Tuesday, 12 November 2013

kyoto days: with valour and cuteness

It's been a fairly normal week here in the jo. I got to join in with my taiko group a lot more, blew off steam on Friday with karaoke (Backu Streeto Boysu alurighto!) and went on an Uniqlo shopping spree. I also started preparing for a weekend trip to Fukuoka, Kyushu's largest city, when I'll get to see sumo wrestling! When booking buses I was met with this stupendous translation. 

Moving on to pictures of warmer days. On our second full day in Kyoto we headed west to  the Arashiyama and Sagano area in search of gardens and bamboo. 

We started with Okochi Sanso, the villa of Okochi Denjiro, a samurai actor who used his retirement to create a beautiful garden full of tiny twisting pathways. 

Afterwards, we were treated to traditional green tea and macha cake in a pavilion overlooking the bamboo grove. 

The grove itself is the star of numerous guidebook covers and tourist literature. An illusion of never-ending bamboo is created from the middle of the trees. I was reminded of a Japanese word I learned before I came here - "komorebi" - when sun filters through trees or the interplay between light and leaves. 
At the end of the bamboo path was Tenryu-ji, one of the major temples of the Rinzai school of Zen. The building dates from 1900 and the zen garden from the 14th century. Apparently it was built after a priest dreamed of a dragon rising from a nearby river, and interpreted as a sign of the emperor's uneasy spirit: the temple was constructed as appeasement and given the name tenryu ('heavenly dragon'.) It was one of the loveliest places we saw and made me even more determined to live in a architecturally Japanese-inspired house one day! 

One of the several dozen carp pictures I took... beauties. 

We strolled to  the waterfront for lunch, and then hopped on a bus to one of Japan's most famous sites: Kinkaku-ji, or the Golden Pavilion. 

In 1950 a young monk who was obsessed with the 1397 temple, originally a retirement villa, burned it to the ground, and it was rebuilt with the only change of gold-foil for all floors. 

We finished the day with shabu-shabu, an example of wonderful Japanese onomatopoeia, besides being delicious. 

You're led to your own little tatami room and presented with cold tea and cool towels.

Then you choose your meat and veg and get to work! The wafer-thin morsels are cooked in quietly boiling water almost instantly, so you have to be on your toes.

A picture of satisfaction. 

Not pictured from that evening was our visit to Funaoka Onsen, which is over 100 years old and one of the most iconic bath houses in the city. It was a five minute walk from our apartment, but it's well worth taking a bus ride for if you're in Kyoto!  

The next day, after relocating to our hotel near the train station, we headed to Nishiki Market for some authentic Kyoto street food and sampled takoyaki,teriyaki kebabs and kakiage. Ten minutes' walk away was the Kyoto International Manga Museum. I was very pleasantly surprised by the place for a manga novice. It was lined with shelves and shelves of manga of all periods and genres that visitors could take down and peruse at leisure. Couples, teenagers, retirees and children all lounged around the reading areas and the garden with stacks of manga, reading in every position imaginable. 

I absolutely loved some of the exhibits from the 50s and 60s. The exhibition was called "With Valour and Cuteness" and this seemed to me to do a pretty good job of summing up Japan in general. 

Part of the museum used to be a school, so they also had some gorgeous old school books on display. 

We couldn't resist seeing what we'd look like in anime land! For about seven squids you can sit for 30 minutes (precisely to the second, naturally) and find out. 

Cake heaven in Kyoto station. 

The next Japanese culinary adventure for G to experience was the sushi train! We headed to Musashi by the Sanjo Arcade for 137 yen a plate. 

We acquitted ourselves admirably.

Onto the next challenge: karaoke! 

Despite a distinct lack of percussion instruments, we managed Lou Reed and Fleet Foxes - a somewhat bizarre sensation in Japan! 

In the style of Stephen Fry on Q.I. I'll leave you with a totally unrelated fun fact. I found out last week that here in Japan, despite the popularity of Harry Potter, they apparently call Snape "Snake-sensei"!! For some reason this amused me more than any other lost-in-translation anecdote I've come across so far. Goodnight! 

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