Not alone in Kyoto

So, I’m in Kyoto. I’ve barely seen it, since we came straight to the hotel, but at a glance it’s a much more, um, real city than Tokyo. I always get the impression that everything in Tokyo was built about a week ago and constructed entirely of plastic, but here (discounting the old city quarter, of course) the construction seems to date back to the post-war reconstruction era of the ’60s — everything is very stolid, very granite-and-concrete, very lived-in. Basically, it’s not all that different from an American city like Detroit or Chicago, except that the crime rate is no doubt a teensy fraction of what you get in either of those places.

Anyway, I was going to update the weekly releases last night, but when we arrived at the ryoukan they fed us this:

And the bottle of sake I drank put me right to sleep the second I returned to my room. I am what is known in some parts as a “lightweight.”

So now I’m sitting in the lobby of this very traditional Japanese hotel, looking out over a peaceful rock garden with a waterfall that feeds into the public bath — that I won’t be using, because it would go counter to my tradition of hiding every possible inch of my body from public sight, and the last time I wore shorts was in the ’90s, and I don’t remember how long it’s been since I wore short sleeves without a long-sleeved shirt beneath it, so you can forget about me sitting naked in front of a bunch of strangers — using the very traditional wireless Internet connection as the PA plays very traditional Japanese music box renditions of Disney music. I can show you the world, take you wonder by wondeeeeerrrr….

I’m alarmed by the frequency with which I’ve heard these ear-shredding chime-y tunes since arriving here. They seem to be what they use in place of elevator music here; first there was a tonkatsu restaurant that inflicted Aerosmith, Whitney Houston and Elton John tunes on us, then I kept hearing it throughout our Shimbashi station base of operations in Tokyo, and now there’s this. If Japan is trying to prevent me from ever returning, this is probably the surest tactic for it.

Now they’ve switched the “The Entertainer.” Aaaand I’m off to go crush my skull beneath the massive stone tanuki statue in the courtyard.

17 thoughts on “Not alone in Kyoto

  1. go to the Sanjusangendo temple right by the trainstation. It’s so non-japanese it’s practically hindu, and it’s almost always forgotten by tourists who go to kyoto, which is a damned shame given how beautiful it is.

    Also, go to Nanzenji and eat Yudofu. fucking fantastic japanese buddhist food.

  2. Now, a bottle of sake is a fairly reasonable amount to drink without considering oneself a “lightweight,” I’d think. No one is going to mistake you for my jovial friend who called me at 3 in the morning last night, lamenting my absence from the St. Patrick’s Day festival because I decided I didn’t want to flunk out of grad school just yet — but still. Nothing to be ashamed of.

  3. Kyoto is my favourite city in Japan. (Well, that I’ve been to, of course.) It feels a lot more homey than the big, gigantic cities, but doesn’t skimp on the offerings.

  4. I just want to thank you, Parish, for putting that apostrophe before the 6 instead of in between the 0 and the s.

  5. I have yet to get out to Kyoto, though I was sort of in the area (went to the Deer Park in Nara). On the way I got to see an abandoned Theme Park, which instantly set off all my survival horror instincts. It was fascinating, even though I couldn’t enter.

    I agree with your take on Tokyo as well – it’s an utterly fascinating city that has everything you could ever imagine, but it’s not necessarily an accurate representation of Japan, imo.

    Anyway, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried an onsen before, but I haven’t met a single person who decided to try it out and came away hating it. Hopefully you get a chance one day.

  6. you’re seriously not going to take a dip in the onsen??? i assure you you’ll get past the whole naked thing once you’re soaking in a pool water heated to 42 degrees Celsius.

    also, sorry about the crappy weather in kyoto today :(

  7. Nanzenji is indeed awesome. Don’t bother going to Nintendo without arranging a press thingie first though, they don’t give tours. :-(

  8. Maybe this is just the blathering gaijin in me talking, but if public spots in Kyoto are going to have inappropriate, bright music playing, why not play Nintendo’s? Here in Florida near Disneyworld, there’s an electric pole shaped like Mickey Mouse’s ears along the highway. Is that too gauche for Japan?

  9. Onsens and public baths are debateably my absolute favorite thing about Japan. Forgot about your body consciousness…enjoy how good the water feels, and how much fun it is to shower with those cool hand-held sprayers.

  10. You haven’t worn shorts since the ’90s? Doesn’t it get hella hot in the summers out there in Cali? How do you stand it?

  11. I’m surprised no one has made a joke about getting teabagged by the stone statue.


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