Sunday, September 12, 2010

The good, the bad, and the strange

- Everyone is so friendly and unbelievably helpful here. The cliches about Japanese hospitality and service are well deserved. For example, signs here say "please refrain from continuing past this point" rather than "do not enter."
- Little details of refinement, like the fact that they put paving stones under the water of certain rivers and streams, so that the water dances and sparkles just so as it flows over them.
- Graveyards. I know, weird subject. But in my wanderings, I stumbled across a couple of them, and they're extremely beautiful and special. Made up of stone markers, perhaps to house ashes, they have thin wooden boards with writing propped against them, and holders for incense.
When the breeze moves through the space, the boards rattle gently, and leftover incense wafts by, and I can really believe that the departed ones are still somehow with us.

- Ramen. Mmmm, ramen. I want it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

- Humidity. After two days of simply being hot and rather humid, the weather has turned to complete steam bath. Seriously. Picture the last time you were in the steam room at a spa. Now imagine me wandering around in there, towing my luggage.
- Mosquitoes. My coworker Arye and I were wandering and stumbled across a beautiful temple.

We looked at one another and both said "and this is a temple that's not on the map! Unfortunately, the prolific use of water that results in the gorgeous moss covering the grounds also breeds mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds.

Arye didn't get a single bite, but I'm covered in welts that still itch three days later! (I'd rather think it was the hummingbirds, I mean mosquitoes, than the possibility that I've picked up bedbugs. Our hotel for this first part of the stay is extremely clean and nice, but I live in fear...)

- Cat cafe. You can sit and have a waffle while also getting some feline therapy. Picture a room full of (young) people, not just girls, eating, smoking, drinking, and petting the cats that the restaurant supplies. Maybe there's a lot of apartments that are too small for even a cat? Maybe everyone just works too much to have a full time pet?
- Okonomiyaki. We went out for dinner the other night, and wandered into a place because it was filled with locals. Turns out this is a specialty of Osaka. Basically a pancake made of shredded cabbage, with a very gently warmed egg in the center, it is then buried under a sauce of thickened Worcestershire and mayonnaise. A lot of other folks liked it, but I thought it was one of the most disgusting things I've ever eater. Of course, since then, finding food has become more of a challenge because it turns out Okonomiyaki is one of the main treats people come to Kyoto to enjoy!

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