A city with a pace of life quite different than that of the megapolis up north
17.09.2009 - 20.09.2009 28 °C
Today we had sashimi for breakfast, said goodbye to our Tokyo orange apartment and our Seiyu grocery store and headed to the train station direction Kyoto. We had one last lunch with our friend Shuhei before parting ways; him back to Akita and us on our really cool shinkansen (high speed train) towards Kyoto. Mark was really excited for the shinkansen and it turned out to be such a slick looking train, and very comfortable too. It only took around 2 hours to travel the required 515 km and I saw none of it since I was probably drooling and snoring the whole time. We took a cab to our new apartment and poor driver got lost for quite some time and we don’t blame him since the addresses here are so screwed up! For a nation that is so organized and disciplined, how do they manage to have such an illogical address system? The numbers are not even in order! That’s why most business cards here come with a little map. Our new home for the next week turned out to be very nice, roomy & with a bidet!! Mark and I are becoming really big fans of it and we’re starting to feel the need to install one in our Montreal apartment when we come back. After settling in, we walked to our new grocery store called Happy something, I just remember that it was owned by IGA, and bought tons of goodies for dinner. To digest it all, we took this long walk to downtown GION which is really bright and lively at night; it’s basically filled with shops, restaurants, karaoke bars and arcades. During our walk I noticed that no one in Kyoto lock their bike, even overnight. That’s just how trustworthy and honest the Japanese people are, it’s impressive and a tad nauseating. Mark bought a piece of strawberry shortcake on the way home and the owner took so much care wrapping it and putting paper stoppers to make sure the piece of cake doesn’t move and also puts in a little icepack so that the cake stays cold until we get home. One word: WOW!
So my first impression of Kyoto is really positive, even though is it hotter than Tokyo, it is much less chaotic and people don’t seem to be rushing too much. People are the same though, very polite and classy, I also find they have very good taste as much in clothing than in the home furnishing. My only complaint for now is that people are too by the book, so a bit anal.
Mark listened to the hockey game while I mapped out our first sightseeing day, I was really excited because contrarily to what I thought, there are tons to see in Kyoto. We started out with the Higashi temple which is one of the biggest wooden structures in Japan. The temple was quite beautiful, but the drilling & renovation going on was taking away from its peacefulness. After a pork & eel on rice lunch (it arrived in 2 minutes and was sooo delicious) we then walked 10minutes to the Nishi temple which is a much smaller one and less popular one. After walking around the temple Mark & I were the only ones there, we each took our own hall of the temple to relax. I was just sitting down on the tatami floor enjoying the views of golden flowers, the scent of incent and the sound of silence. I got that zen feeling right away, first my conscience eliminated all negative thoughts in my mind and all I could think about is how grateful I was to be at this exact location. And then, I thought of nothing and heard nothing and felt nothing… Mark had a similar experience on his side of the temple. Now totally relaxed, we walked to the Kyoto tower to get a glimpse of the whole city. The tower is 108 meters high and up there, we got to see how this city is surrounded by mountains, how it is really not that big and also how extremely dense it is (there’s an actual law against sky scrapers in Kyoto to avoid becoming too modern). We stopped at the Sensei garden on our way home and witnessed peace & serenity; you can’t really get mad in a place like this. There were green spaces, tons of flowers, flowing water and huge live fishes. Just before arriving home, we stumbled on this place which totally made Mark’s day: the first Nintendo office building when it was just Nintendo Playing Cards (1880). I don’t know how many pictures Mark took of the building (since you can’t go in) and how long he spoke about it afterwards, but apparently it’s a huge deal. I just look at him with that blank look: I don’t get it. Today, we saw placed neatly on a concrete wall on the side of the street, a little action figure with a little note taped on it; it was Japanese writing with a date on it. I think someone found the lost toy and left it there with a note so hopefully the owner will come back to that exact location and retrieve it. Really? Do people still do that in this Barbarian world of ours? I’m starting to think Japanese people are perfect. Do you know what’s the biggest drama going on in Japan right now? Some Pop star was arrested for possession of some stimulant and had to go jail for 40 days and then apologize to the nation. Wow, is that the worst thing they could find to report on?
That night we walked on the cutest street of all Asia, it’s this very narrow street called Pontocho and it’s filled with tons of traditional Japanese restaurant and the odd strip clubs. We choose this grill-it-yourself restaurant and had this 5 course meal with the star being the Mishima beef. This beef is higher quality that the Kobe beef and apparently they only kill about 20 of these animals per year. The meat was so tender and fat, it kinda just dissolved in your mouth at the same time as it dissolves the money in your pocket. We really have to lower our dinning standards or else we’re not gonna last too long on this trip. We had the famous Japanese mille-crepe on our way home. (Damn Jeanne and Lionel for introducing us to this fantastic desert)
Canadiens 3-1 against Ottawa, Mark was in an excellent mood. We went to visit Nishiki market which is the biggest market in Kyoto. It’s kinda like the Jean Talon market but ten times cleaner (which is impressive considering the specialty is fish) and also they let you try almost everything. We stopped for lunch at this tiny restaurant off the market since we saw a picture of a curry ramen dish that made us both salivate. We both ordered it and it tasted as good as it looks except for one tiny detail; it was frozen cold. And the dish is meant to be served like that since there were ice cubes placed at the bottom of the bowl. The taste, excellent, the coldness, totally weird. After lunch, we sat by the long river that runs through most of Kyoto to watch some birds fish their own lunch. We sat there amongst other young loving couples and it dawned on us, we’ve never seen a couple kiss in public, maybe it’s frowned upon and we don’t know. Yah, maybe we should stop our PDA, it might be disturbing to them.
That afternoon, we visited the Kenninji temple with its perfectly drawn gardens, its comfortable tatami floors and its impressive twin dragon ceiling. Most temples here you have to remove your shoes before entering and I have to admit that there is something quite soothing about walking barefoot on tatami floors and bamboo floors. After leaving the Kenninji temple, we hiked our way uphill to the Kiyomizu temple. This one was PACKED!! The street leading to the temple was crowded with tourists coming in and out of the hundreds of souvenir, deserts and food shops. We also got to see a few geisha’s with their super high traditional wooden sandals (how the hell did they get up the hill with those!) This temple was humongous with tons to see and experience; we washed our hands and drank some pure water for health, longevity and success in studies (?), walked the blind walk of love for eternal love and bought cheesy love charms to deepen our relationship (they also have the traffic safety version. Hehe. Maybe I needed that one more than the love one.). So after today, Mark and I should be invincible.
I think I should start letting Mark write the long from now on since I’ve noticed mine getting longer and longer…
M & T.