Saturday, March 16, 2019

Kyoto - First Day

Our first full day in Kyoto began with a trip to the city’s International Manga Museum where we gained a deeper appreciation for this increasingly global art form - and found the perfect souvenir for Vienna. My favorite part was when a performer named Danmaru began racing through the museum, banging wooden blocks to gather children and bemused adults to his room on the second floor. There we witnessed a presentation of Kamishibai, a raucous storytelling experience enacted when a performer pulls pictures from a box in rapid succession to tell jokes and stories. The highlight was an episode from the “Golden Bat” picture show. The performance evoked a 30s-era serial featuring death rays, an evil genius, and a damsel in distress. Of course it concluded with a cliffhanger.

Afterward we made our way to Ippudo for some ramen. I never really got into this kind of food before, which is a shame. Where has this stuff been all my life? The place is popular, so we waited a bit under threatening drizzle, ordered outside, and joined a group sitting around a communal table. Ah, the meal! Thin noodles, pork slices, bean sprouts, green scallions, spicy broth, and all sorts of available add-ons (including egg for Jenny, naturally). Stuffed, we returned to increasingly sunny weather and joined the jostling crowds to wander the nearby shopping arcades. At one point I saw a couple dudes entering an elevator leading to a manga bookstore. We joined them and cruised the aisles for a while. But this manga was most definitely not for children. Again, I don’t want to get into a foreigner’s judgmental mode - but… wow. No souvenirs for Vienna from this place! Later we found dozens of teenagers congregating in a store that sells stickers. Not just ordinary generic images but original works by really clever artists. A chipper clerk assured us that we were very lucky, that two stickers I liked had just gone on sale. And that’s how I bought about 25 bucks worth of stickers. Japan’s really got my number.

Following a brief sojourn back to our hotel, Jenny and I returned to the Pontocho district with its narrow alleys festooned with lanterns and happy crowds. We ducked into a Teppanyaki place called Kyosikian and savored a feast: Wagyu, seared tuna, and fried rice. After a chocolate torte for dessert, Jenny and I checked out L’Escamoteur, a bar designed to evoke the mysteries of French magicians (the bathroom hides behind a secret door, that kind of thing). I ordered an Old Fashioned, smoked under glass, and later sampled a flaming absinthe drink called Death in Provence. Jenny opted for non-alcoholic concoctions, including something called a Pink Bunny. The place is clearly popular with tourists, so we waited a bit to snag chairs at the bar. We chatted with an older couple commencing a tour around the world. It’s interesting to see places as an unfolding assemblage - but how amazing it would be to complete a full circumnavigation, following the sun and seasons. That’s the dream!

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