Thursday, August 27, 2009

Leaving Takayama, first night in Kyoto...











I'm on the train waiting to leave Takayama Station en route to Kyoto. There are not many baggage areas on these trains. Mine are stowed in the next car. Most folks in Japan are totally trustworthy. People aren’t in their shops when you come in (they are in their house in the back) and they don’t look suspicious when they do come out from behind the curtain…

Also, yesterday the carp in the river near the temple all gathered around, with their cute mouths gaping open, thinking I had food. They didn’t care what nationality I was, I was human and I probably had some sort of something for them. I was sad that I didn’t.

the next morning...

I can't sleep past 6:30 to save my life! i'm going to try to go running here in a little bit - Kyoto has a nice river that cuts right down the middle of town with walking paths along either either side. After i got to my hotel late yesterday afternoon, and checking emails and my computer (i dropped it!) iIwas starving and stupidly (but deliriously low blood sugar) ate some pasta bolognese in the hotel restaurant. What was i thinking? (pasta and wine was what i wanted and didn't want to search around town in a low blood sugar delirious state). After dealing with balancing the blood sugar, I then wandered north of my hotel, within a block were awesome looking places (some very expensive, some reasonable). Oh well there are more meals to be had for sure. I wandered across the river and found myself standing outside a little "diner" where about a dozen 75- 85 year old women were taking turns doing karaoke. It was hilarious (i clapped from outside and they laughed). In a few steps I spotted a wine and sake shop. (they are into their wine here). The proprietors didn't speak any english but i managed to ask them where i could find a wine bar and they showed me on a map. it was only about 3 blocks away but on an alley, called wine bar mago (http://www.magowine.com/). It was very nice (french style) with 7 seats at the bar and a little room at the end of the bar with about 10 seats (3 tables or so). All decorated in french style but sort of modernish (but with a "Renoir" of course). I may never have found this place on my own. No english, but i did manage to get out of the sommelier that he came to San Francisco for research last year, was in SF for one night and Calistoga for 2. (3 days total). They had Ravenswood Zinfandel on the menu for $90! And a 1999 (?) maybe younger Opus One for $450 (and many french wines). I had a little cheese plate which was quite nice. The kitchen was the size of my bathroom (maybe smaller) with room for about 2 people to stand (think studio apartment kitchen with the dishwasher in the living room). It was very chic with leather curtains which were fashioned like the strips of plastic used in walk-ins to keep the cold in. The nice bartender showed me the "private dining room" downstairs, which smelled of the houseboats (basement-ey). Very nice, i gave them one of Marcelo's Quintessa cards (would fit in nicely on their list).

Today I will venture into the northern kyoto mountains to find the village that processes medicinal herbs and has a hot spring. Apparently all the food they cook in the village is done with the medicinal herbs. We'll see. then this afternoon i guess i should dutifully go check out a shrine or something (i haven't even done that once yet - bad nipponphile I am).

Tidbits about japan: Most restaurants do not serve napkins with the meal, they give you the warm cloth to clean your hands before you eat (sometimes), (but you aren't supposed to wipe your mouth with it while you are eating). You will not find a napkin on a table except in nice restaurants (i.e. wine bar mentioned above). Yes, the toilets are hi tech (i'm not sure i'm into the heated toilet seat). yeah, bidet and all, water from all angles if you like. If you want more rice, you leave a bite in the bottom of the bowl. If you are done, you eat every grain.

Everyone is very helpful here, even with no English, we manage to communicate.

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