Kyoto n' Karaoke

Trip Start Jul 09, 2007
Trip End Dec 20, 2007

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Day 9- Kyoto and Karaoke!
  We caught two express trains and made it to Kyoto in no time!  We were off to a good start.  Kyoto was celebrating their huge once a year festival (I'm not sure what exactly they were celebrating).  There was a huge parade going through the whole city.  We decided to cut it off at the end.  When asking directions from a couple of British tourists, we were told that there is no way we could walk it.  Well, we did.  The first ten minutes of the parade were great.  The basic gist of the float (from top to bottom) was twenty foot rod above a wooden boat-looking thing (with either statues or real people in it), and then men in boxer shorts walking around the outside of it (I think they were simulating carrying it, but all of the floats were on wheels).  After ten minutes the parade became a bit redundant and so we decided to look for food (we actually met a tourist in Hiroshima who also saw the parade, and described it as watching paint dry)
  We stopped to ask a couple of American guys if they knew where all of the best restaurants were.  Phil explained that we were looking for a special type of Japanese cuisine native to the Kyoto region.  The men informed us that they were looking for a Wendy's (probably as a change-up to McDonalds).  We happened upon an adorable Korean restaurant.
On a side street, far away from the Kyoto bustle (and after driving Michelle crazy looking for a place that would satisfy my complicated desire for something inexpensive, refined and different, we landed on this mom and pop Korean counter.  Tiny, maybe 8 stools, a husband and wife team ran the show.  (The wife, obviously in charge) With only four options on the set menu we settled on the kimchi chicken and beef bowl with assorted vegetables.  As you can see, it was beautiful, light and unique.  The miso soup, clear with fresh seaweed was refreshing and cleansing.  The small side plates or "panchan" as the Korean's call it, were a solid, standard kimchi, delicious cold fried noodles with red peppers and sprouts with marinated mushrooms of some sort (amazing).  The kimchi chicken was wonderfully seasoned (not too spicy) as well the beef bowl with the bold fresh flavors of the vegetables.  With Korean brown rice tea included, the meal came to 1600 Yen or about $13.  The best deal imaginable for this beautiful meal.  Upon leaving we were offered delicious Korean coffee candies. 
 We sat along the river for a while, and planned our next move.  The plan took us to the Heian Shrine.  About 200 yards from the shrine, I realized that I just didn't have it in me to see one more shrine.  The outside of the structures are amazing, but you can admire them from afar.  Instead Phil and I played in a nearby playground for a while.  The Yoshida shrine seemed (on the map) to be surrounded by a park.  We thought we could relax and read our books for a while.  On the way to the shrine, as we walked past a small souvenir store, I heard a squeaking noise above my head.  There was a nest with three tiny baby birds that were apparently pissed that I was walking past them.  As I grew closer they screamed louder.  We snapped a few pics and continued on.    At the base of the shrine a movie was being shot (I think that we may be in the background!!). 
  We never actually made it to the top of the shrine because we stopped to watch a kid's gymbore class.  A women rode up to the building (on a bicycle) with kid in tow.  As the woman began un-strapping her daughter from the seat, the girl began to cry.  The mother spoke to her for a few minutes, but became fed up when the child refused to stop crying.  She took the child off of the bike and quickly sped away, leaving the young girl (probably around five) crying in the parking lot by herself.  I could not help but think how Americans could and would never do such a thing.  The girl eventually stopped crying and entered the building.  Maybe we need to a little stricter!
  Back in Osaka, Phil got a craving for conveyer belt sushi, and I wasn't far behind him.
You cannot go to Japan without trying a conveyor belt ("kaiten" in Japanese) sushi joint.  The easiest menu for tourists to navigate because there isn't one!  Everyone sits at a counter (no tables).  In front of you, a rolling carpet of assorted sushi and rolls.  You see something that looks good you reach for it.  Simple. The trick is to keep an eye on the sushi chefs and snatch the newest cuts.  Though, it's all good.  We sampled hamachi, conger eel, pickled cucumber sushi, horse mackerel, ika (squid), uni (sea urchin) w/cucumber, a couple others and lastly the most incredible fatty salmon I've ever tasted.  Pure butter.  Two pieces per plate with each color coded to indicate price (or in this case magnetically imprinted and scanned). When finished, someone comes over to count (or scan) the plates.  We shared a beer and had 8-10 pieces each.  The bill was 1700Y, about $14!!!  By far the best deal so far.  A comparable meal with this quality fish in NY would run you at least $75.  The prices of certain things in Japan are very odd to a foreigner.   Take for instance fruit.  It's a fortune.  The price of a cantaloupe can run from $5 to $100 (or more I think).  We saw oranges for $3 each.  I would gladly give up all the melon in the world to have this place on my block.       
  After dinner, it was karaoke time.  I have been begging Phil since we got to Japan to sing!  The karaoke fad seems to have ended over here, but that didn't stop us.  Jumbo Karaoke offered private rooms in half-hour intervals with waitress service.  Our original half hour commitment turned into an hour and a half, and I was in my glory!  Time flies when you've got Guns n Roses, George Michael, Neil Sedaka, and the Carpenters singing backup for you.  Phil sang Song Sung Blue just like Neil Diamond (and that isn't the sake speaking).  We continued our concert through the subway and all the way back to our street, until we were interrupted by a very loud kitty. 
  A small cat was standing in the center of the sidewalk yelling at all the people walking by.  Phil and I stopped, and the cat rubbed up against his leg.  He was so hungry.  We quickly ran to the 100 yen store, and picked up a can of mackerel (they didn't sell cat food).  I prayed that the cat was still there, and he certainly was.  This time he was shouting at a homeless man, who was yelling back at him right back.  We watched for a few moments as the cat devoured the can of fish.  We walked back to the hotel with big self-approving smiles on our faces.
  We were able to check email for the first time since Tokyo, and were informed from loved ones that there were two earthquakes, and a typhoon (we did hear about the typhoon a little) in Japan.  We experienced nothing, really.  Some heavy rain, but nothing that lasted more than a few hours.  Apparently we are leaving a trail of destruction behind us. 
  We decided to have the DVD party tonight, since last night was a bust.  We watched a Woody Allen flick, and pigged out on candy and beer.  It couldn't have been a better end to a wonderful stay in Osaka.
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