Sunday, February 06, 2005

Holy crap

Everybody go to Kyoto and marvel at Kyoto Station. It is beyond words how cool it is.

The highlight is the courtyard type area that has a 10 story shopping center built in. There is one giant staircase up the side of the 10-story building (with escalators of course) and it's all open air and staring out on to kyoto or the station or the courtyard, just gorgeous, magnificant, majestic in every direction. The building - hell the whole station, sort of - grows around this giant staircase. That somewhere in the world a major city would allow and fund such a magnificant structure leaves me with the faint but distinct hope that perhaps not all is lost.

So yeah, travel with Ayako this weekend. Went to kyoto and osaka. More details later, but a quick rundown now that I am done salivating over the best building in the world.

Friday Night: leave by ferry. have one chuuhai and a sip of sake and am out like a light, whats up with that?

Saturday: Arrive in Osaka, bum around the trainlines getting to the Strawberry Field. Go strawberry picking. Eat more than should be possible. Ayako was like "Ooooh I can't eat any more, I ate too much..." as we were limping our way to the door. I get to the exit and turn to her and she's not there - I look back and she's devouring yet another handful, still complaining about how she ate too much.

From there, hop the train to kyoto. It amazes me that Kobe, Kyoto and Osaka - the three biggest cities in Western Japan and so probably also top 15 in the world - are all about half an hour apart by train. Isn't that odd? Like slow, regular train, you can go from the center of Osaka to the center of Kyoto in 25 mins for 5 bucks. Weird.

Kyoto, Kiyomizudera. This is "the" temple, as far as Japan goes. It's on this huge hill, so you take a bus to the base and walk up and there is about a km of streetvendors and souveniere shops with all sorts of goodies. The temple itself was really pretty. It's OLD, shit in Japan is so damn old. In the states, a "vintage" location was build what, 1800? In Japan, they're like "Yeah, this isn't the original...The original burned down and this was rebuilt in 1450...sorry..." Madness.

But yeah there were some old fuckin' building at Kiyomizudera, and a glorious view of Kyoto. Kyoto is all nestled between mountains, it's like sitting in a big forested crater. And the water at Kiyomizudera was cool, it means "clear water temple" and has some famous water that's...clear. I drank it and it actually was really really good. More watery than normal water. Does that make sense?

Went to hotel, dropped off souvenieres, went to fancy restaurant. Spent 30 bucks each on magnificant tofu dinner, really good. Went to climb kyoto tower, but we were too late. Oh well. Went to hotel, was so tired I crashed like a 747 into a trade center. (ooooh and the audience groans)

Sunday, breakfast, kinkakuji. Kinkakuji is a big temple in the middle of a pond, and the whole thing is covered in shining bright gold with a phoenix statue on top. It was beautiful.

Bought sweets. Zakuramochi are mochi (rice cakes) wrapped in cherry tree leaves, ooooooooh good. So I bought one, ate it, bought two more for the road. The old lady laughed with delight at my gluttounous american oafishness. Ayako shook her head but was secretly glad I bought two so that she could have one as well.

Nijojo - Nijo Castle, the kyoto castle experience. Enormous enormous enormous palace, all one story japanese style. There was the "Nightengale Floor" which the Shogun had installed to warn of skulking skulkers. It squeaks when you walk on it. Enormous grounds, big fortifications, just kind of overwhelmingly a military leader/royal-ish oaf's palace/castle.

Then it was cold and getting late and we went to Osaka to meet Ayako's best friend Takako. She seems cool enough. Oh, before we left Kyoto we at at this really fantastic chinese restaurant looking out onto the 10-story stairway. Chinese food in American and Chinese Food in Japan are fundamentally different experiences. In japan, Chinese food is good. It is classy and expensive. It tastes nothing like American chinese food. It is delicious. Anyway we were so absorbed in our food we took too long and had to ask Takako to meet us at Umeda instead of Nanba, so she relocated. That made me happy, I hate it when people say "yeah, that's my best friend" but then the friend wouldn't do something so simple as go from Namba to Umeda for them, 4 mins by subway. And yet that kind of shit happens all the time, right, so I am happy Ayako's best friend is a good friend.

We went out for ice cream, I had a kiwi parfait, it was good. Then we went to the NamcoLand building, where there was a massive chocolate store on the third floor which Ayako had been raving about for 3 weeks. So takako said her goodbyes and me and ayako went up. At the base of the escalator to the chocolate store, though, was a rack of Tekken 5 machines. I told ayako to have fun and watched some masters tear each other up. I joined in eventually but simply could not stand against this guy's lei, he was sooo good. And Lei is slow - but the positions he uses are fuckin' hard to stop, especially with Steve who is still weak low, though admittedly much better than before. I must have dropped a thousand yen facing him and by the end was winning 2 out of 5 but never beat him all out. Curses. But my tekken got about 100% better just from that. Dan and Jon, I am gonna mess you up so bad your respective characters wouldn't recognize you.

After that, bummed around. Went to Snoopy store. Snoopy as cultural phenomenon among Japanese girls. Yadda yadda yadda. Went back to Arcade, took some pictures (print club), I played another round of tekken and won (go me), we went to the "Gyoza Corral" which is also in Namco land and is like 10 different Gyoza restaurants offering all manner of gyoza. That was real good.

Then we went to the ferry. Ayako got mad at me for punching the subway and made me promise to stop punching things. Boo.

On the ferry we ate our various treasures (as we'd been buying little treats all weekend) and went to bed. I woke up in Toyo, showered, and Ayako drove me to work. And here I sit.

I said I would "write more later" but I think I wrote just about all of it now. Pictures when I have them.

Oh yeah - when we got to Osaka, there was a live band playing in the street. That's why I like Osaka. I couldn't picture it in Kyoto.
I envy you. Sounds like you actually get to have a good time in Japan. I have a hard time having a good time in Japan because I'm not in Japan; I'm in Tsukuba.

Anyway, isn't the best temple in Japan Todaiji in Nara? That's where people usually go to see temples I think. Also, did you try Namayatubashi? It's the traditional sweet of Kyoto and tastes really really good. I actually screamed out "umai" like an overacting Japanese person when I first had one.
I am not sure what I ate there, it was all delicious but my favorite was otabe.

Yeah, I wanna go to todaiji, but thats just one temple, kyoto is like temple city. You can have a good time too, you have young people around. Ganbare!
sounds like you did alot of eatin' !
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