Japan 15 - Kyoto countdown
These little white button-up-front night gowns they provide for me at the hotel keep getting tighter and tighter. Daniela and I continuously flip-flop from street food to fine-dining. For lunch today we ate at this exceptional vegetarian tempura udon house near the Hone-en temple. We sampled sweets along the philosopher’s pathway, and ate french cakes and coffee outside of the Kyoto national museum of modern art. Then for dinner we ordered from a vending machine and handed tickets to a teenager that sat us at a booth in a fast food joint that we couldn’t find an english name for. Our dinner was deep-fried breaded pork cutlets with sticky-white rice, shredded cabbage, ponzu sauce, miso soup, chilled tofu with ginger and green onion.
VENDING MACHINE DINING
We have a few new understandings as to why the Japanese are so slim and trim. The first one is portion size. Most places here serve smaller portions (not the vending machine places) – not everywhere but most places. Servings and offerings in general are just a little smaller. No one here walks and eats, walks and smokes, or walks and drinks. If you want to smoke find a designated smoking room or booth nearby. Some of the smoking booths look like bus stops with benches and cigarette machines. If you want a beverage hit a cafe or stop in front of one of the hundreds of cold drink vending machines on the street. But DON’T WALK & DRINK. Stand in front of the machines or off to the side and drink – then deposit the can or bottle in the provided garbage can.
These are rules you just need to follow, or you get stared at, and feel like a certified townie. After a few times it makes much more sense to do all of the above. First off, taking a beverage break is way more refreshing than walking and drinking. Eating and walking is bad for digestion. And we hate following behind smokers on the sidewalks at home, it REAKS!
There are no garbage cans here. There is no garbage on the street or sidewalk. Not one cigarette but or wad of gum. These people are clean-freaks and they have way too much integrity to even consider littering. It borderlines inspirational & anal. I will bet you a hundred bucks there is more garbage at home on my front lawn right now than there is on the street outside my hotel.
Anyone that knows us, knows we love to eat, and here in Japan we have had no shortage of great dining experiences thus far. Sure, we have tossed a few scary tasting street-treats away – one such thing was called butter potato on a stick. It looked great but tasted like licking a warm carps belly. Another were these deep-fried breaded chicken chunks served in their own mini paper bucket. These nasty gold chunks tasted like, well, lets just say don’t get them or be tempted by the delicious smell or appearance.
The Japanese love their seafood and they seem to have two extremes, or taste genres. One is the fresh and delicious one (including raw) and the other is oily, slimy, fermented, dried, super-concetrated-sardine-guts-on-steroids taste. Daniela and I tried a sample of this so called “shrimp cracker” in this extremely fancy gourmet food market. The experience was like getting hit in the face with a brick. Needless to say, there are many acquired tastes for many cultures.
The Japanese do not drink massive amounts of soft drinks. They are rarely offered at eating establishments and usually water or tea are offered free. Even at the vending machine eating establishments there was no pop, just beers.
This place gives a new understanding to “American Sized”. They make the USA look like feeding-frenzied hogs. We even managed to catch a few minutes of this reality show that seemed to make sport of these obese American teenage girls and their struggle to not eat junk or drink pop. The show was creepy, judgemental and very profiling. It really had a lot of impact on us, and how we now perceive eating and over consumption.
We also noticed that the rickshaw drivers here NEVER asked us if we wanted a ride. We both figured it was because they didn’t want to blow themselves out hauling our fat white asses round town when they could go for the slim trim four foot high customers. Yes, in some ways we feel like pigs up against these exotic creatures so steeped in culture, history, discipline and spirituality.
No one is really fat here. No one is drunk. No one smokes in public (but they do in some restaurants), no one is loud, obnoxious, or draws attention to themselves. Everyone follows all the rules. Everyone waits their turn.
When I awoke this morning I was able to hear again. Today was a good day, on many levels. The infection is pretty well all cleared up except for some mild ringing. The antibiotics the pharmacst gave me kicked serious ass (ear). So, Daniela was much happier with my behaviour, and level of participation today. I could give you a long list of what we did today, but it would get tiring for both of us. We did manage to do a little shopping today, and what we found out by shopping today, is that we want to do more of it tomorrow.
Two days ago we visited the Manga museum ( an old public school converted into a giant Japanese comic book library) Daniela was instantly bored and had to sit it out and play games on her phone. I was in my glory wandering through the isles and hallways of comics floor to ceiling. There was an interesting installation on the history and significance of manga and culture as well as some featured artists and demonstrations. (see samples)
Manga has many audiences from grade-school children, teenagers, adults, and erotica. There is a wide variety that caters to each audience and it is all widely accepted. (you can even buy the hardcore stuff at convenience stores in plain sight. (see sample)
Some of this stuff makes even me blush and it has a real dark side to it in my opinion, although it is fascinating from a cultural perspective.The main problem with the wide variety of manga here is the limited english translations available. I will end up buying a few select copies here in Japanese. Too bad because the bulk of the Japanese stuff I have seen looks really compelling – at least to a geek like me. Daniela’s interest level for this type of thing is non-existent. I fascinates me how we all can have such diverse interests. How something I see as so fascinating can be so pointless or mundane to others.
Another observation is the lack of cultural diversity. Japan is no cultural melting pot. Different races are far and few between here from what we have seen. Whitey is even a big minority here and we are often spotted staring at each other similar to the way I have seen my dog take notice of other dogs on walks we have been on. We kind of look at each other and wonder what they are doing here.
We have one more full day in Kyoto then we are off to Takayama another small mountain town about two hours from here. Tomorrow should be a good scramble to get as much more out of Kyoto as we can. There always seems to be so much more to do and so much more to see. The days are running by fast now and I can see the end of the trip looming in the distance.