2007-09-24 Before the Rain

When we left the Ryokan, we went straight to the Imperial Palace. But all the gates were closed. The information office was closed. It took us quite a while to realize that today must have been the first day of autumn and therefore a national holiday. I like the idea of having national holidays based on seasonal changes. This is a joy I can partake in, unlike holidays based on the founding of a state, the rebellion against an oppressor, or the coronation of a monarch. None of these fill me with joy and happiness. If I feel joy on these days because I have a day off, it sometimes feel cheapened by the unsavory reasons it was granted for.

Anyway. We were locked out of the palace once again and feeling down. What next? Yesterday we had read about two streets that still had their old houses intact. We decided to go for a walk.

We took bus no. 202 to Higashiyama-Sanjo and walked south towards Chion-in and Maruyama park, took a look at Kodaji, walked through Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka, both of them bustling with tourists and shops selling Yatsuhasi, and finally we ended up at Kiyomizudera. By then we were tired, it had started to drizzle, and we had seen enough temples. We decided to not pay the 300¥ and head home again.

Trying to find a way down, we passed the entrance to the cemetery and decided to have a look. Excellent move. I had never been to an Asian cemetary. We ended up at the Nishi Otani Mausoleum and took the bus 206 from Gojozaka back to Higashiyama Nijo and walked back to our hotel.

After the bath, and after eating our bento at the hotel – we had bought two pieces from a bakery, inari sushi, some rolls, three soft rice balls filled with sweet bean paste, a rice ball with some tuna, and a rice thing with red beans – we spent some time in our room. Claudia slept, and I did some more Oddmuse coding. Yeah, that’s what I get for taking my laptop along, hehe.

At six we went for our (separate) baths. This seems to be a good time to sit there by yourself, scrubbing away the day’s worries and soaking in the hot water all alone. I wonder what I’d do if I met a talkative Japanese man in the bath. Should we ever stay longer in Japan, I think I’d pick Kyoto. The city is big, but not metropolitan. Kind of like Zürich. The people are friendly, the girls are good looking – my eyes have adapted to the knee socks, the high heeled boots, the exagerated Brigitte Bardot coiffure, the make-up. No Zürich girl in her right mind would wear this, but right now it all feels pleasantly exotic.

I guess I’d miss some European food, and Claudia even more so. Kyoto is full of French and Italian restaurants. Perhaps we’d find a few favorites. Right now we had a fondue and a shrimp and maccaroni gratin in simple restaurants, and they all seem to use the same kind of weird cream cheese. It’s good enough for Claudia because she craves cheese so much on some days that any kind of cheese will do. It doesn’t work for me because I like Japanese food better. Thus, if we do end up in a European restaurant, it better be really good!

Globalization is a strange thing. On the one hand, it’s nice to be able to sit in a Starbucks far away from home and drink a Caramel Macchiato. We did that in Bangkok, too. On the other hand there’s always the fear of McDonaldization. I don’t think it’s a realistic fear, but it’s there none the less. It’s why I cringe when I see a Kentucky Fried Chicken or a Donut shop. All of this is heavily biased, of course. But at least it’s my bias.

We came home at around eleven o’clock. Tomorrow will be our last Japanese breakfast here at the Nishiyama hotel in Kyoto. Check-out is at ten, and we’ll return to Tokyo in the evening. Claudia is planning on visiting the Gekkeikan Okura Memorial Hall – one of the oldest sake breweries situated in Fushimi, and maybe the Toei Movie Land where they make Samurai era soap operas, as far as I understand it.

And I’ll have to find an ATM machine. The CHF 1000 we changed into Yen before coming to Japan will be running out tomorrow.



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