Still Possible to be Insulted!

It goes without saying that our Western bodies are larger than most Japanese bodies.  By Western standards, THEY are VERY slender.  In fact their size is generally so uniform, that when shopping for clothes, there’s often only one size available in women’s wear. I frequently see an item of clothing I’d like to try, only to discover it’s in one size only, and that one size is decidedly too small for this woman. I probably could have fit into it at age 16 or 17.  Such is life.

As a relatively familiar shopper in Japanese department stores, I’m quite sure the salespeople are instructed to go out of their way to try and be helpful to their foreign guests.  They always make sure to speak the Japanese word for welcome when I walk past them or within hearing distance  This is a nice touch, but I also see them trying to decide whether to approach me or not, if I linger or show interest in something.

Along with the word of welcome, I prefer just a nod or smile of recognition acknowledging that I’m in their territory and they’ve noted it.  I wish I could tell them, “I’ll know where to find you if I need you. ” I HATE a hoverer.  It can drive me to descend to rudeness very quickly.  I realize the language gap puts them at a disadvantage.  Ball in my court, please. Usually all goes quite well and we end up with a smiling transaction.  win/win, so to speak.

So it was that as I was on my way to lunch at a dep’t. store restaurant,  I got a bit distracted, as is my tendency, by a For Sale sign. I was just casually checking it out.

The saleswoman, who must have been nearby, sniffed a target and began to hover and smile too intensely,.  Initially, she tried  to show me that some of the items I was looking at had half of an expandable elasticized waist which, if her luck held, might just fit me. I could see that without her pointing it out to me. I tried to move away from her.  But she was not to be tossed aside. Undaunted, she showed me a second item.  Not an item that I’d picked up, but one she decided might be suitable for me.  Arigatou gozaimasu (thank you) I quickly said to her, hoping she could tell from my attitude that I was just being polite and was not interested in her help. Undeterred, she pulled out the big gun.  It was a pair of pants whose waist was completely elasticized.  To my horror, with two hands, she pulled apart the waist band to its maximum expansion to assure me it was large enough to fit a baby elephant! (my interpretation) And therefore…

I immediately fled her department, telling her in English to leave me alone.  I’m not sure if I added anything else, but I hope not.  I was amused at some level but felt shame and anger on another.  I really wanted t hit her.  I know she was just trying to help, but she didn’t pick up my signals and went off the rails.

I quickly doused my pain adding a piece of chocolate cake to my lunch order.


Let’s Go Strollin’

After several days of intermittent rain that I used as an excuse to stay put, I was more than ready to hit the garden/temple trail again once things dried out.  There are so many amazing places here that I haven.t yet seen.  All it takes is a short bit of research to pick a new place to explore.  Each place somehow manages to be unique.

This will be a simple blog.  I took lots of photos , so I’m going to let them do the work of conveying the beauty of these ancient retreats. Come on along.

I stayed in a relatively small area of the small sub temples that are a part of the mother temple, Nanzen-ji. There are few crowds here.  We’re taking our sweet time. Inhale deeply.

Nature is enjoying its last fling before it succumbs to winter dormancy and the need to rest.  There are signs that the party is coming to a slow end, but now, as it prepares for its final awe- inspiring, forget-me-not display, it is still lush, vibrant and energetic.

I still have difficulty imagining a culture giving such importance to its gardens.  Many of these gardens began life making the aristocrats happy  and I suppose proud in their beautiful villas.  Now we all have access. It is easy to see the importance of nature in the culture.  These sites are now protected and cherished. I tend to forget they’re a part of Kyoto when I’m in the crowded center of the city that accommodates businesses and residences and not that much open space.  But when you want a quick time trip, just head for the periphery of town, close to the rising mountains.

Much of the rock symbolism is lost on me, but it’s ok because I don’t relate to the ancient stories and myths behind the symbols.  If you want or need to go deeper, there’s plenty of written material to explain it.

Alice’s hole?
Let’s walk on water.
autumn berries. No, I don’t know their name.
natural stone basin as water feature
pond refections.
water lilys enjoying the day. Flowers all done. too bad, one of my faves.
Tenjuan Temple dry garden
Imposing Nanzenji gate house.
Ceramic cup I desired but didn’t buy because no credit cards allowed and I didn’t have the cash. And, I didn’t really need it.  It was a gorgeous reminder of sakura.  I would have treasured it.
Kyoto made ceramics at temple exhibit. Unexpected and beautiful .
kyoto ceramics.

I was surprised by a Kyoto ceramics association show on the temple grounds. highly decorative items.  No amateurs in this group!
The ever alluring and show-catching koi
what a running-a-bit-wild garden!


a sure sign of fall, berries demanding attention.

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Water is flowing steadily from all the recent rain in the run -off ditches alongside the temple walls.It’s part of the soundtrack here. Last mage,  Exhale.

An Alternate Universe?

Sometimes I feel as if I’m living in an alternate universe here in Kyoto. It can be a little bit like the beginning of a “once upon a time” story.  Now I’m in the story.

After many years of coming here, I admit, most likely I am seeing Kyoto with rose colored glasses.  I like it this way.

The streets and sidewalks are immaculate.  There are few trash cans.  People take their trash with them if there is no where to dispose of it while out and about.  Storefront sidewalks are swept daily and washed frequently.

There is a  level of politeness and respect for others that is omnipresent.  It makes life very pleasant.  You are rarely ignored and always paid attention to in a store or restaurant. People seem to take their jobs seriously  and endeavor to do their best at them.  This attitude becomes contagious.

Continue reading “An Alternate Universe?”

Market Fun

I have been a fan of flea markets since adulthood provided me with an income and desire to check them out.  I learned my way around them in New England, where their presence is a regular weekend activity in rural Mass.  The Mother of all Flea Markets is the Brimfield, Mass. extravaganza that can really test your “eye” and your endurance.  I regret it’s now too far away from home base for me to participate.

Flea Market Strategy

I don’t look for museum pieces, which I’d probably only recognize by the price tag, but often for quirky, playful or historic items that I’ll enjoy looking at or using.  I’ve always liked old textiles as long as they’re in decent un-smelly condition. Same goes for paper ephemera.  I start to sneeze /wheeze when close to anything that has mold spores.

Japan has its fair share of good markets.  There are two in Kyoto each month on the 21st and the 25th. Each is on the grounds of a temple or shrine, which always improves the experience. I try to make sure I’ll make at least one of the markets each time I visit Kyoto. They’re large, but not overwhelming.  There’s some junk, but the quality of the merchandise is decent and in many cases high.  My transactions with the dealers are limited to paying them and saying thank you.  Always thank you! Continue reading “Market Fun”

Japan’s Best Secret?

If dearly departed Anthony Bourdain hadn’t gone on and on about it, we never would have discovered this small treasure hidden in plain sight and literally around every corner. We would have missed the fun of being captivated by it!  I’m not talking about some high fallutin’ exotic something that must be hunted down by experts in the field..  Merely a humble but amazingly delicious Japanese egg salad sandwich on the shelves at every convenience (kombini) store in town, but brought to perfection by Lawsons and the Japanese penchant for taking an idea and improving on it!  For about $2!  ON white bread, no crusts.  The simplicity of it will melt your heart and capture your taste buds too.

“Eating the Lawson Egg sandwich is kind of like being cradled by a proverbial maternal instinct in sandwich form. ” Stenberg-film, photo,travel.

Just as we crave Mexican food when returning to CA after a trip, so it is that as soon as possible after entering Japan, we head for Lawson’s for our hit of an egg salad sandwich.  We leave the store smiling.

During our recent threat from typhoon #19, we decided we ‘d better store a few food supplies “just in case.” My husband took to boiling eggs.  Little did I know he was planning to keep us alive by recreating the Japanese egg salad sandwich.

An ingredient appeared in our kitchen I wasn’t familiar with.  It was a large plastic jar of Kewpie Mayonnaise he’d bought at the grocery store.  He’d quietly done some research, as is his way as a scientist, discovered that Kewpie might just be the source of the magic, saving it for just the right moment. The Japanese take their mayo seriously and now we know why.  It’s got great flavor, and goes farther than American brands in pulling it all together.

All we got from the storm was a rainy day.  But just as we were deciding whether or not to venture out for lunch, he suggested we try his egg salad sandwich. It was spot on!  We were both happy.  My husband, particularly so.

We were both so pleased with his attempt to reproduce the umami of the sandwich , that my husband checked with Amazon, and sure enough, a jar of Kewpie can be ordered online from them at home. Good to know on the off chance a typhoon heads our way in CA, although my Mother always told me to guard against eating anything with mayonnaise that hadn’t been refrigerated.

If you’re not coming to Japan in the near future, you can give the egg salad phenomena a try at home,:

Don’t forget the Japanese mayo!