Saturday, September 23, 2017

Last Days in Kyoto

This AM, we decide to finally finish off our bucket list item of walking through the Bamboo Forest of Arashiyama.  The two younger ones complain, but we complete our task.  The scars and fears of the bug bites several years past still haunt the kids.  Connie and I have had thousands of bug bites, so no big deal.  We still have one head, two hands, ten fingers.  What else matters?  Three years ago (you can read about it in this page), we went and the kids got freaked cuz they got a few bug bites.  This was even before Zika and West Nile really became "in the news." They just hated to be itchy. Seems like a First World problem.

It really is beautiful there.  I wish there were a breeze, but that usually comes up in the afternoon wherever you are on this blue-green Earth.  In the afternoon, this place is crazy like a zoo though. 

Below, you see some other smart folks out in the early 8 AM forest.  A photographer taking pics of a wedding couple.  I respect their objectives, and rush our group of four through the area as quickly as possible so they can get their pictures done.  Given that this is a Wednesday AM, I bet this is a few days before their actual wedding, so they still have time to get reallllly nervous!  I respect their privacy and take no other pictures of them.

I'm trying to get a nice desktop pattern for my computer here! I have about 27 other frames to go through yet. I might choose Charles.

The kids are very irritating. Through our entire walk, all I hear is monku-ing about the environment.  So irritating. Child abuse seems justified, though they aren't child anymore.  They are relieved when we reach an area without cover.

A little later in our walk, I see something familiar.

Yeah, it is that same kind of tree sculpture that we saw in Porta a few days before.  I'm not certain if this is cedar but it really is some kind of conifer... pruned to this tall, straight geometry.  I know cedar grows in tropical environments so, ...  Anyway, I think these big trees are akin to bonsai, with humans controlling flora in their environment.  It seems unnatural to do so, just like bonsai is unnatural.  My brain is working on this.  It really seems un-Buddhist.

We ultimately get out of the Bamboo forest to the civilized world of Arashiyama.  Then we go to Tenryuji, a Zen Temple, another UNESCO World heritage site. We were going to go there last year, but we got lazy and didn't want to spend the time to go there.  Even this year, we were lazy, and rushed through Tenryuji.  Last year, I had reservations at Shigetsu, a Shojin-ryori restaurant, located within Tenryuji.  But again, we got lazy last year, and cancelled at the last possible moment.  I was looking forward to that bento box, but we made up for it this year, I think!

Upon entering the temple compound, and even before paying our ¥500 admission fee, we come upon a large pond with vast lily pads.  And from the murky water rises these weird flower things, with holes in them.  Why, these are lotus plants, not really lilly pads!  You see, the leaves are above the surface of the water!  Not right on the water, like lilies and lily pads. Lotus is revered in Buddhism.  From swampy ugly dirty water comes beautiful water plants and gorgeous flowers!  Too bad the flowers aren't in bloom, but that is mid summer...

Trypophobes, beware!  This is the one thing that people with trypophobia should avoid. Sam says that she is a trypophobe (and I will vouch for that, because, for many years, she has avoided textures that have had such holes).  Sam ran past these things.

By the way, this is the kind of plant that renkon comes from.  Renkon also has holes.

Anyway, Tenryuji is a beautiful place.  Scuptured and well manicured gardens.  Here is a rock/sand garden, freshly raked.

The natives are restless and are anxious to get to their Nail Salon appointment at 11:30 AM, so they are rushing through.  I hurriedly put my self timer on my camera.

We get back to Kyoto Station, and sustenance is on their mind prior to their nail appointment.  For some reason, their appointment is supposed to last 90 minutes.  To put paint on nails???  C'mon.

Anyway, as usual, we cannot decide.  I think, in the future, if we cannot decide, as a group, then we should divide and conquer, and get what we want individually.  Except for the more "formal" or previously decided meals...

We end up getting some musubi's and maki's.  They get some Oshinko's and Kappa's at a corner (literally a corner shop on B1F of Porta selling premade and to order sushi).  I get Karikari Ume musubi (above, in the pic below) along with a tekka maki.  Love it!  Chopped crisp Ume, which makes an Onomatopoetic noise like Karikari when you eat it!  Just like Garigari popsicles from the combinis for a buck!  mmmmmmmm

So, they are off to their appointment.  In the meantime, I thought about going to the top of Kyoto Tower, but that was too boring and touristy.  I ended up going to Family Mart and getting ice coffee (it really is the greatest stuff; you buy the plastic cup of ice cubes for ¥100, and then go to the machine at the check stand, and the machine grinds the beans and dispenses hot coffee onto the ice and you add sugar and cream to your taste), then to Bic Camera (the first time I was ever there or even Yodobashi Camera) to browse -- they have whisky too!  Then to relax my tired legs in our hotel room.  

This is the result. I really like Sam's on the left.  Em's on the right are kind of gaudy but cute.  Connie's on top are kind of boring, compared to Sam and Em's but still really pretty.

Now, back to Nishiki Market!  Here's something we've never done, but often seen.  They sell iced cucumber cured in salted water, on a stick.  It tasted fine!

We went back to the Goma store to purchase more buns and we ate more macha cream cones!

Then some shopping along Shijo-dori.  They stop at a Zara, and spend about eight hours there.  My legs are giving out.

Then dinner!

Yes, to decide what to eat.  What choices?  Well we finally decided to go back to Choice, which is a really fine restaurant, and vegan.  This, after walking along Pontocho Alley looking for food.

And a shot along Kamogawa

OK, last year, when we dined at Choice, just one time, I was going to go to Shinodaya.  I spared the readers my whole story.  But won't spare you folks any longer...

Looking at Choice last year, it didn't appeal to me at all.  Wanted meat.

I searched Tabelog in the several block vicinity of Choice for an alternative for me.  I knew that they could get along without me, so I was going to solo it at another place.  Shinodaya fit the bill.  Tabelog got it high enough, and it wasn't exorbitant, and I knew it would be quick to eat and then scram.

Last year, after finding the place on Tabelog, I searched for English language reviews. I found only one, and to this date, there is still only one.  You can add mine, but it really isn't a review, just a description.  It sounded good.

This is a dive place.  Connie thought long and hard about whether to join me here, or go to Choice with the kids.  I really was ok, either way.  I wanted to eat here for the food, regardless of the company.  Ultimately, Choice was her choice. Probably the wise choice for her.  But I am glad I chose Shinodaya.

This is a dive place.  When I entered, the only other patron was eating a bowl of udon, while smoking a cigarette.  It smelt like stale smoke, even with the eye stinging fresh smoke swirling around my head.

This is a dive place.  No menu.  Just a wall of kana.  I'd be fumbling with my phone and goog-trans.  And failing!!!  

This is a dive place. The rest of the place was empty, again except for the smoke in the air, and the ojisan, sitting, reading his newspaper (he was looking at me so I didn't want to take his pic), and the obasan, sitting, waiting for me to decide what to order. I already knew what I was ordering, even before I knew the place was open, given what I read in that review.

This is a dive place.  Up there, in the upper right corner, in the pic above, is what I chose, Saramori, for ¥650.  In the review noted above, it was ¥600.  Maybe should have tried harder to eat here last year and save some money.  I was seated for several minutes, just taking in the atmosphere.  It was actually cool, even though it was a bit intimidating.  When it was clear that Obasan wasn't going to come to me, I just said, out loud, really loud, Sumimasen, Saramori kudasai.  She stood up and asked if I wanted anything to drink.  I stupidly said Nama biru (which is draft beer).  Is this the kind of place that would have draft beer on tap?  Boy, I was embarrassed.

This is a dive place.

She says, in a straight face, that she has large or small bottles of beer, what do I want?

This is a dive place, and I am stupid. I order a large Kirin (they have no other beer) for ¥500.  Bargain.

You know by now that this is a dive place. But here is my Saramori with biru.

It is really good and filling.  Tonkatsu, not really super fresh tasting, but not stale, and kind of thin, but the crust is really crunchy and sticks to the meat, due to the glue that they use.  But it's really delicious glue.  Definitely good. And the sauce is not Kare.  And it isn't just gravy.  There is some heavy corn starch action there, but it is sweet, sort of, but more salty, and some tartness, like Worcestershire. There is a tiny bit of spiciness like Cumin too. A tiny bit of pickled ginger as a garnish disappeared early in the meal. Obviously there is rice, a fair amount, hidden by the sauce.

I eat it all, except for a bit of rice. And the beer is gone. While I am eating, another patron enters.  Those are the only ones I see while there.  He enters and immediately shouts out, "Saramori."  I know I've ordered the right thing.  

This isn't totally a dive place.  I will definitely return here, but not as a rookie!!!  Hope it is still here.  This place sticks out like a sore thumb.  This is an up and coming neighborhood and it really doesn't seem to belong.

So, I go out several doors East, to Choice to meet the gang.  I am done with my meal in probably 15 minutes, and they haven't even been served yet!  Figures.




The Pancake dessert

I share their dishes, even though I am stuffed with "dive" food. 

Even though the neighborhood is up and coming, there is a strange woman near Shinodaya, carrying a doll as though it was a human baby.  Couldn't quite understand.  Strange.  I bet Shinodaya will be around a while, defying time.  Walking through the neighborhood just west of the river, it is apparent that this is a red light district, with hookups about to occur in a few hours. Safe though, since this is Japan.  Will be ready for bed, ready to go back to Tokyo tomorrow.


  1. Arashiyama looks great. I may have been aware of it but forgot. I noticed you just missed Maki and the kids riding their bikes there. Saramori looks great. Do you prefer over kare rice? I wondered why they sell cups of ice. I'm sure the ice coffee is great. Coffee is so delicious in Japan. Choice looks great.

  2. I'm kinda sleepy which is why I can't think of any adjective but great.