Tag Archives: kyoto

Kyoto Culinary Roundup

The surprise winner of the different types of sushi I tried in Kyoto was the special eel. There was no equivalent Japanese name given. I tried asking for unagi and got another type of eel that was decidedly less special. I don’t know what made the special eel special, but it was definitely a cut above other eels.

Other items of note: pounded bonito (I guess it wouldn’t come willingly), oral squid (which remained silent), tuna yukhoe (tuna and raw egg), octopus (rubbery), rapana venosa (rubbery), and shrimp tempura.

The worst was the horse’s mane, which was on the same plate as the regular horsemeat. It was so rubbery that I couldn’t chew it at all and had to swallow it whole. So I say to you: choose your horsemeat carefully.

Bicycles

So far I’ve only noticed this in Kyoto, but a lot of people ride bikes, and all of them ride on the sidewalk. Riding in the street would probably be suicide. Some of the wider sidewalks have bike lanes, but both cyclists and pedestrians completely ignore them and go wherever they want. It doesn’t seem to cause any problems.

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Even if some of the riders look a little shaky.

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All of the bikes look like girls’ bikes circa 1960. They have fenders and baskets and little bells. a lot of them even have center kickstands like in this photo.

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Incidentally, most of those bikes are unlocked. People rarely lock them, even in downtown Kyoto, and when they do, they never lock them to anything.

International Traveler Note

To expedite business transactions in Japan, it helps to pay with Japanese currency. Trying to pay with Korean currency causes a certain amount of confusion.

Speaking of international travelers, I think I saw more Westerners in Kyoto the first evening I was here than I did the whole time I was in Kyushu. And half of the ones I saw on Kyushu were German backpackers at Mt. Aso*. The sushi place I’ve been going to has been full of Japanese people most of the time, but last night I was there a little later and there were mostly Americans and Europeans, all going for the California roll. A really tall Scandinavian guy kept bumping his head on the lanterns.

* Of course there were German backpackers. There are always German backpackers.

A Panoply of Temples

I tried to find Kiyomizu-dera, most of which dates from 1633 and is supposed to be one of the grandest of the Kyoto temples. There are temples all over the place here, and I certainly wasn’t going to see them all, so focusing on two or three of the best seemed like a good approach.

Using my guide book map, I thought I had found it.

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But that wasn’t it. I don’t know what temple that was. So I went out the side and started up the hill. It was a narrow street with houses, cafes, and…gravestones.

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They’re very close together, so either the people were cremated or they were buried standing up. Anyway, they became more numerous until they covered the whole hillside.

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Then there were some steps that passed through a gate…

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…and I found the temple.

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But when I got to the entrance, it was very crowded.

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The main artifact of this temple is an eleven-headed Kannon. I don’t know what that is, but anything with eleven heads pretty much has to be interesting. However, they only display it once every 33 years, and the next time is in 2033. I wasn’t going to wait.

So I went back toward where the crowds were coming from. Apparently, that’s the way most people come up.

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I bought some anpan from a vendor and shoved my way through the crowd.

The side streets were quieter.

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Then I ran across another temple.

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And another.

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And another.

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But none of them had eleven-headed things, so I squeezed past the tambourine guy and hopped across the river to get something to eat.

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Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle was the residence of the Tokugawa shoguns from 1603 to 1867, when they transferred sovereignty to the emperor.

It consists of two palaces: Ninomaru Palace, the residence of the shogun; and Honmaru Palace, which was moved from one of the imperial palaces much later. (The original palace burned down in 1788.)

The whole castle complex is surrounded by a moat, and Honmaru is surrounded by an additional inner moat.

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Ninomaru was open to walk through, but no photography was allowed. And not just flash photography, but any photography or sketching.

The wooden floors in the palace are designed to creak, lest anyone try to sneak up on the shogun. They’re called nightingale floors and they really do sound like birds chirping.

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