Sunday, August 15, 2010

Kyoto Mon Amour, part deux

I reiterate my statement from a few days ago: Kyoto is exquisite, and everyone must come here.

May I observe, however, that while there are times that sweat running down your legs may be a good thing, it is not in fact a good thing when you are jammed into a city bus full of Japanese tourists on one of the biggest travel weekends of the year in Japan. May I recommend April for the cherry blossoms or November for the fall foliage instead? You may still be jammed onto city buses then, too, but at least you won’t be sweating in air conditioning. The humidity really is that bad. I swear my shirt grew an extra four inches today.

To switch the topic away from my sweat: I admit it: I’m a total nerd. I looked online to see which temple Scarlet Johansson visited in Lost in Translation, primarily because I wanted to walk over this:

I was not disappointed. The garden at Heian-Jingu was just beautiful. As was Gingaku-ji and Nanzen-ji.

Words are just inadequate, so I’ll move on.

I had to move to a new hostel tonight (bye-bye J-Hoppers!). Turns out the “youth” hostel I’m at now is actually aimed at Japanese travelers. Plus side: traditional Japanese public baths. Down side: evidently we will be woken up at 6:40, and breakfast ends by 8. There are signs all over the building saying that the hostel will “shut up” next March. Speaking of funny signs, check out the separate post of signage at Heian-Jingu.

So it’s my last night in Kyoto, and I thought I’d revisit Biotei, the fantastic restaurant from the other night. Got all the way there, and it was closed. So I decided to revisit a café I went to yesterday, Café Bibliotic Hello! [sic], site of my consumption of a delicious plum smoothie, pale pink flecked with red. I had a lovely Pasta Genovese – basically spaghetti with pesto, green beans, potatoes – topped with fried lotus root. And an Ebisu, of course. Really, there is nothing that quenches your thirst in this weather like iced green tea or a light Japanese lager.

Significant language advance: I realized that the name of this part of town, Higashiyama, means eastern mountains. Duh.

Also, I don’t know if people are just friendlier in Kyoto, or my Japanese is getting better, or both, but I’ve had a lot more people talk to me here. Mostly it’s just pleasant chatting about where I’m from (“Karifuorniya” “ohhhhhhh”) and what I’m doing in Japan. One woman wanted to know if the Harry Potter ride was at the Universal Studios in LA, and I had to disappoint her with my lack of knowledge of theme park rides. But I was able to clarify that there are two Universal Studios parks in the US, even though I’ve never been to either one.

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