Tuesday, April 13, 2010

April 13: Kyoto

April 13: Kyoto

Darkended dreams
become modern grapes of wrath
reaping a bitter wine.



Pictures: Well, THB went for the eclectic in the sequence. Plenty of pictures of the monastery, including several showing mini-statues with bibs on them (paying tribute for children that have moved on), a couple of the pork cutlet restaurant (one is the display outside the restaurant), a warning sign (posted sideways!) on shoes, a giant rope on a tree depicting a Shinto shrine site, the ad on the back of a taxi seat, and maybe a few others, including dupes...lots of pics!!

The weather: though overcast and at times threatening all day, it does not rain today.

Up early, not quite early enough to get to hear monks chanting (that’s a 6am start time!). Breakfast buffet, items of note include mugwort and rock sugar bread and chocolate granola (DB asks me what is that I’ve put on top of my yogurt, is that chocolate? Hmmmmm…somehow that’s what I picked!).

We meet our guide for the day, Steve; he lives here in Kyoto. Ahhhhhh, it’s a small world, he’s a bit older than us and grew up off the 405 in LA a few miles south of where we lived, so now we’re trying to see if we share high school acquaintances in common. He’s semi-retired, which means the company no longer books big groups. Very few full-time employees and a lot less stress for the guides.

We head to the 700 year old Daitokuji Monastery, that is made up of 22 sub-temples and we spend extensive time in two learning about the history and background. Steve spends time here and is much involved with learning the tea ceremony (sounds more complicated and intimate than learning baseball in depth, from scratch).

We see dry gardens, shrines, get a feel for the setting of the tea ceremonies, and even meet a monk that Steve knows (through the monk’s father). Before lunch, we visit the showroom of a famous “washi” paper maker who invented a new method for making very large and elegant pieces.

Lunch is in the walls of the monastery, at Izusen, a vegan restaurant. The meal includes a number of items we have not had before, including plum wine (a dead ringer for Manochevitz Passover wine – we have no trouble confirming the similarity to concord grapes), tofu made of sesame, mugwort (again), cherry blossom leaves, gingko nut, two types of rice, pepper leaf. The meal starts with a very strong tea and sweet fiddlehead fern in mochi like consistency. The reason, as Steve relates, is that the monks traditionally had been chanting and meditating for long hours before meals, and needed a sugar/caffeine rush to pick them up. Cost pre-paid.

We then visit two local artisans. One, a local textile artist, makes clothes (shirts, scarves, kimonos) by hand-dying old and obsolete fabrics that he has helped salvage. Very pretty and unusual, DB gets a scarf. Then we visit a ceramicist doing unusual work and we buy a bowl. Steve is clearly getting us to unusual and hard-to-find spots.

Steve recommends one of his favorite spots for dinner, it’s hidden in midst of a shopping arcade. Since he has taken us on the subway for one of our jaunts, we take it on our own and walk to dinner from there, at Katsukura. We order the specialty of the house: deep fried pork cutlets! You order by weight, DB goes for the small, I order the medium Along with the cutlets come all-you-can eat rice, cabbage and pickled veggies. You grind up your own sesame seeds (with mortar and pestle) and mix in sweet or savory sauce. Excellent, and we are the only two gringos in the place! Two draft beers, total comes to $45.

Back on subway and walk to hotel. Today was a fish-free eating day!


  1. did you check if the wine was vegan, ala engfers?

  2. No, though we ran into organic beer later in the trip,