Saturday, August 29, 2009

First full day in Kyoto

I never made it to the medicinal herb town up in the mountains yesterday; found out it takes about 2 hours on the train, and there is so much to see here in town that I opted not to go.

I've been walking a lot! Kyoto is a very spread out city. In many ways, it seems more westernized than Tokyo, or maybe I'm just more used to being in Japan. When looking at the map, it seems like a "no brainer" to walk about 10 blocks to check something out. There is so much to look at while walking the 10 blocks. However, Kyoto's blocks are seriously NYC sized blocks. I finally am succombing to the subway system a little today... The subway system is not as extensive as in Tokyo. I discovered that because Kyoto is such an old city (1300 years old or something along those lines), that they don't like to do a lot of digging.
The rivers wind their way through town here and there, especially on the East side of town. It is quite charming and they are clean and clear. The other day I walked to the Gion district (which looked like a hop, skip and jump from my hotel, but it took about an hour or so to get there). The Gion is where the Geishas and Maiko (apprentice Geishas) entertain their clients. Consequently, there are a lot of exclusive restaurants dotted amongst the old wooden buildings. The streets are narrow and it looks very much like "old Japan" (as if I know...). Bruce Hill's friend (and former colleague from the Osaka Hilton many years ago) has a French-Japanese fusion restaurant there (not sure if that is how he would describe it), so I thought i'd try to find it. Turns out, I am pretty good and finding places - the old "follow your nose" has been working out splendidly. As I meandered around the gorgeous Gion district, its narrow streets winding this way and that, I turned a corner and looked up. There was the sign: Carre' de M (Bruce's friend's name is Mabuchi-san, hence the "M"). Anyway, right at that moment a rotund man in a nice suit entered the front door, i knew immediately it was the "Mabuchi-san" from his cartoon images on the website ( I hurried in to catch him and chatted with him for a couple of minutes (it was around noon and he was late for work!). He was very warm and welcoming, and I decided to make a reservation to have lunch there the following day.

I have discovered that lunch at these exclusive restaurants is the way to go without breaking the bank and still have time to walk around and walk things off. (for example, lunch starts at $40 and dinner starts at $100 at Carre de M). I know, some of you (Dad!) think I'm nuts for opting to pay those prices for food. But remember, this isn't just any food, I'm hand selecting my restaurants and when am I going to be back in Kyoto? (all of my hard work selling food is now being spent on food.... such is my life (even at home in Sausalito).

After I left Mabuchi-san's place I wandered around the Gion, toward the temples and found an exclusive prix fixe "sushi" restaurant. The sushi was good (no wasabi or soy served with sushi in Kyoto) but the real amazing dish was the simmered eggplant with a roasted local pepper (sort of like a serrano) perched atop. It also had a little daikon-roshi (grated daikon with soy and green onions). It was very tasty! (I can see where David Vardy gets his inspiration). I was served azuki bean stuffed mochi for dessert. The mochi was coated in powdered green tea (matcha). It was the softest, most delicious mochi i've ever had.

I wandered around the temples of the Higashiyama area of town for the rest of that day. About 8 hours of walking in all...

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