Saturday, November 20, 2010

The First Three Days in Kyoto

Hard to know where to begin when talking about the place where I lived for so long. There have been changes; the most stunning of which has to be the closure of the Maruzen bookstore, a place where I regularly recharged my library and my sanity (if need be) over the years. In its esteemed location now stands an 8-storey karaoke centre. Enjoy spinning the metaphors out of that.

The visit to Kyoto has been punctuated by encounters with school students of all ages who are on their school excursions and have uniformly been cut loose on the tourists to interact a bit for the sake of practicing their English. We have maxed out at three encounters a day, usually with a group of a half-dozen girls who - as students are wont to do - try to get their homework done as quickly and painlessly as possible. There is a "hi" or two and then they cut to the chase by thrusting a paper at us with the request, "Message please." Nadine has enjoyed the situation as they have tried to take the easy way out and I have either done my best to betray no knowledge of Japanese or responded discreetly enough that it takes them a few minutes to come to the revelation that the gaijin has been speaking Japanese to them for the last ten minutes.

Apart from those encounters the sights have been as rewarding as ever. The walk through the streets that lead to Kiyomizu Dera, one of the biggest and most visited temples in Japan was a rewarding stroll and enjoyed dawdling in and out of shops and boutiques to look at old-fashioned handicrafts, sample the locally made snacks, puzzle over the $21 chopsticks and dream about the local pottery. There were also enough shops giving samples of their stuff to keep us fed for our stroll and allow Nadine to expand her interest in Japanese food.