November 7, 2012

Jam Packed Kyoto

There is literally so much to share from today that I've had to upgrade my Blogger account to support the amount of images I'm uploading. Kyoto is truly one of the most photogenic cities I have ever traveled to; a brilliant blend of natural beauty, cultural significance, and modern pleasures all wrapped up into a walkable place.

The first stop on our jam-packed schedule (and because I'm with two Brits, that should be pronounced like nails on a chalkboard) was the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, a place I had been before but was eager to return to. I will let the pictures and captions speak for themselves:
This is applicable
The band shot
By far one of the most amazing things about the grove is the naturally occurring and perfectly sized path that runs right through the center of it all!
Through the grove we reached the home of the Japanese silent film star Okochi Denjiro. Obviously I'm a huge fan of his work, so we paid our 1000 yen to have tea and explore the grounds.

We wandered through paths like this for hours.
And this
Until we reached places like this.
And this.

With pretty alright views
The tour of his home concluded with green tea and cake. Pretty great hospitality for a dead guy,
My senior pic
His senior pic
Making friends with the locals

On the way back to the station we passed a parking lot with three gents about our age who were kicking a soccer ball around. They wanted to practice their English and we wanted to practice our dribbling skills. We challenged them to a quick game, first to three. We came in second!
Fifa Crew
It's not underwear, but I'm getting close
Nice reminder of home

Me made a brief stop at the Golden Pavilion, but I had already paid my $5 to see it when last I was in Kyoto, so I waited for the boys to snap their photos and take in the beauty of a building constructed in 1955 after the original burned down. While waiting, a large group of school girls passed by and my smile and wave was enough to have made you think they had just seen The Beatles. They didn't ask for a photo though. Damn!

We hustled from Kinkakuji to a theater back in downtown Kyoto where there was a once a year Geisha performance. For $50 dollars we were treated to some of the best green tea I have ever had, a delicious cake, and a 50 minute nap. I believe I dreamed I was in a dimly lit theater with geishas "dancing" (slowly moving) onstage while the same song played over and over again, but my dreams aren't usually painfully boring so I'm not sure what to make of that...
Nap time!
 A friend from back home sent me an article about Burger King Japan and how they were serving Pumpkin Hamburgers. As I woke from my geisha slumber I realized I was craving a pre-dinner snack and remembered passing a Burger King, so the three of us made a pilgrimage to the home of the Whopper and ordered this Halloween treat.

I am pleased to announce that I did not request the extra-pumpkin upgrade, which guarantees "500% more pumpkin." Why am I pleased? Because it means I have an excuse to go back and get this delicious treat! If this blog hasn't convinced you to come to Japan ASAP, perhaps the following photos of one of man's greatest creations will:
1 part burger, 1 part pumpkin pie.
It doesn't look like much, but...
It is! The warm patty combined with the sweet grilled pumpkin is heavenly.

With a belly full of inspired food, I was fully rejuvenated and in need of some entertainment. We decided to return to the arcade we had visited the previous day to work up an appetite for dinner (the Pumpkin Burger was an appetizer). We played some more game of air hockey and I discovered the greatness that is Taiko Drum Hero:
Firstly, the game lures you in by animating your face.
Look how into it I am!
Unfortunately, the intense drumming and heated air hockey matches were not enough to justify more food, so we decided to walk around the area and poke our heads into any shop that looked interesting. One such shop was a CD store (while they're the country of the future, they're still embracing the CD and Tower Records) and it was here that I finally got to listen to these guys:
Perhaps inspired by this song?
Goal 16 is to discover a Japanese band and see them live and I've not got my eyes and ears set on these guys! My two favorite tracks were the highly suggestive "Face Down" and the overtly sexual "We Wanna Funk, We Need to Funk". Their sound is a pleasant hybrid of B2K, Aaron Carter, Sparks,  DDR, and all tracks produced by Stargate. That's right, a pleasant hybrid. Not even Deadmau5's headgear compares to these guys. I hope one of their stage names is "The Colonel".

We cruised for an hour or two until the hunger finally returned to our bellies. The boys wanted to do a sushi train restaurant and I purposefully didn't mention that I don't eat fish. I figured it would be a good excuse to at least try sushi.

No. No. No thank you. Yuck. No. Are you serious?!
I had enjoyed a spicy tuna roll and some tuna belly a few weeks earlier. Let me amend that statement: It wasn't so much that I enjoyed those products so much as I enjoyed not puking right after. But that was a good enough response for me to try again:
Here goes nothing

Those who have been trying for years to get me to eat sushi will be pleased to hear that I genuinely enjoyed this, and if it weren't for the wasabi, I think I would have gone for seconds. The fish had almost no taste (a major plus) but instead had a very delicate texture. Not necessarily melt in your mouth, but certainly easy to digest.

Next up was shrimp tempura sushi. I like tempura. I like rice. I don't hate shrimp. Seemed like a good choice. AND IT WAS! 2/2! Except they used seaweed to hold the concoction together, and that was a lot like opening my mouth in the ocean and just inhaling. No thank you.
Whoda thunk
I finished off the meal with some sweet potatoes, eggplant sushi and fried bean curd skins. I had just put two completely foreign objects into my body and was afraid of pushing it. Nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night in a capsule hotel with the need to puke.

The night ended with a walk down a paper lantern-lit alley in search of a great bar. The first we entered served a really great $5 pineapple juice, or at least that's what I'm going to tell myself to justify the expense. It was probably $1 worth of juice and $4 worth of ice. The gentleman running the bar did play some good tunes though, and it was only after he played "Moves Like Jagger" that we decided we had overstayed our welcome.

The walk continued until we passed what may be Taylor and Toni's ultimate dream: A dimly lit jazz & whiskey bar. For the record, they also have a mean glass of water. 

 We sat and enjoyed some records while making plans for the following day. I started to get lost in my cameras ability to control shutter speeds and ended up playing around while they finished their beers and discussed something I did not quite catch. Probably how awesome I am.
If I was pretentious enough, I'd claim this accurately captured the feeling of the bar.
Making friends on the subway

Today turned out not to be a rent-a-bike sort of day as we had a lot of ground to cover, which means we'll be cycling our way through Kyoto tomorrow!

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