Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Ernie Does Kyoto

We took Ernie to some Kyoto cultural sites today.

The few blocks on the path to Kiyomizu-dera Buddhist temple are part of Higashiyama, a very touristy and well preserved district.

We're Seattleites now (close enough) and so we had to check out this Starbucks situated in a renovated 100-year-old wooden Japanese townhouse.

I made the mistake of teaching Lydia the "ice" symbol that will often be on flags fluttering in front of shops that selling shaved ice or other frozen desserts. She spotted Umezono and we went inside.

Ernie was majorly flirting with a table of girls nearby. Embarrassing but I'm also pretty proud.

We both got matcha shaved ice with matcha ice cream on top with some mochi balls and some red bean paste. A real win. Had to have a glass of matcha to wash it down with, obviously.

It's funny because I often see this well preserved neighborhood mentioned in the same sentence as another well preserved area: Gion. It's funny though because Higashiyama is like tourist to the bone, whereas Gion would rather you not be there at all. There were a lot of "no photos please" signs outside in Gion yesterday which I pretty much laughed at but the spirit was unmistakable: this area isn't for tourists to play in.

Kiyomizu literally means "Pure Water" as it was built next to a spring. Of course like many springs the water from this one could grant wishes, degrease your car engine, leave your dishes looking extra clean, etc. What better way to get the magic from the water than to jump into it from high enough up to kill you?

"The popular expression "to jump off the stage at Kiyomizu" is the Japanese translation of the English expression "to take the plunge". This refers to an Edo-period tradition that held that if one were to survive a 13-meter (43-foot) jump from the stage, one's wish would be granted. During the Edo period, 234 jumps were recorded, and of those, 85.4% survived. The practice was prohibited in 1872."

We got an Uber to our next stop and our driver was a member of a... colorful Korean church. He was happy to share some Trump-related literature as well. That dude in the center is wearing a crown made out of bullets. I'll leave it at that.

Kinkaku-ji is in my mind a must-see place when visiting Kyoto. I didn't want to leave Ernie with an incomplete dance card.

Kinkaku-ji means "Temple of the Golden Pavilion". It is quite golden.

"The site of Kinkaku-ji was originally a villa called Kitayama-dai (北山第), belonging to a powerful statesman, Saionji Kintsune. Kinkaku-ji's history dates to 1397, when the villa was purchased from the Saionji family by shōgun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and transformed into the Kinkaku-ji complex. When Yoshimitsu died the building was converted into a Zen temple by his son, according to his wishes." 

References to the Ashikaga Shogunate always hit me in the feels, as the city of Ashikaga was where I spent most of my time in Japan. I think the connection is the patriarch of the Ashikaga clan founded the city, so then the city was named after the dude. The English teachers that worked for the city all got to be in a reenactment military parade of sorts, so I spent some time decked out like an Ashikaga clan samurai.

My friend Sawa from back in my Ritsumeikan student days contacted me out of the blue asking if I wanted to hang out in the Kyoto area. People trash social media a lot, and I generally agree, but it is a magical tool for maintaining friendships across large distances of time and space. I had not seen Sawa or her husband Marcus since 2008.

We ate at a yakiniku joint which I suspiciously don't have any photos of. I am such a prodigious photo taker that if I don't have any pictures it is significant. Either my phone or I are dead, essentially. Sawa has been working for a food producing company of some sort and was actually in Seattle a few times to do promotional work at Uwajimaya grocery stores. I think we may have even been in town at the same time and missed the opportunity. Social media failed us on that one.

Marcus had a cool project where he designed a set of hanafuda playing cards. I actually own one somewhere... Nintendo made them in their earlier days and I bought a Nintendo set of them for coolness purposes. I don't think I ever found anyone would agreed with their coolness factor enough to actually play with them. Sad.

Their baby was like 7 months and Ernie was 3 and they were amusingly the same size. Their baby had super extreme stranger danger. Even after sitting and eating with their family if you looked him in the eye he would cry.

I thought it would be funny if Lydia held both kids, and it was. Their baby started balling soon after though from the stranger danger so this was a quick little moment before the storm.

Ernie was ready to go home at this point as well.

I love the shopping arcades here. I think you can tell that the weather here is punishing just from the existence of several of these things in the city. I recall there being a Shoney's pizza buffet in one that we used to go to and destroy as college students.

We had another bathroom party so as not to disturb his highness. At some point in this hotel room a smell developed. An unpleasant smell that grew stronger until we were certain that some animal had died in our room and we were about to call to ask to change rooms when we realized it was a bag of sashimi that Lydia had refused to eat a couple nights ago. You say coincidence, I say fish karma.

Do babies dream of infant sheep?

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