Monday, August 17, 2009
Kyoto > BBQ >Tokyo
Lots of maps. Train schedules, tour books, and hand-scribbled recommendations. Slight panic attack. Rainy Yamanashi towns turning into rising mist over lush Nagano hills. Endless sprawling plain of southern Gifu. Cubist station art. Japanese pizza. Temple moat aquatic life. Endless walking. Scattered French. Friendly Japanese hostel owner with a baby. Sandals on the tatami mat—oops. Team kanji and kana decryption. Slight earthquake. Temple hopping: Oldest guns in Japan! Zen rock garden! Byobu galore! Quiet walkways. Bamboo forest. Water pails for monks in training. Historic Japan, here, alive and with that wondrous mystery the past always has for the compulsively nostalgic. Golden temple, crowded but with green tea-flavored shaved ice. Ryoanji: overrated. Repetition. Long bus rides. Touristy Arashiyama and undisturbed Tenryuji. Katsura River and the smell of freshwater spray that reminds me of home. Long conversation with an Iraq vet turned English teacher disillusioned with America and the war, good to be out. Europeans, travel stories, and free toast. More temple-hopping, nice views and massive crowds. Aquaducts. Man fishing in reservoir—how do you say "Any luck?" in Japanese? More walking, endless walking. Sketchy hostel with reluctant English-speaker and overcrowded rooms. Panda-bear sorbet. Children splashing in the river. Misheard directions. Meiji steam-engines. Endless waiting and poorly-timed connections. Mountain town with dusty wares for sale. Bottle rockets fired into the neon night. New-smelling suburban homes drooled over by curious apartment-dwellers. River-fish served on sticks with crab legs and rich sauce with sushi for dessert. That rare confession that they didn't want to go back to work either. More train rides. Ueno street musicians. Jomon pottery. Okinawan toiletries. Ukiyoe of towns and snow and hunched-over workers with the bowed heads and wide-brimmed hats. Ume wrapped in gooey candy served on a stick. Bag of chocolate: 1000 yen. Katakana Harry Potter. 2-D love. More creamy breakfast pastries. Mounting excitement. Roger's the musician, Mimi's the whore. No day but today. Jinbocho book town stacked with browned art and cloth-bound Japanese books, best head to Ginza for Western fare. Best just to wander and poke through open bins. Best just to talk. Best just to rest.
Today I signed the contract that will keep me in Japan for one more year.
Where we're going we don't need roads.