Thursday, May 31, 2007

Kyoto, hours 4-6

A few weekends back I took the bullet train to my sister's hood in Kobe. From there, Osaka and Kyoto are both less than an hour by train. We spent a Saturday in Kyoto, eating, riding rented bikes, and getting lost as shit.
To someone not acquainted with Japanese food, this must be strange at best. They're all daikon radishes, pickled in several difference concoctions and marinades. Most Japanese meals are followed by orange half circles of daikon. In Kyoto, the capital of traditional Japanese cooking, the pickles cover every color of the spectrum.

This was inside the Nishiki market, an institution for Japanese gourmands. Stretching 5 city blocks, the market is a single, too-narrow lane, bound on either side by stands selling everything from pickles, tempura, fresh fish, cakes and sweets, to rice, fresh produce, tea, and knives. The oldest knife shop in Japan, since the 15th-century, has an enclosed space in the market.
That is not my bicycle. In Gion, the sun sets as tiny lights––hanging from the front of wooden dining dens––flicker on. This is one of the "most authentic" places in Japan––or so must say the tourist books. This secluded maze of alleys quickly becomes a nightly rush of those eager to swallow Japan whole. Still, walking along the surgically clean sidewalks, alongside centuries-old, slatted houses, one might glimpse a geisha or meiko-san slipping down an all-but-empty alleyway. And think about who lives under the painted mask.

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