight to LAX, a nearly 12 hr flight to Narita, a few hours of shuteye at the Hilton Narita (picked for its free airport shuttle and the fact you can walk the entire way across the room and not run into anything, even your luggage), a 1 hr trip from the airport to Tokyo and then a 2.5 hour train ride to Kyoto, on which we ate our first eki ben (bento you buy in the train station or on the train to eat on the train). If only Star Trek were true--beam me up, Scotty, beam me to Kyoto--would be very nice. And that's even though the food and service on Singapore Air is pretty darn good, and I managed to sleep 4 or 5 hrs on the plane.
We know we're in Kyoto when we have our first ice cream cone in Kyoto Station--a waffle cone with matcha (green tea) ice cream, hojiicha (roasted green tea) ice cream, two snow white tapioca balls, and a big dollop of an (sweetened chunky azuki bean paste). We forgot to take a photo. Hopefully we'll rectify that in a few days.
We tried to reserve the same machiya, Shirakawa Cottage, we've been in previously. Tried last March! But it was already taken. Our landlords, however, had bought another one just a few blocks away, so we're in that one, Nodoka An, and happy to be so close to our old stomping grounds. As you can see from the photo, this place is in a very narrow lane.
We had a few hours to kill after arriving here before we could check into our machiya, so we decided to check out the museum in Kyoto Station. To digress, the major train stations in Japan are amazing--they can have hotels, major dept stores, a zillion restaurants and retailers. Much to our surprise and delight, the exhibit was the works of Kawaii Kanjiro. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kawai_Kanjir%C5%8D Our friend, Mieko san, took us to visit his house last year, here in Kyoto. He's primarily known as a potter, but we learned in this exhibit that he also drew/painted, made wood carvings, and wrote books. It was an amazing show, which thoughtfully included English translations on the placards, but we couldn't take photos. So here is a sampling of his work that was on display at his house.
So where did we have our first full meal in Japan? Why, at a contemporary Continental restaurant, of course! Really. Our friends Shingo san and Kouji san opened their restaurant 3 years ago, and we have been having meals there several times on our visits to Kyoto. The food is excellent and sometimes has a Japanese twist. Tonight we had, among other things, a small mushroom cheese pizza (yummy cheese), bonito sashimi mixed with avocado and tomato, an assortment of bruschetta, a Sicilian green salad (with high quality canned tuna!), and a Spanish shrimp dish with the shrimp dipped in hot garlic oil, but more amazingly, accompanied by deep fried (no breading) shrimp shells. Really. They were delicious. Like shrimp flavored potato chips. I'd have them again in a heart beat.
Anyway Kouji san and Shingo san didn't know we were coming, so when we walked in the door, they were surprised! Kouji san later on in the evening posted this photo from a year ago on his Facebook page.
In a few hours we'll have breakfast at the French bakery (virtually impossible to get a real Japanese breakfast in a restaurant that isn't in a hotel) and then I'll go to one of our neighborhood okashi (sweets) places to buy Japanese sweets. It will probably take us another day or two to get into the swing of things. There's a big festival here over the weekend, with the parade going right through our neighborhood, so we hope to see that.