gurdymonkey: (gurdymonkey2)
2014-11-02 01:23 am
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Laid over in Incheon

Yeah, it got me a cheap fare, but flying from Tokyo to San Francisco via Incheon is kind of a stupid way to spend an afternoon. I'm in freaking Korea with not enough time to actually do anything interesting about it!

Yesterday's train trip to Tokyo went off without a hitch. Never did see Fuji-san because it was rainy and misty. Josh was across the aisle watching a samurai movie on his laptop and a fascinated six-year-old boy came over and decided he was his new best friend.
We found a place for Cori and Andy to store their luggage at the train station, then we took the subway to Ueno Park. Found a surprisingly good Italian place in the train station to grab a bite of lunch, then we spent the afternoon at the Tokyo National Museum. I need to organize my photo batch - and not everything I tried to take pictures of came out well, but their on-view collection was full of interesting and wonderful works and I thoroughly enjoyed it. As with one of the buildings at the Kyoto National Museum, the architecture imitates Western museums of the 19th century, so it was this Beaux Arts pile with Lalique-looking lamps in the central stairway. I will say they have an above-average number of comfortable (if low) seating spaces to rest in if one's feet start to give out, and the ubiquitous soft drink and ice cream vending machines in the basement beside the rest rooms.

Cori and Andy had a flight that evening, so we parted ways with them at the train station, then hopped the subway to Asakusa (pronounced A-SOCK-sa), to check into our hostel, a modern, funky place called Khaosan Laboratory. We went two doors down to meet some SCA friends at a great little okonomiyaki place called Sometaro. Okonomiyaki is a sort of pancake made of batter, cabbage and whatever else one wants to add to it. We ordered several different kinds, grilled them on our own hibachi table, doctored them with everything from soy sauce to mayo, and feasted. I'm glad I finally got to meet Chabi and Stefan - they're cool people. We walked around Asakusa a bit after dinner, found a coffeeshop for a bit of dessert, then we said good night and went back to bunk bed heaven.

Up early this morning for breakfast at Jonathan's, a Denny's-like diner in Asakusa with the usual oddly Japanese touches to their Western menu. It filled the empty and set me up for the walk to the subway line. I said goodbye to Josh and Ellen, who were taking a train in a different direction for another week's adventures, found the train to Narita, picked up the suitcase I'd sent on through Kuroneko (Black Cat), and discovered that my check-in line was being manned by a bevy of Asiana trainees, all petite Asian girls in brown uniforms with perfectly lacquered buns that make them look an awful lot alike.

United had done something weird with my reservation, so I pulled out my cell phone, pulled up the email confirmation with my confirmation number and my trainee was able to retrieve my boarding information. The same young lady turned up again at the boarding gate forty minutes later to take my ticket stub, so I made a point of saying hello and thanking her again.

Asiana's economy class is clean, comfortable and the inflight meal was pretty good. That said, if I had this to do over again, I'd have spent the extra money to fly direct. It's a dumb way to do it and I'm not thrilled with how late I got notification from United of a flight number change.

They should be boarding us shortly for the last leg home.

Japan is amazing. I walked myself lame daily, I coped with humidity and climbed hills and struggled to buy postage stamps without a translator and ate and drank things I'd never tasted before and feasted my eyes on places I'd read about and things I'd never heard of.

I cannot wait to go back.
gurdymonkey: (gurdymonkey2)
2014-10-31 05:29 am
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Last day in Kyoto: Sake, a canal cruise, a special moment in a special place, more sake

I'm sitting here with a big teacup full of plum wine on the rocks - as it's the homemade stuff Aoki-san from Okariba gave us and not in an appropriate container, I can't begin to think of bringing it home with me. Josh is working on a glass in the livingroom as he downloads photos.



This morning we took our big suitcases up the street to the 7/11 and filled out the paperwork for Kuroneko ("Black Cat") to forward them on to the airport for us. This is a very handy service and for less than $20, I will not have to drag the big suitcase on the train with me through Tokyo tomorrow, just my duffle carry-on and the laptop bag which I can fit my purse in to count as my personal item. I am a firm believer in "Matryoshka packing" bags withing bags when possible.



We took the train back down to Fushimi to tour the Geikkekan sake museum and do a tasting. Unlike the Takara plant in Berkeley, their museum describes traditional pre-industrial brewing methods. The tasting was two sake and one plum wine, all for sale in their gift shop. At 300Y, it was a good value and fairly fun.



We discovered we could also do a cruise down the canal in a  rice barge, so we did. It was overcast and a bit muggy, so it was pleasant out on the water.



We stopped for lunch at a tonkatsu place in a shopping arcade near the train station. Tonkatsu is usually a lightly breaded pork cutlet (though they also do chicken, shrimp and various sorts of croquettes) served with finely shredded cabbage, rice and miso soup.



We split up on the train back to Kyoto. Josh, Andy and Cori decided to check out the city's new aquarium. Ellen wanted to go back to Nishijin to pick up some things and I wanted to explore something pertinent to my SCA persona.



I chose the name Saionji no Hana when I decided to pursue my interest in Japan in the SCA. The Saionji were a branch of the powerful Fujiwara family during the feudal period and Josh had found a map reference to a Saionji Temple in Kyoto. It turns out the origianl temple was founded in the 1200s by a Fujiwara whose descendants then took the name of the place as their surname. (Sai-on-ji translates as Western Garden Temple) - and it was on the land where the Golden Pavilion now sits. The shogun decided that he wanted the land, the temple was relocated to the Muromachi district, then again to where it is now, in a quiet residential neighborhood north of the center of the city.



We found it: it was clearly undergoing renovation and construction and the main hall was closed up, but it was still exciting for me to see it. "My" name is on the gateposts. The Saionji crest, a tomoe (three swirling drops), was visible on stonework, the doors and the incense urn. I'm glad I got to see it.



Came home and got the rest of my packing done. The rest of the gang turned up in due order and we decided to revisit Bamboo on Sanjo-dori for our last dinner in Kyoto. It's a nice little upscale izakaya serving small plates of all sorts of yummy delicacies. I am full to bursting, there was beer and sake, and I think it's about time for me to shut off for the night.



Off to Tokyo in the morning!



https://www.flickr.com/photos/70104978@N00/sets/72157649060933995/ and https://www.flickr.com/photos/70104978@N00/sets/72157649049442342/
gurdymonkey: (gurdymonkey2)
2014-10-30 07:15 am
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Day 11: Kyoto National Museum, exploring downtown, Kodaiji at night

https://www.flickr.com/photos/70104978@N00/sets/72157646712711234/

 The Kyoto National Museum was our first stop after breakfast. Their permanent collection boasts a doable morning's worth of important works of Japanese art, ranging from archaeological artifacts from Japan's pre-history to paintings, sculpture, lacquerware, ceramics, textiles and swords. I got to see up close a number of historical textiles up close, including this one, which is an old favorite: http://web-japan.org/museum/textile/textile01/textile021.html The illustrated picture-scrolls were also great to see.

We walked into Gion for lunch at the Udon Museum: I had matcha udon served cold with a dipping sauce, rather like zaru soba as it had turned warm. Then we explored downtown, including a typical Japanese department store called Takashimaya. The ground floor food hall was pretty amazing: everything from pre-cooked to-go meals to beautifully sculpted sweets, to pickled vegetables and baked goods.

From there we found our way to the Nishiki Market shopping arcade. We stopped for afternoon tea, or at least what the Japanese perceive an English afternoon tea to be at Lipton's. I had a pancake with ice cream, chestnut paste, whipped cream and chocolate sauce, served with a pot of milk tea.

Thus fortified, we walked back to our neighborhood. Andy, Cori and I made a last stop at the Kyoto Handicraft Centre for gifts, then we met back at the house to walk over to Kodaiji Temple which lights up its grounds at night during the cherry blossom and fall foliage seasons.

It'll probably be even more spectacular in about a week. I managed to get at least a few photos, even though I'm still trying to learn how to do night shooting with Elaine's camera. Considering I wasn't using a tripod, I didn't do too badly.
gurdymonkey: (gurdymonkey2)
2014-10-29 05:56 am
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Day 10: Sacred foxes, silk stylings, a hike to a zoo and meat on a stick

https://www.flickr.com/photos/70104978@N00/sets/72157648610795007/

It will not surprise you that the Japanese have a god of rice, nor that Inari is also the patron of business. What may surprise you is that foxes are considered Inari's messenger.

We hopped a train to the outskirts of the city to Fushimi Inari, the chief shrine in the country to Inari. A repeated theme for a lot of these sites are streets that wind uphill towards the shrine (or temple), usually lined with souvenir shops or street vendors selling various refreshments. So it is at Fushimi, though at the early hour we started, most were not quite open or set up.

The shrine is renowned for its thousands of red torii gates, each donated by a sponsor (often a business). Tunnels of torii lead up the mountainside along winding trails to higher shrines. Andy, Cori and Josh opted to hike all the way up, while Ellen and I did a lower loop back to the first shrine. She and I headed back to Kyoto while the hikers did their thing.

Instead we took a shibori class! The Kyoto Shibori Museum offers a couple of make-and-take workshops and we learned out to create resist patterns by clamping wooden shapes against folded up silk. It's a fun technique, we got great results under Yoshiko-san's tutelage and I think I will be picking up a couple more C-clamps at the hardware store to experiment with in the future.
The proprietor also showed us their upstairs exhibits, which included a demonstration DVD, samples of in-progress pieces using various resist techniques, a roomful of stunning kimono, and recreations of famous artworks in shibori.

We met up with Andy, Cori and Josh at Kyoto Station, walked a few blocks to a curry joint for lunch. Japanese curry is a variant on the Indian kind, only generally pretty mild, served with rice and pretty much anything you care to add to it. Having had curry or curry-katsu two days in a row, I decided to have a salad instead.

We then walked across town to Kiyomizudera Temple. I think maybe it should be renamed Kiyomizoo, because it was one. The uphill approach was jammed with foot traffic and tour buses, and the place was bonkers. Kids on kimono dates, school groups, foreign tourists, the lot. To add to the pandemonium, half the place was under scaffolding and significant chunks of surrounding hillside look like stabilization efforts were in progress. Josh insists it's usually more serene than this.

I did, however, purchase a hand carved boxwood comb in a pretty case at a shop that specializes in them, as well as a miniature gourd from the hyotan man - his are supposed to bring good luck.  And we had a nice rest for hot drinks beneath the temple before heading back towards Higashiyama.

Yasaka Jinja shrine was lit up as we cut through on our way to Sanjo-dori. After a short break at the house, we found a great little yakitori joint just of Sanjo-dori. Hitoshi-san was a wonderful host and every bit of skewered meat that came down the bar was delicious.

I'm sitting here sipping a bit of umeshu on the rocks (plum wine) and will turn in shortly.
gurdymonkey: (gurdymonkey2)
2014-10-29 02:07 am
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Day 9: Zen, bling, sacred mice and playing with fire

An epic nap last night and lots of tea seems to have set me right for yesterday's adventures.
We were up early and on a rush-hour bus to Ryoanji. This Zen temple is famous for its "dry landscape" garden, so much so that it can get mobbed pretty quickly. We arrived early enough to snatch a few quiet moments on the veranda of the abbot's residence overlooking the sea of raked sand and stone islands before the clomping of sneakers announced the arrival of some Japanese high school students. The girls saw me sitting quietly with my camera and one approached offering a pink point-and-shoot. I took their picture as they all posed making the "V" peace sign, then I had to sign everyone's notebooks. (I tried getting one of them with mine, but it was so strongly backlit it wasn't worth keeping.)
At this point we moved on to explore the equally lovely landscape gardens. On our way to retrieve our shoes, another group of kids passed us. Josh asked them what school they went to, conversation with one of the girls ensued, and the next thing we knew we were posing with more kids and signing more autographs.
We caught another bus for Rokuonji, better known as Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion. This garish monstrosity was built by the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (the current building is a reconstruction as the original was burned down by a suicidal monk in the 1950s). Still, the gardens are lovely, particularly with the trees turning.
Another bus, another shogunal mansion: this time, the Ginkakuji - while not clad in silver, it is so named, probably so it pairs poetically with the other. Ashikaga Yoshimasa used it as a retreat where he dabbled in the arts while there was unrest in the streets of the city below. High on a hillside, the gardens, complete with a more ostentatious dry landscape, offer a commanding view of the city below.
We found lunch in a little place on the street below the Ginkakuji, then followed the "philosopher's path," a lovely shady walk along a canal, named for Kyoto University's Nishida Kitaro, who supposedly thought great thoughts there. Cherry blossom season must be a zoo, but it was very pleasant, with little shops and cafes tucked in between residences. We found a little place canalside selling vintage kimono. They had some great plaid ones, which were unlined and looked eminently suited to re-tailoring. Josh picked out two, I found one and we got a heavy discount. I think it came to under $10 each.
We also stumbled upon a small Shinto shrine just off the canal and up the hill. A little wild and overgrown, it featured all sorts of animal guardians, particularly mice. We finally came out at the bottom of the hill near the southern gate of Nanzen-ji.
It being Cori's birthday, we went out to a place where exquisitely cut pieces of raw beef in all its forms are brought to your table and you grill it yourself. Insanely good, probably because it was all well marbled, and well, fat tastes good. We walked back through town instead of taking a bus back, so that probably helped. Got some decent night shots in the huge arcade at Sanjo-dori (Third Avenue) and Teramachi-dori too!
gurdymonkey: (gurdymonkey2)
2014-10-27 05:44 am
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Day 7 and 8: Nara




Got up to take an early train to Nara, a city about 30 miles south of Kyoto. Nara was Japan's capital from 710-784 CE (when the Emperor moved the capital to Kyoto), and it has a number of impressive shrines and temples dating from that period. The parklike environs of the eastern part of town are also heavily populated by Japanese Sika deer: a legendary guardian spirit of the then-new Capital descended from Heaven on the back of a white deer to protect the city. Vendors sell waferlike deer crackers for 150Y (about $1.50) a packet, so the deer are not only used to being fed by visitors but can be quite demanding about it. When I wasn't fast enough with a wafer, one grabbed at my pants' leg to hurry me up. They are smaller than North American white tail or mule deer.





Our first stop was Todaiji (Eastern Great Temple), the world's largest wooden structure, and home to the largest bronze Buddha as well. My camera was a bit challenged by the light conditions inside, but I did get a few photos. (Most active temples do not permit photos inside the Buddha Hall, but this one does. The building has been rebuilt twice after fires, so the current one was completed in 1709  - and it's 30% smaller than the original, but still impressive. (Yes, I'm cribbing stats from Wikipedia....)





From there, we wandered up through the Kasuga Taisha shrine complex, also dating from the 8th century. Set in a forested area on the slope leading up to the mountain, it's quite lovely - though there was a big wedding going on, so we didn't go inside. The massed ranks of stone lanterns have been donated over centuries by patrons of the shrine.





Josh, Ellen and I visited the treasure house, which contains armor and weapons belonging to famous personages and two massive taiko drums dating to the 13th century (no photos, unfortunately).





We found a place for lunch on a street behind the shrine at the base of the mountain. I also bought some calligraphy supplies from a shop there, then we circled back down past the shrine. Ellen needed a break. so she sat and had some tea while we went on to Kofukuji, once the family temple of the powerful Fujiwara family. The pagoda is extremely impressive and even larger than the one at Toji in Kyoto.





As you can see from the photos, one of the temple halls is undergoing reconstruction. We've encountered this at several sites: the building is enclosed in a giant pole building so they can work in all weather. There are even some shrines and temples where it is the practice to completely rebuild on a regular cycle!





We collected Ellen where we'd left her, at an outdoor tea vendor in the temple's shadow, refreshed ourselves with bottles of Raimune (it's basically a lemon-lime soda like 7Up). We headed back down into town, detouring through a shopping arcade on our way to our ryokan. http://www.hakushikaso.co.jp/english.htm Hakushikasou is just a couple blocks from the train station. We had a large traditional room to share. Ellen and I went swanning off to the women's baths in our loaner yukata. The entire room is a "wet zone" with drains in the floor and stations where you can sit or stand and scrub off with soap, shampoo, etc. BEFORE you enter the tub and turn into a limp noodle from the delightful warmth.





After, dinner was served on trays in our room. It was a huge feast - and I found I wasn't hungry and just sort of picked at it.


Our hosts came to clear trays and lay out our futons, and then we all went to bed.





Breakfast was in a dining room downstairs. Josh, Ellen and I opted for the Japanese breakfast, while Cori and Andy went with the so-called Western breakfast. Rice porridge, smoked salmon, pickles, vegetables, miso soup. I had more of an appetite than the night before, but still couldn't finish. And I had a slightly scratchy throat....





Off to the Nara National Museum for the annual showing of selected treasures from the Shosoin Repository. Back in the 700s when the Emperor died, the Empress donated his possessions to a temple repository. I saw clothing, weapons, a lute-like musical instrument, bronze mirrors, a pair of the Emperor's shoes. http://www.narahaku.go.jp/english/index_e.html I invested in the exhibition catalog, plus back issues of several catalogues from previous years. My suitcase isn't going to make weight at this rate!

We stopped for lunch at an okonomiyaki joint in that shopping arcade downtown. I decided to have an attack of common sense. I was tired, footsore and not feeling great, so I got a train back to Kyoto before the others and snatched some down-time for myself. I napped the rest of the afternoon, sent the gang off to dinner without me while I had tea and toast and monitored the laundry. I'm hoping to be feeling better in the morning.
gurdymonkey: (gurdymonkey2)
2014-10-25 03:39 pm
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Day 6: A castle, a football game, and Hana's Happy Place.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/70104978@N00/

Good morning from the futon! We're off to catch the train to Nara this morning.

Yesterday, I got to try the wares of a "panya" or bakery for breakfast. I had an interesting, delightful thing that was a combination of flaky pastry, red beans and powdered sugar. A "clam chowder bun" was sort of a danish with bits of clam, tomato and cheese on top. (I have yet to have had a bad meal in this country!)

We visited Nijo, the Shogun's palace. No interior photos, but the interior features doors and walls covered with paintings by artists of the Kano school: gold backgrounds with scenes of trees, birds, animals, covering sliding doors which can enlarge or enclose a space. http://www.hibiki-an.com/contents.php/cnID/62

Many are undergoing restoration, but it's an impressive place even with some covered up or missing. The corridors feature "nightingale floors":which are built to deliberately squeak as one walks on them, thus giving warning of intruders. With a herd of tourists going through, they're constantly cheeping. http://www.deconcrete.org/2012/11/26/floors-of-fear/ shows how they're constructed.


The extensive gardens made a nice stroll. I imagine it's spectacular in the spring when many of the trees are in bloom.

From Nijo-jo, we hiked to the shrine of Abe no Seimei. The easiest analogy I can make for you is that he's a Japanese "Merlin." In reality, he was one of the court diviners, the people who put together almanacs of the lunar calendar and so forth, but there are many stories of Seimei's ability to know things, lay evil spirits, reverse spells and that sort of thing. The little shrine includes a side shrine to Seimei's mother, reputed to be a fox spirit (more on these when we go to Fushimi Inari).

Nishijin is the part of the city where the textile industry is based. Though much smaller nowadays, it's still where beautifully woven silks and brocades can be found. The Nishijin Textile Center features kimono fashion shows, demonstrations of weaving, and a shop that ranges from cheap tourist wares to high-end reproductions of historical textiles. I bought a couple meters' worth of brocade that I'll make into something I can wear. At $40/meter, I was hyperventilating a bit, but so worth it.

We had lunch at one of those conveyor-belt sushi places. You can pick dishes off the line as you see things you like, then return the plate through a slot in the table. A computer keeps tally of how many plates and you're charged 100Y per plate. That's about $1 for two pieces of sushi - and it was pretty good sushi too,

Andy needed down time, so we split up - he, Ellen and Cori headed back to the house, while Josh took me on the subway out near Nishi Honganji to the Costume Museum.

On the way, we happened to pass this little shrine and I glanced through the gate. "Kemari!" I cried, so we went in. It turns out that Shiramine Jingu, where two emperors are enshrined, It's also devoted to Seidaimyojin, a deity associated with sport, particularly this ancient cross between soccer and hacky-sack. We happened to walk past during a practice and the players appeared to be working on kicking the balls to their partners. The object of the game is to try to keep the ball in the air.

The website for the Costume Museum place has been extremely useful over the years as it features mannequins in historical dress from the various eras of Japanese history, with detailed schematic drawings identifying garments and styles.

In actuality, it's in this odd little side street in the district between the two big temples. and the proprietor also runs a business that manufactures and sells vestments and furnishings to temples. It looks like a nondescript little office building. You go up an elevator which opens onto their model of the Rokujo Palace, illustrating scenes from The Tale of Genji with beautifully costumed dolls. They've also added a smaller one with a scene from The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, with the dolls in Nara period dress. If you're expecting a full display of all the costumes from the website, you won't find it, though I'm sure all those costumes are stored onsite somewhere. However, there is a room where you can examine some typical male and female Heian garments and even try them on.

The lady attending the museum let Josh and me paw through the dress-up items and take detail photos of seam treatments, attachment points and other construction details to our hearts' content. A group of Japanese ladies came in to get pictures in one of the robes while posing with the male mannequin. I showed them pictures of the group photo from my Laurel ceremony with Josh and me in Heian clothing - it's the one where my sleeves are mortifyingly Not Right too - but they all thought it was pretty cool.

I definitely need to fix that - and now I have a better idea how they managed the false layering so I actually CAN. I was like a kid in a toy shop!

We walked back down to meet up with everyone at Kyoto Station for dinner at a Chinese restaurant. I needed comfort food - we've been averaging about 10 miles a day on foot if smartphone pedometers are to be believed. I had a crab omelette with snow peas and green onions and it really hit the spot. We also split a number of dishes, including a sweet and sour pork that was more vinegary and less sweet than the sort of thing we get back home. Yummy stuff.
LJ
gurdymonkey: (gurdymonkey2)
2014-10-25 05:23 am
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Day 5: Sacred mountains, tranquil gardens and killer bee hooch.

gurdymonkey: (gurdymonkey2)
2014-10-23 03:16 pm
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Day 4: Theme park cheese and the delights of nature in Arashiyama.

I went out early yesterday and shot some sights of the neighborhood, including the little temple on the other side of the alley wall, and the little stream that runs under Sanjo-dori on the way to the subway.

If you take the Tozei line as far west as it goes, you can pick up the Randen tram line, which wends its way through the suburbs towards Arashiyama. In a concession to the fact that not every day needs to be shrinetempleshrinetemplemuseum, we hit the Toei Studios theme park, where I came to the conclusion that I am too damn old and cranky to be a ninja. Seriously: the guides through the Ninja Mystery House were about as threatening as Mousketeers as they encouraged us in chirpy, rapidfire Japanese (with Josh translating), to find all the secret passages through the house. Cheesy, commercial, and happy to take your yen for refreshments and souvenirs, but they do still shoot movies and tv shows in parts of the park and there was a section cordoned off with a shoot going on while we were there. And that's cheesy in a good way. http://www.toei-eigamura.com/en/

We hopped back on the Randen and took it to the end of the line in beautiful Arashiyama. (Storm Mountain), along the Oi River. You exit the tram into the prettiest transit station ever, decorated with a "kimono forest" of beautifully patterned tubes that light at night, and lined with neat little shops selling sweets and snacks. A tourist destination since the Heian period, the Oi river valley is surrounded on all sides by wooded mountains just starting to get their fall color.

As you exit the station through crowds of holiday goers, you will be frequently greeted by photogenic men in skintight shirts, short shorts and tabi waving brochures with big smiles, inviting you to see Arashiyama by rickshaw. The occupation necessitates fitness and I saw these guys loping up and down the street with passengers all day. (Rent or stream "The Rickshaw Man" with Toshiro Mifune some time! It's a charmer.)

We found a place by the Togetsukyo Bridge for lunch. Mine was paper thin slices of white pork and a raw egg in broth with tender soba noodles. Stir the egg into the broth and it gets very rich and hearty. Washed down with a small glass of Asahi Super Dry.

That set us up well for the next adventure. We took a trail up past a little Shinto shrine guarded by a handsome bobtail cat and up to the Iwatayama Monkey Park. The semi-paved trail climbs 160 meters (about 525 feet) through the trees. Just when you need to catch your breath, there is an inevitable Monkey Quiz signboard with questions about the life and habits of the Japanese macaques that live on the mountainside. There's a troop of about 130 or so of these beautiful animals, all given individual names by the park staff, and they are quite fearless about sharing the mountain with tourists. When you reach the top of the hill, you are rewarded with a sweeping view of Kyoto spread out to the east. Attendants were breaking up aggressive monkey squalls, from time to time, it being breeding season right now.  You can enter the hut and buy 100 yen bags of peanuts or apple chunks and feed the monkeys from inside. This works brilliantly - the monkeys know to expect food from people inside the wire. Since they don't get handouts from visitors outside the hut, they know not to accost  you there.

I developed a two-handed feeding strategy so I could assuage more aggressive, larger monkeys while still getting pieces of apple into the hands of the littler ones. And I have to confess I felt a thrill as those little hands took apples from my palm. It's hard to describe.

Fortified by cooling breezes on the hike back down, and a cone of soft serve ice cream ("softu" is a big thing here and so far I've had green tea, hochicha (roasted brown tea) and mango flavors), we crossed the river to climb to a lovely spot overlooking the Oi river gorge, wended our way through an impressive and beautiful bamboo grove, then finished up with the lovely gardens at Tenryuji.

We split up to browse some of the shops (I was good and only bought post-cards), then met back in front of the Randen station to use the foot spa. This is a real thing! You pay 200 yen for a towel at the information center, then walk along the tram platform until you get to a communal pool where you can soak your tired feet in soothingly hot water. http://kyoto.traveler-s.net/items/176

Dinner at "Randon" above the station, a donburi place (stuff over rice). Mine was salmon sashimi, salmon roe, nori and some sort of green, clovery looking plant. Yum.

Then back to Kyoto by Randen, subway and our tired feet.
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