Saturday, September 27, 2014

Japan II: Kitsune and Unagi

Beef Bowl

Woke up bring and early the next morning to have breakfast at the 24 hour Yoshinoya just outside the hotel. A very small place with about eight seats at the bar. Got the beef bowl (extra beef) and unagi with rice. The beef was so tender and juicy. Much better than the Yoshinoya in Malaysia. And no weird smell in the shop. The next city in our list was Kyoto (The Tribe went to Kaiyukan instead). Took the Keihan Railway from the Yodoyabashi station to Fushimi Inari station. Another fifty minutes or so. True to the weather forecast, it started raining at 11:00 am, just as we alighted. The station is just walking distance to the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine, dedicated to Inari Ōkami, the Japanese kami of foxes, of fertility, rice, tea and Sake, of agriculture and industry, of general prosperity and worldly success. The walk was pleasant, passing quaint little shops, a railway crossing and a river. The main feature of the shrine would be the vermilion torii lining the mountain path to the shrines and the fox (kitsune) statues, believed to be messengers.

Railway Tracks

Main Torii

The fox status are adorned with red votive bibs called yodarekake, and the statues are often depicted with a key or a ball in its mouth. The key represents the keys to the rice granary, a fitting symbolism since Inari is first and foremost the god of rice. With so much vermilion splashed around the temple grounds, its a fantastic place to take photos. Past the main gate and building are Senbon Torii-- two dense, parallel rows of gates lining the hiking trail up to Mount Inari. Each were donated by individuals or companies with the details inscribed at the back with black ink. We did not venture further up the trail due to the gloomy weather and headed back. SK worked her charm on a old lady selling vegetables at an intersection and got a good food recommendation.

Donor List

Kitsune

Paper Cranes

Mini Torii

Senbon Torii

She pointed us away from the tourist traps to a more subdued restaurant at one of the side lanes called Umiya. Turns out that the two women who operated the place are from China and had been living there for thirty years or so. They served simple dishes of ramen, fried rice and fried chicken which in my opinion was pretty good and cheap! Due to the rain, we were holed up there for longer than expected. Mattered not as we had a great time chatting with the ladies.

Simple Ramen

Although we had waited till 1:30 pm, the rain wasn't letting up. Left anyway, armed with our umbrellas and ponchos (KH looked like a big blue condom). Met up SK's ex-colleague and her boyfriend (they tagged along) at Nezamiya. Out front they were grilling unagi and KH couldn't resist. One for the road at around JPY3,000. Yummy, yummy, yummy. But the old lady was so stingy with her chopsticks. She would only part with one! Supposed to go to Kiyomizu-dera temple next. The ladies at Umiya suggested that we could take a nice stroll back to Gion, cutting through the residential areas and passing by several shrines.

Yukata Girls

Nezamiya

For thirty minutes, we walked and walked, but our destination was no where in sight! LOL. But it was a good experience. Japanese households are very neat and tidy. And interestingly, many houses had tanuki (raccoon dog) statues out front with a sake bottle and oversized scrotum! Couldn't walk on further, so we hopped on to the train to Gion. From the station, it was another short walk to Kiyomizu-dera temple. However, the road was steep. On the way up, we saw Japanese rickshaw pullers. Mostly young men with thunder thighs dressed in black tights. Quite a sight to behold.

Rickshaw

Many went to Kiyomizu-dera dressed in yukatas. Even the tourists as the clothes are available for rent. I didn't go into the temple complex, just walked around the grounds. So I did not see the large veranda at the main hall nor drink from the Otowa-no-taki waterfall that gives the temple it's name-- "Clear Water". The area around the temple was by far the most tourist-y with many shops selling food, crafts and souvenirs. One shop had a very eye-catching name-- Malebranche. Their specialty is green tea langues de chat. Awesome taste and not too sweet. I would have bought more if it was cheaper. LOL. KH and I wandered into a pottery shop and I was quite surprised by what I saw out the window. Two women were fretting over a boy out in the garden. I saw that they had a bottle in hand, but I was wondering why they 'fed' the kid at such a weird angle. Turns out the boy was urinating into the mineral water bottle. LOL.

Clear Water

Chinese as Japanese

Green on Green

Langues de Chat

Walked back to the streets of Gion and stopped at Cattleya, a cafe that claims to be built on the site of a former shrine. The selling point is that the coffee is made from the water from a sacred well on their premises. We drank the coffee, but as for the effects, I'm not too sure. Did some window shopping and then turned into Hanami-koji Street, an old street that represents Gion's culture and history. The street is lined with machi-ya, two-storey town houses, preserving much of the essence of old Kyoto. Unfortunately, we did not catch sight of any Maiko or Geisha.

My Tree

Bless

Tanuki

Traveled back to Namba after that for a ramen dinner at Ichiran Ramen, Dōtonbori. The canal-side establishment came highly-recommended. While we were lining up, we were given order chits to fill up. One could customize the ramen according to soup strength, quantity of garlic, quantity of green onion, quantity of sliced pork, how much red sauce one wants and noodle firmness. Once you reach the top of the stairs, a vending machine greets you. Pay JPY790 for each bowl of ramen and add-ons at their respective prices. The machine will spit out vouchers for each item. On the wall is another board that displays available seats. The usher will bring you to your seats. The concept is simple-- a long bar with mini partitions. At the back is another counter for you to put your bags and hang your coat. Put the order chit and the coupon on the table in front of you. A mysterious hand will take your order and disappear. While waiting, feel free to fill up your cup from the dedicated tap. Out of the blue, mysterious hands would shove a bowl of steaming hot ramen in front of you and a bamboo curtain will slide down to give you privacy. Honestly, it was pretty good ramen, but if you want a more purist experience, forgo the red sauce.

Dōtonbori Nights

Ichiran Ramen Guide

Ichiran Ramen

Went walking along the canal after dinner, taking pictures and what not. Stopped a while at GU to buy their super affordable and fashionable clothes. Then visited Starbucks to get a tumbler for Apollo. Hard to imagine that people actually queued for coffee there. Such a long line. Back at the hotel, we organized a pyjama party with The Tribe. Potato chips, biscuits, Japanese beer, salami and nuts. Little Monster actually liked Asahi. Asked for more. He was quite worked up after two sips and kept rough-housing with KH! That night, I was quite horny and coaxed KH to bed. I requested him to recreate several of my favourite Japanese hotel room porn scenes. Rotated from the bed, to the chair, to the window. :P. The only thing I forgot was to shout "iku, iku" and "kimochi"! How could I?!

Supper!

6 comments:

Jaded Jeremy said...

How do you remember so much details? Or do you usually take notes there and then?

"Japanese households are very neat and tidy." I like :)

untold stories said...

I have so many posts on Japan on my blogroll I don't know where to start!

William said...

@JJ:
Yeah, i have my notes and the pictures help a lot too

@UntoldS:
"start at the very beginning, a very good place to start... "

Twilight Man said...

You should have gone up to see the huge balcony where lots of people jumped to their deaths during ancient times! Aiyo!

Someone told me all the muscular men in Tokyo who pull rickshaws are part time college students who were roped in to help preserve their traditional culture. Not sure whether the same applies to Kyoto.

William said...

@Twi:
Yes, I gave that a miss. Next time perhaps.

College students? Interesting bit of info.

Derek said...

Want to hear you say kimochi! Hehe