Almost from the moment we set foot in Kyoto, my foodie husband is scouting for new restaurants in our neighborhood that have opened in our absence. As hyped as I am to be sure to see the most intriguing gardens, sublime temples, cool museums and Japanese design shops, he’s on the edge of his seat to reconnect with the wonders and satisfaction of eating Japanese cuisine. He’s always on alert for the next culinary attraction. It could be a new sake bar, french bakery, izakaya, ramen, soba, steak place or hamburger spot. As long as it looks promising, my husband is eager to try it. We have our food work cut out for us, and I’ve learned not to resist. I simply try them all and go along for the great ride he pulls together and congratulate him on his finds.
If the place looks complicated, he likes to see if they have an English menu available. Given one, he’ll then bemoan the fact that not all of the items available in the restaurant are represented on the English menu. I remind him that there’s no way he could eat all the items even if they were listed, but he always want to see what he might be missing. I’m always eager to follow along with his trailblazing food-related energy. By myself, I’d never put in the effort he does.
Restaurants in Japan tend to be smaller than Americans are used to. Reservations are a must, so the chef knows how much food to buy each day. Once you understand their system, you respect it. If you rely on a last minute casual walk up, you’re going to be out of luck for most serious restaurants in Japan. And it’s remarkable how many restaurants are SERIOUS! By serious, I mean chefs and underlings studying and honing their specific skills for years, always delivering to the best of their ability, constantly striving for perfection.
Tourists tend to strive to score a rez at a Michelin starred venue, but there’s really no need if it’s just a fine restaurant you want and not another notch in your belt. Continue reading “The Foodie’s Heaven”→
Who’s to say why I feel such a deep connection to Japanese places of worship, be they temples or shrines? Is it the setting? The architecture? The gardens? The rituals? The air of mystery surrounding something I don’t understand very well?
I can’t say for sure, but what I can say is that I am consistently pulled in their direction. I spend a fair amount of time when in Kyoto, revisiting places of the spirit and discovering new places of the spirit. Kyoto has over 2000 shrines, temples and gardens, so there’s literally a lifetime left of exploration.
The description in the Kyoto Visitor’s Guide to the over one thousand-year-old Shinto Yasurai Festival on the 2nd Sunday in April got my attention. It was described as one of the three biggest and most unique festivals in Kyoto, performed to gain protection from illnesses. After a few months of recent illnesses, I thought a little protection might be just what I needed. It certainly couldn’t hurt!
My husband and I arrived at the Imamiya Shrine on a cool spring day. We had no idea what we were doing but went along with the flow. We soon spotted some young shrine maidens sitting behind a table. With a welcoming smile, they instructed us to write our health wishes on a small piece of paper hidden within a small red-orange paper kimono which they handed to us. Writing completed, we then presented our wish to another shrine maiden who blessed us and put the paper wish in a large round basket with those of other participants. We kept the paper kimono itself. It now hangs in my office.
Within a short time, the crowds thickened and a parade of costumed worshippers of all ages made their way through the grounds of the shrine. They played a repetitive tune on flutes, hit drums and chanted in front of those of us assembled. A few wore bright red wigs, representing demons. It was quite a sight. The knowledge that this ritual or something like it has been repeated and performed for almost a thousand years, is impressive.
Following the performance in front of the main building of the shrine, we were all blessed by the head priest. I felt a strong sense of community in receiving that blessing even though I could not understand the words. I was happy to be in the crowd and receive the blessings.
It’s a mystery, but since leaving the Yasurai Festival, I have felt more energy and fewer asthma symptoms than I have had for many months. Amen.
Just as I was reaching full speed on my Kyoto blog, my computer began behaving erratically, until within a short period of time, it became impossible to use. Any of my well -intentioned but largely uninformed attempts to resurrect it, met with nought. The old fail safe of shut down and restart, made no difference, despite my prayers.
Japan is not the land of Apple domination, so locating someone to look at the computer, as well as fix the computer was challenging. Frantic calls to the few places we could identify as mac friendly only met with the same response; they would take it, send it out and have it back to me in about a week. Since we are leaving for home on Sunday, that did not solve my problem.
Finally we located a place close-by with the promising name of Quick Garage. Hopes soared. Same story, unfortunately, despite my hope that Quick Garage would be a Quick Fix.
Now, I am using my husband’s ipad. I lost some ground and now have to adjust to a new device that won’t automatically download my photos. My wings are clipped, but I intend to keep going with or without photos that attract readers.
Life goes on. It once more reinforced for me, that I’m skating on thin ice when trouble arises with my computer. But it also reinforced the pleasure I personally get from writing about my experiences here in Japan.
Our trip is winding down and we leave for home in just a few days. Maybe this technical break we help me withdraw less abruptly from this place I’ve come to love.
Being here produces an almost constant high for me. It’s allowed me to appreciate the drizzly days and foggy nights happening recently in Kyoto as being as beautiful and welcome as the sunny bright days. It’s admiring the magnificence of a huge polished wood counter when out for dinner at a neighborhood restaurant and the elegant perfection of an old machiya.
It’s the almost constant delight taken in Japanese design and the surprises waiting for me each time I leave my building.
It’s feeling completely at one with my surroundings, of releasing into the moment. It’s visiting with friends and being grateful for their enrichment of my life. It’s going to a big Ikenobo display, feeling a bit underwhelmed, then suddenly concentrating on a small piece of the arrangement and watching the small miracles of a single flower come into focus. Continue reading “Blissed out”→
I thought it would be interesting to get a different take on Japan than mine from my 12 year old granddaughter. When she agreed to blog, I thought she was just being accomodating, but sure enough, she wrote as a guest blogger.
My Obsession With 7-Eleven
By Lulu Marsetti, Age 12
My name is Lulu Marsetti and I have a slight obsession with 7-Eleven. This past week I have been in Kyoto, Japan. The first couple of days I stayed in my grandparents apartment, Right around the corner from a 7-Eleven. It was awesome. And let me just say that Japanese 7-Eleven is not the same as American 7-Eleven. The first day, we went down to check it out. I took one look at it and went: “OH MY GOD THIS IS AMAZING.” Then I proceeded to run around like a chicken with its head cut off. “Look at this! Look! Wow! OH MY GOD! AAAAAAH!” I ran over to look at the breakfast section and then… I spotted them. Pre-packaged PANCAKES! “Wow!” I thought to myself, “I have never seen anything like this!” I grabbed them along with a small bag of fruit cocktail and a milk tea in a carton. I brought them back to the apartment and ate in silence.
P.S. Let me add that this was the first of MANY trips to our neighborhood 7-Eleven!