Sunday, July 20, 2008

I'm Big on (and in) Japan 

It's fun to be able to say that I am writing this from the Osaka Kansai airport business class traveler's lounge. Being able to say that means that I have now finally been to Japan!

I've wanted to to Japan all my life and I've finally had my first taste. My employer needed me to be in Tokyo and Singapore across two weeks. Now I've been to Singapore before, so that in itself was not so exciting a prospect, but Japan...that was something I got quite excited about.

My time in Tokyo was limited but very enjoyable. And the Tokyo trip had the added bonus of coinciding with a Japanese holiday. So I my concluded my meetings on Thursday, the office was closed on Friday and I bulleted up to Kyoto for a long weekend with my friend Jonah. He lives in Vietnam and flew in to meet up with me in Kyoto.

Kyoto is a great city and I look forward to coming here with K. (Jonah said the same thing about wanting to bring Phoung.) It has some commonality with two very disparate cities that I also enjoy: Amsterdam in that it has canals, geishas, bars and Siem Reap in that it has a truly profuse number of dazzling ancient temples and shrines. And like those cities, Kyoto also has great food at both high and lowbrow levels. (Come to think of it, I think that Siem Reap is actually only excellent at lowbrow/local cuisine as opposed to haute cuisine.)

I'm a little exhausted now, so I'm going to do a fuller post on Kyoto later. But for now I'll just share some fun images.
As you can see from this Buddha against a backdrop of power lines, Kyoto is a city where the old and the new sit side by side. You can be walking in a covered outdoor shopping passage in downtown Kyoto and you will suddenly stumble into a temple, graveyard or shrine. It appears that the modern city of Kyoto was simply built around the ancient city's constellation of sacred sites. So those sites site untouched, tucked in admidst the concrete sidewalks, endless storefronts and and high rise construction of downtown Kyoto. The next two images carry forward this theme of ancient and sacred side by side with the new, novel and profane.

Here's a shot from the wonderful Ryoanji: a Buddhist temple with a very famous Zen garden. This is a wonderful site to sit contemplatively. You may even begin to understand what a Zen garden is for because the scale and the arrangment of this extraordinary place cannot help to provoke some desire to look inward. Once again though, I found the sacred butting up against the profane at Ryonji because in order to contemplate the garden properly, you have to be able to ignore the constant chatter of your fellow humans who have come to pay the stones a visit.

Here I am with a Japanese soda. I'll have to post some photos of Japanese soda machines later. There are an endless variety of sodas with odd names and flavors that are extremely hard to discern from the bottles. Which of course means its fun to try them. This soda had an odd light green color. I can't recall the name. I may have simply chosen it for the image of boy and his dog in the style of Picasso 's Don Quixote. Anyway, I drank a sip. Jonah looked at me quizzically.

It wasn't bad, but it wasn't immediately clear what it was, supposed to taste like either. Fruit...hmmm....mild fruit....urrrr...slightly sweet without being overwhelming...huh...rather refreshing, I guess....familiar...but what IS IT?

And then, it suddenly dawned on me. And I was so glad that my darling K. was not present or she might have wretched being that this is her least favorite flavor ever. I was drinking melon soda. Somewhere between honeydew and cantaloupe, I think. Colored like honeydew, but the flavor was a bit more cantaloupe. Fascinating and nice on a hot day (if you're me). Anyway, more on Kyoto and Japanese sodas at a future date.
Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?