Saturday, July 3, 2010

Japan, Volume 3

We got a very early start on Saturday.  Hiroshima streets were quiet at 615 in the AM.  We had a 7AM train to Kyoto, which went fine.  No green cars on that train, though.  Stood in line at the tourist information center, as all good tourists do, and then purchased our one day all-you-can-ride bus and subway pass. Got on a super crowded bus to go to our ryokan in the Gion district, a stones throw from Kiyomizu Dera, to drop off our luggage, so we could become tourists. I had a couple of suitcases with me when I was trying to negotiate the non-existent bus aisle when our stop came out.  I had to put my pass into the card reader at the exit, and it was frustrating.  I tripped on one edge of a suitcase, and I did a summersault onto the pavement.  My circus training came in handy, as I had nary an injury, just a small scratch on a finger.  Surprisingly, no one came to help me, except the girls and Connie.  I think it was because I was embarrassed and I got up right away, brushed myself off, and kept muttering, "I'm good."

It was only 1030AM, and we had a hot 5 block walk (the ryokan literature said 6 minutes from the bus stop) to our ryokan.  They greeted us with ice water and a cold Oshibori. Soon on our way to the infamous tumbling mat of a bus stop sidewalk, and we got onto the bus again to go sightseeing. We walked by Yasaka Shrine, a famous shrine right by our Ryokan.


It was Gion Festival, and we saw a parade from our bus on our way to Nishiki Market.


Nishiki Market is a covered arcade in downtown Kyoto, and it is revered as one of, if not absolutely, the best food market in Japan.  Locally sourced foods, of many varieties that would not be found anywhere else. It covers about six city blocks, and it wasn't too crowded, by Japanese standards.


A tsukemono shop.


I wanted an Aritsugu knife from Kyoto. Their store is in Nishiki Market. Handmade, the old fashioned way. Only one side is sharpened. So you have to specify whether for a left or right handed user. The company's been in business for hundreds of years. They used to make swords.  They make both old style carbon steel knives with wooden handles and plastic handled knives with a stainless clad (they're still carbon steel in the middle).  They said that even the stainless ones will still corrode, but less of an issue. I opted for the later for ease of care.  Here, one of the craftsmen puts on a first sharpening before a final hand sharpening.  They gave me instructions on sharpening but a lot of it is in Japanese.


Here the boss is engraving a name in the prior customer's knife. My knife is next on the table.


Still in Nishiki, here is Connie with a baby octopus stuffed with a hard boiled quail egg.


Sammie eating dango.


Fish of all kinds.


Skewers of cured fish.


Took a bus, then subway to Nijo-jo. Walking to Nijo-jo, or Kyoto Castle. No pics allowed inside. Cool floors, which sing to you as a nightingale would sing, everytime you step.



Back at Yasaka Shrine.


A tourist videoing my taking a picture of her, with the Yakasa Shrine large concrete torii entrance in the background.


Our ryokan attendant setting up our dinner.


Here is Emily's child plate. Sam, Connie, and I got their full Kaiseki treatment.


Fresh tofu with Uni, plum, and wasabi.  Snapper and conger eel. A little shiso and snapdragon tsuma.


Conger eel soup and some cold delicacies that I don't quite remember (we have the menu, but it is in Japanese).


The crew.


Tempura course.


Rice and tsukemono course.


Here is Connie enjoying her meal.


Too much beer.


A simple dessert of dango mochi with a sweet sauce and kinako.


Our futon beds on the floor.  Our room here was surprisingly spacious.  We got a good deal on this place at a JTB affiliate called Japanican, and the description of the room was that of a small place.


Breakfast. Fresh tofu cooked in water with fresh herbs/greens.


Here we are again, eating.


Our simple breakfast.  The tofu is so smooth.


Emily's breakfast, cooked over a flame.


The proprietor insisted that we get our picture taken upon check out.


We kept our luggage at the ryokan, and set out for some more sightseeing.  Here is Connie and the kids in front of a picture of Kinkakuji.  Doesn't it look real? So beautiful.


Here is Emily in front of the Kinkakuji-mae bus stop. We found the Pillsbury Dough Boy's war bride.


Here is Connie in front of another picture of Kiyomizu-dera.  This looks pretty real too.


Connie and the kids trying to get the spring water to drink to get their wishes fulfilled.




Got back to the ryokan to fetch our luggage.  We took a cab to Kyoto-eki.  Only 1290 yen.  Should have done that the first day in Kyoto, in retrospect.  I'm lucky that I wasn't hurt.  The four of us shared two bowls of ramen at a random ramen shop in Kyoto station.  Shoyu ramen and Miso ramen.  It was delicious!! So far, all the ramen we've had has been better than any we can get in the US.  All the places here serve the noodles al dente, which is great!



Eating roasted chestnuts on the Shinkansen back to Tokyo.


Em slept practically the whole train ride.


I had to study the Tokyo subway station map to optimize the use of our JR rail pass, which is good on some lines in Tokyo, but not most.


Treats in our hotel in Tokyo.  The staff here is so so nice.  They left all these here when we returned.


Last night we went back to Tokyo station to eat.  I spied this poster in a restaurant window last night.


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