Stone Basin

Stone Basin
at Ryo An Jin

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Day 16 Kyoto

If I am not careful, I can end up moving to Kyoto. Japan's expensive? Compare it to the Bay Area and it will instantly feel economical. The food is better, much better, and the sweets are to die for. Uji makes the best teas in Japan. Everything is squeaky clean, the service level is extreme, and all the toilets are at my height and heated/self cleaning. Not to mention the charm of old Kyoto as in no where in the world. My friend Takami lives here and teaches Buddhism at Otani University. He lives on the 10th floor of a beautiful building with two beautiful cats, who long to leap from the 10th to the 1st floor if allowed. Outside the huge windows is a surrounding veranda that completely filters out any street noise. Not that Kyoto is noisy. I just came back from Hong Kong and Taipei for god's sake.
I decided to indulge alittle today and do the tourist stuff. Of course that involves visiting Ippodo, one of the oldest and most prestigious teahouses in Japan. 'Tis the season for Sincha (New Sencha) and there are signs everywhere for tastings. I stopped in in the frizzy morning rain, a comfortable 60 degrees F or so, no pollution, and quite busy already with some seemingly very serious tea buyers in the shop. The waitress struggled with the Eigo a bit and I struggled with my Nihongo. Haven't really had the occasion to speak it for years, and what comes out now isn't in sentences any longer. The waitress meticulously made sure that I knew how to steep my Shincha, proper temperature at 60 degrees C, at 30 seconds, and served with a ridiculously delicious warabi mochi. I've already had freshly made pastries with red beans this morning, but there's never enough pastry to be had in Kyoto, is there?
The Shincha was delicious, dewey and grassy, with that signature Uji creaminess.
Lunch at an old Soba shop, fresh green tea soba with daikon mush, plus lots of sweets along the way. I have lost count. Nihonjin desu ga? iiee, Chyugoku Jin desu, iiee, Amerika jin desu, whatever.....
Visited Nanzenji, one of the landmark Buddhist Temples of Kyoto. I believe I have been to all of them during one of the pilgrimages, but it's always good to reconnect. This time however, there was a pervasive sense of disconnect to Buddhism. There were many tourists, and the grounds are still immaculate and perfectly naturally ornate. The sand is still in perfect circles. But you can hardly see any of the Buddhist statues and altars in the interior rooms, and the spiritual majesty I felt lurking seems to be dissipating somehow. Is it me maybe? Quite depressed, I went home to go drinking with my friend Takami, the heaviest drinker I know who is also a dedicated Buddhist.

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