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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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« kinkaku-ji | Main | ryokan feast »

rickshaws and shaved ice

(continuation of a multi-part Blathering which begins here)

Thursday, September 6th, 2001

The next morning, our maid came at 8 pm to put away our futons and bring us breakfast. We had opted for a Japanese breakfast, of course. Who would come to Kyoto and pay for the ryokan experience and choose a Western breakfast?? Jeff was somewhat hesitant (he had heard rumours of raw eggs, for example), but discovered his fears were unfounded...nothing on the dishes the maid brought looked scary. Everything was delicious!

We checked out some of the little back streets in the area; some streets were so narrow you could almost touch both walls if you held your arms out straight to either side. If any of you have read Memoirs of a Geisha, we were in the Gion district. The small restaurants were all still closed, but we had fun checking out the different types of architecture. A LOT of wood (I hope they have a good fire department in Kyoto!), beautiful and simple lines. As in Tokyo, some of the English translations were entertaining to read (see "Sent James" on sign above).

Despite the heat, both Jeff and I loved walking around Kyoto. We got much more of a sense of "old Japan" than in wonder tourists flock here in such droves! Most tended to come in cooler weather, especially during cherry blossom season.

My dad had actually advised Jeff and I not to go when we did because of the heat and humidity. We decided to go anyway because of the unique opportunity (staying with our friend Alison, having the benefit of her expertise and advice, etc.). So far, I've only found the humidity really bad on this one full day in Kyoto. Whenever I felt like complaining, however, I reminded myself that at least (unlike our Killarney hiking trip), I wasn't carrying a 40-lb backpack and climbing up rockslides at the same time! :-) Sure helped put things in perspective.

I did a little souvenir shopping in a few shops where the prices weren't too bad. I also followed a pair of trendy-looking young women into a trendy-looking shop which was pretty much the equivalent of a U.S. "Origins" or Canadian "Body Shop". I had seen so many women carrying out white bags with a stylized logo of a woman's face, and was curious.

To help cool down, Jeff and I would pop into air-conditioned shops fairly often. We also found an icecream shop where we bought a bowl of strawberry-flavoured shaved ice (made of shaved ice, fruit flavouring, sweetened milk, called uji kintoki). Yummmmmmmmm!

In Maruyama park, Jeff stretched out on a bench and took a short nap. A number of other men seemed to be doing the same thing. I decided to wander a bit instead, and ended up spending most of that time standing outside a sushi restaurant, entranced by the strains of koto music (Japanese harp) coming from a second floor window. I thought it was a recording at first, but then the performer made a mistake and had to repeat a phrase. Koto music is gorgeous! I want to learn to play koto someday.

After Jeff woke, we continued our exploration of Kyoto. We checked out the Koto Handcraft Center, where I picked up a gift for my sister, then had lunch in a nearby noodle shop where the plastic food displays outside looked pretty good. I took a photo of the dishes we wanted to order on my digital camera, just in case we had to use the photos to show our waitress what we wanted. Fortunately there were photos and prices listed on the menu inside, so ordering was easy.

Next: making friends with locals and tourists, visiting the Golden Shrine and Zen Garden

Today's Blatherpics:

- Exploring the streets of Kyoto.

- Sign down the street from our ryokan.

- Strawberry shaved ice.

- Rickshaw. These guys were similar to the ones in downtown Toronto in that they were pretty aggressive (in a friendly way) about soliciting customers. They always targeted me since they assumed Jeff couldn't speak English (little did they know that I couldn't speak English, either :-)). They were pretty cute. :) :) Later on, Jeff and I realized that it might actually have been a good idea to get a rickshaw ride, but we had been so conditioned to turn down the Toronto rickshaw guys.

- Jeff taking a nap in Maruyama Park.

- Me after doing some souvenir shopping. Note how I'm prominently displaying the bag with the trendy logo.

Today's Poll:

When you're exploring a new city/area, do you tend to like to have certain destinations in mind (e.g. certain tourist attractions, etc.), or do you prefer to just wander on whim? Choose 'YES' for destinations, 'NO' for whim.

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