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Day 4: Tuesday, 20 October 2009

JuliaThis was the first day of the group tour part of my trip, and as we did last time we began by walking through Kyōto Gyoen (the grounds of the Imperial Palace in Kyoto), stopping at Nashinoki-jinja, and then along the Kamo River. Preparations were already underway for the two-days-hence Jidai Matsuri, which begins at the Imperial Palace and proceeds two kilometers through the streets to the Heian Shrine. Folding chairs for spectators were being set up in rows, and flora were being pruned even more diligently than usual. When one member of our group wondered if some strips of paper tied to nearby branches were omikuji, trip coordinator Nancy speculated that in this case they were more likely markers for specific branches that landscaping workers would trim.

We wandered up Teramachi Street a bit, trying to find a washi shop that someone knew of, but we didn't find it. We did stop in at Ippodo's main shop, where we sipped some delicious hojicha samples. I'd never really noticed or appreciated hojicha before this trip, when I encountered many pots of it. I wonder whether it's served more often in the autumn or whether I was just oblivious to it before. As the Wikipedia entry says, "The roasting replaces the vegetative tones of standard green tea with a toasty, slightly caramel-like flavour." I bought 100g of it, some of which I'm enjoying as I type this, and which I'm happy to share as I did at a cookie-exchange and tea party earlier this month and as I plan to at a Tea Night at HacDC next month. It isn't expensive—just note that it's very quick-brewing, like 15-20 seconds.

lunch at Ganko Takasegawa NijoenWe had a lunch reservation at Ganko Takasegawa Nijoen. As Kansai Food Page notes, "This sprawling building was once the private mansion of one of Kyoto's leading merchants, and its beautiful garden and riverfront setting make it a popular spot for parties and banquets." In a private room with a garden view, we were each served a casual kaiseki meal in a lacquered box with a drawer. The set meal included soup, sushi, grilled fish, tofu, pickled vegetables, yuba, a savory custard, maybe tamagoyaki... my memory has faded. Dessert was a fruit sorbet. After lunch we strolled in the aforementioned beautiful garden.

weavingIn the afternoon we headed to the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts "Fureaikan". We breezed through the gallery to get to a demonstration on weaving, including ikat. I'd like to learn more about weaving—along with a thousand other things—but not knowing much about it yet, I didn't really understand what I was looking at, and there wasn't any English-language signage. It was easier to understand and enjoy the permanent exhibits on traditional handicrafts like lacquerware, dyeing, woodworking, and ceramics. These exhibits featured examples of finished works, looping videos of the craft-making, and in many cases examples of the work at various stages in its making. It was amazing to see the beauty that can result from the application of age-old techniques to simple materials by experienced craftspeople.

That evening we wandered the Teramachi Street shopping arcade, with its souvenir shops and 100 yen shops and coffee shops and trendy clothing shops and かに道楽's giant animatronic snow crab in the middle of it all. Nancy showed us CHICAGO, a vintage clothing store with Western clothing on the first floor and Japanese traditional clothing on the second floor. We stopped for a snack at Lipton Sanjo Main Shop, where I had a delicious Japanese chestnut Mont Blanc parfait. What I don't understand is their tea, a black tea that tastes to me as though it was brewed ten times too long. Even with cream and sugar, it's so bitter it's hard for me to drink, much less enjoy. But it's clearly made the way it is intentionally and consistently, probably carefully even. I suppose it counterbalances the sweetness of the desserts served there, but that seems a theoretical point.

This entry was originally posted at http://bokunenjin.dreamwidth.org/2563.html.