Offal and Engagement

Day 8 – Friday, 5 April 2024

How they’ve grown

A day of tourist highlights: the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, the gardens of Okochi Sanso, Ryōan-ji and the golden temple of Kinkaku-ji. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Approximate onset of temple saturation syndrome

After a nap, I set out to poke around the neighbourhood in which we’re staying, just west of Yamashina subway station. Heading further west for the first time along the street that Google Maps labels either as Tokaido or Old Sanjo Dori, I got no more than fifty metre when I was arrested by the sight of a beautifully presented Buddhist temple. A far cry from the many to sites of devotion that one stumbles across without warning, tucked between a Uniqlo and a takoyaki stand, which seem to wear their worn edges as symbols of authenticity, this was as spick and span as a raked garden. An elderly gentlemen behind the pristine modern wooden gate saw me and beckoned me over. When I tried to convey that I was a tourist just stumbling past with no more noble purpose than ordinary sticky-beaking, he ushered me inside and gave me the guided tour, took me in to see the 800 year old wooden Buddha, twice my height. There we conversed, via the translate-o-tron, his wife (I assume) joining in at times. Muneo Masuda is his name, 74 years old and the keeper of the temple – from some of the photographs around, of him and groups of juniors all in full ceremonial kit, he must be the priest, or whatever is the proper title in the circumstances. We spoke, briefly and necessarily superficially, of the desirability of the lack of desire. To want nothing is to be happy. Having thus exhausted my entire knowledge of Buddhist philosophy, I basked in the atmosphere of calm and the warmth, yet again, of the welcome I was receiving. 

Temple saturation level 75%

In the evening, we found a local restaurant the speciality of which is nabe, or hot pot, made with cow’s stomach. The offal itself was admittedly chewy, but it imparted a delicious fattiness to the broth. I polished mine off. I think everyone else enjoyed the stew but tucked their uneaten stomach under the rims of their bowls. 

But the highlight of the day was definitely a second load of Kyoto laundry and this time I took Anna with me to Deeps. This time, wonderfully, we were two among about eight customers, all obviously locals and regulars, including a couple with a couple in infants, two years old and not quite one. I proudly showed off my brilliant wife, who chatted away all evening in Japanese. I sat next to Kō, who described himself laughingly as an actor, “the Japanese Leonardo Di Caprio”. I didn’t catch the names of the others. Daigo and Osato made us welcome again. Photos were taken. Email addresses exchanged. A brilliant time was had. 

The gang, up to no good. Daigo is third from right, back row, Osato far right, Ko next to Annabelle


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