Oct. 21st, 2014

gurdymonkey: (gurdymonkey2)
Photos from our first full day are here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/70104978@N00/sets/72157648868888971/


We are walking distance from some beautiful old shrines and temples as well as the Gion "pleasure quarters". The rain was warm, so it was rather pleasant. We had lunch at a cafe in our neighborhood - I had a bowl of green-tea noodle soup in a warm, almost buttery broth, with mackerel, fish-cake and seaweed. Really yummy.

Ellen had booked us into a tea ceremony here: http://www.teaceremonyen.com/

The tea master was a delightful gentleman who demonstrated tea ceremony for us in English and then taught us the proper way to whisk our own matcha. With the rain coming down at the back of the house, it was really lovely.

Gion has a rather touristy show which compresses tea ceremony, flower arrangement, geisha dancing, court music and bunraku puppet theater into about an hour - sort of "Reduced Shakespeare" approach to Japanese culture. We did that, then found a terrific little izakaya (think tapas bar, only with Japanese goodies, grilled beef, grilled fish, scallops with bacon, weird but yummy Japanese "pizza") on our way back towards the house. Sated, we all rolled into our respective beds not long after.

Our home away from home is a machiya or "town house" that has to be at least pre-WWII, and maybe a good bit older. The wiring in the front hall is definitely from a different era. Actually, it's two side-by-side houses with a door that passes through between them.
When you enter the house, you find yourself in a stone floored alcove where you doff your shoes and stow your umbrella. You have to step up from there into the house proper. I am sleeping in what was probably a sitting room at the front of "Heian" (Peaceful Cottage). Shoji paper-windows are above my comfy bed, the walls, ceilings and screen doors between rooms are all wood or woven bamboo. Josh and Ellen are in the bigger bedroom directly behind me and there's a narrow kitchen (I can smell Josh making toast) parallel with it. Tiny dining room behind their bedroom, and a "wet zone" with stone floors comprising toilet, shower and washer/dryer at the back of the house. The floorplan of "Koke-an" (Moss Garden Cottage) is identical, and Andy and Cory have the big bedroom on that side. The front sitting room next to me has a loveseat and a wall mounted television and DVD library, as well as tatami mats on the floor.

The toilet is a big contrast to the traditional surroundings. Equipped with a heated seat, bidet, warm air dryer for after you use the bidet, the part that really impresses me - coming from a drought zone - is the "big flush/little flush" option. Turn the handle one way to get rid of Number One, or the other for Number Two. Very high tech and efficient.

The rest of the house is starting to stir. We're going to try to hit the flea market at To-ji temple.


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