So many shrines, so little time. Kyoto is stuffed with temples and shrines, one more beautiful than the next. During our last day, we visited Tenryū-ji, a temple with grounds famous for zen gardens, koi fish and cherry blossoms. We didn’t go into the temple since we’d have to take our shoes off and my boots are hard to take on and off and Todd can’t really fit into the tiny slippers they offer you. They’re also hard to walk around in. At the end of the shrine, we walked into the Bamboo Forest with – surprise!… Bamboo trees! They were as tall as the eye could see and surrounded you on both sides. Neat.
Before the shrine and forest, I will have to back up and tell you about some pancakes I had that day. We found some hole in the wall breakfast place and I ordered strawberry pancakes. I guess I had to travel all the way to Kyoto to have the best pancakes of my life. The place was called Eggs & Things and it was actually Hawaiian-type food. Aloha.
Next we ventured over to Teramachi Street, which is a shopping arcade with lots of random goods: junk, foods, souvenirs, clothes, etc. Here is where I found my officially official Kimono (Yukata maybe?), but I still don’t know how to tie the obi. I’ll have to YouTube that one. Now Nick, Todd and I can go as a Japanese family for Halloween in all our Japanese wear. I’m pretty sure we’ll be the coolest family on the block.
Once finished at Teramachi, we walked to the Nishiki Market. It’s a fresh food market and we’ve gotten into a pattern of ending up in these places on our travels. But unlike the Naschmarkt in Vienna and Las Ramblas in Barcelona, I don’t know what the hell they were selling in this market. Fresh seafood definitely, but what, I couldn’t tell ya and I definitely wouldn’t try it. I’m not that adventurous. We saw lots of stuff with tentacles, and while the locals eat these things on sticks like kabobs, Todd and I passed on the blind taste test. We did stop in a sweet shop for some ice cream though, and tried the green tea flavor. Excuse my French but that sh*t is nasty!
We ended the day eating at a gastro pub. Yep… sometimes you just need to eat the familiar. Pizza. And it was delicious.
The next day we headed back to Tokyo as we had one day left in Japan and were flying out of Tokyo on Thursday. We made it to the Akihabara Electric City, which was somewhat of a disappointment. We expected it to be so suped up with lights and activity but instead all the businesses were closing down for the night around 8:30. So I guess you have to get there a little earlier to enjoy the crazy lights? It did redeem itself when we saw people dressed as Super Mario characters zooming down the street in go carts. Mind blown. Did I mention that Todd and I stopped into an arcade for some old school Sega Street Fighter II during this trip? Because we did. Brought me back to age nine when Jimmy would occasionally share his game console with me so I could learn the ways. Todd was Ken… does anyone else think Ken looks like Owen Wilson? Because he does. I was Vega. Then for another round I was E. Honda because the joystick jammed and that’s who it landed on for me. I wasn’t pleased.
So my overall take on Japan? It’s very different from the US. Tokyo is bustling and populated and Kyoto is its opposite. It’s very clean, with a lack of trash cans on the streets, and plenty of super toilets and face masks. People stand and walk to the left, whereas Americans tend to go to the right. Their food is different… mostly tasty but some a little too weird for me. Eggs tend to be orange-tinged and unnecessarily put in a lot of stuff. And they like tofu and tentacles. I’ve gotten used to eating with chopsticks so it will be an adjustment going back to forks and knives. Their language takes dominance on all marketing, maps, signs, etc… but hey, it’s their country! And if you look around on public transit, a lot of their posted ads are super weird and funny; Think large muppet monsters and cute Asian girls or robots tucking people in their beds at night. I’m not sure what was being advertised but they made me laugh.
Thursday (today) is a travel day so I’ll spare you the details. Nothing too exciting.
Now we head to the motherland to see if we can find any hearts, stars, horeshoes and clovers! Yes, that would be Ireland.
Sidenote: Japan followed by Ireland, you might ask? A little random, you think? Yes, we know… they are two pretty random countries to visit on one trip and have nothing in common. It was just on Todd’s bucket list to fly around the world, so we are literally flying around the world: east to west. We only have enough vacation time for two countries so these are the two that got picked!
Raked zen garden