Wedged next to Kimonos

Day 7 – Thursday, 4 April 2024

Death in the cherries

A slow start with some shopping and coffee and cake, the last from a patisserie that hands over its signature items in a little card box with a couple of ice packs in it (this on a 20 degree day) to make sure that your glazed apple absurdity gets home in optimal condition. Seb’s lasted eight seconds, leaving me carrying around two ice packs for the next hour looking for a bin.

I did not know that it is possible to window shop in a supermarket. Muji is Ikea only for food and clothing and homewares and without the faux Scåndihøovian nicknames for every bookcase and nostril cleaner. Anna, who has never been known to spend a single minute in a supermarket that she wasn’t forced to and who considers the little stickers on fresh fruit to be wasteful packaging, idled from aisle to aisle, cooing over plastic trays of Wagyu beef and wilting bento. Sure, everything is more fun when it’s foreign, but I didn’t get it, so I went and tried to work out the machine through which one orders food from people standing behind a counter two metres away, and gathered a crowd.

Everywhere you look
Almost literally everywhere

From there to the canal, or ditch, that runs along the northern edge of Yamashina, which is the local spot for admiring the spring colours, and took many photos. Many, many photos. Then the rest of the team went back for some quiet time while I decided that Kyoto proper needed a poke around. So, into town on the Tozae and Karasuma lines, to Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae station, for a decent mooch about. Through the shopping district, repelled by the crowds is Nishiki Market – in fact, repelled by the crowds everywhere, tourists by the thousand – I took refuge by plunging into the most Japanese looking café I could find, an amazing nook of dark panelled wood and tiny chairs. Making my way upstairs, I wedged myself into a corner at a table designed for two people much smaller than I and drank a café au lait and watched the group of four ladies in traditional dress at the table across the room. Ten minutes later the young waiter said something to me while I said something to him – namely, that I would welcome a refill – with mutual incomprehension the only result. Eventually, by sticking my translate-o-tronic phone under his chin, I learned that he was asking me to move to an even smaller table designed for a lonely dwarf, right next to the table of kimonos, apparently so that a young couple could claim my table for two. I happily obliged. I never did make him understand my desire for a second coffee. Then a stroll around Gion. 

Another century

Back to Yamashina for dinner at a local restaurant, once again made so much of when they realised that Anna was not completely useless in Japanese that it was almost smothering. We are having fun, here. 


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