guest writer: Ari… this entry is written by Ari, who is a better writer than i am. he’s helping me getting all the entries up on the site. thank you, hon!
Today we woke up late. We only got out of the Ryokan around noon. I guess all the walking from the past few days took it’s toll on our bodies. We took the bus to Kiyomizu-Dori hoping to restore some of our energy with a proper lunch before continuing our exploration of Kyoto. We saw this cute little place during our hike around the mountains the other day.
When we got to the restaurant this time, we realized just how small the place really was. It was bright and airy little place with lots of windows. From the outside, it looked much like a regular wooden house you’d find in Kyoto, except for the really nice garden that we can peek into from the cobble stone road. The garden curves around towards the other side of the house with a a view of the hillside. The house next door, which actually shares the garden with this restaurant, sells pottery and garden ornaments. There was an easel at the front gate with an English menu on it, displaying their set lunches of soba and udon (the only indication that this was actually a restaurant and not someone’s house). There were only about 3 other things on the menu.
Lunch was fantastic, aside form the fact that it was really bright because the sun was shining directly into the dining space. There was a Kyoto beer bottle with a nice label on display on every table. I had the soba set and Thalia chose the “special”. The special consisted of sesame tofu for the appetizer, a variety of tempura, soba and delicious small bites for the main dish and finished off with a single green tea mochi wrapped in a dried bamboo leaf. My soba set, although not as elaborate as Thalia’s pick, was tasty and warm. The perfect “wake-me-up” remedy from a night at our chilly ryokan room. Simple yet tasty food in a nice environment.
picture taken from taleofgenji.org
After lunch, we hopped on the bus again at the foot of the hills to the famous Sanju-Sangen-Do temple. The temple was on the top of my list of places to visit in Kyoto, because I vaguely remember the name and the amazing and scary dark halls from my previous visit more than 20 years ago with mom and dad. After all these years, I wanted to remind myself what the fuss was all about. Indeed, it lived to our expectations. The Sanju-Sangen-Do Temple is essentially a long corridor that housed 1001 wooden Kannon (Buddhist) statues, all lined up in several rows to face the garden in the front of the building. There is a giant Buddha statue in the middle of the line-up and 28 guardian deities in the front. Every single one of the 1001 statues had a different facial expression, hand gestures (each Kannon had a whole lot of arms by the way) and clothing. The statues were intricately carved during the 12th century and some restored in the 13th century (because of fire) and had since remained for over 700 years. It is now considered as one of Japan’s National Treasures.
Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the main hall. And it was really windy and cold at the temple’s garden so we didn’t take too many pictures there either… We bought an Omamori (lucky charm) there and headed for the bus again. We stopped by Muji near Kyoto station to see if we can find Thalia a nice watch since she’s been looking for one. We came back empty-handed. Then we decided it’s time for another afternoon nap and headed back to the Ryokan.
Waking up around 6, we decided to check out the night scene in Ponto-Cho, the so called “Floating World” or red light district in the olden days. It is certainly still THE red light district area in Kyoto, but for some reason felt pretty safe. There are plenty of eating places and cool bars in the area that only open in the evenings.
On arrival, we saw a group of dancers clad in traditional clothes performing some sort of stick dance by the river. There were these slick young guys dressed in black suits and ties, sweet-talking the potential customers (which are usually groups of young men) to go and party at their strip clubs. Funny, here in Japan, they use guys to attract customers while all the girls are inside. I guess to these young Japanese men, the “word on the street” about a “secret” hot new club sounds more enticing than finding the girls in skimpy clothing right there. These young ushers did not approach us seeing that Thalia and I are a couple. Then there were the bouncers at the doors. Well-dressed men in their late 40’s, some with 80’s wide-frame glasses. They may look harmless, just like your friend’s dad, but from the slight bow that they gave us when we passed by and the look in their eyes, we knew who they were and what they were there for. These men are Yakuza. Since the buildings are so closely crammed in the narrow alleys, these men were pretty much standing only a few steps away from one another… they looked pretty awkward standing there in the cold, not chit-chatting, but pretending to look as casual as they possibly can.
From the various restaurants and cafe’s at Ponto-Cho, we chose to dine at Lipton again. Since it was a bit later in the night than the last time we were there, the atmosphere was a bit more mellow. We had dinner and a long relaxing chat over coffee and desert before heading back to the Ryokan around midnight.
photo album: Japan Trip: Day 3 (26 December 2005).