Kyoto: Best described as a mix of … well.. stuff

So, where was I…

Last Wednesday I attended an elementary Japanese class. This was another great opportunity to meet new people, I’ve met Kin, a Vietnamese girl who sat next to me, Pattma from .. Korea I think – I’ll ask her later – and Hรฉlรจn from France, whose boyfriend I share my office with. The teacher didn’t speak much English herself (To be honest, I think young kids in the Netherlands would be able to compete with her), but it was enough. The class consisted of a lot of embarrassed laughter, mainly by said teacher (a little bit as if she’s embarrassed that that’s the way her country works) and in the end she asked us to introduce ourselves, which resulted in even more laughter because the Japanese pronunciation of some names is very different. For example Sylvia from Canada, had to repeat her name about ten times before the teacher got it. She then explained that Japanese doesn’t have a ‘v’ and also doesn’t have loose consonants. Sylvia would, in Japanese, be written and pronounced as Sirubia. The class mainly focussed on some basic hirgana and katakana (two of the used alphabets) and some sentences we could use in daily life.

Next week we have a pop quiz, we have to know the first fifteen hiragana. I wonder how much work this class is going to cost me, because the internship is most important, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to take the course, especially since it’s free.

A lot of the expressions were farmiliar for me, but I did hear some new things as well. So far, the podcast (online lessons) I did seem to be sufficient in everyday tourist-life. What’s useful is knowing how the Japanese pronounce English words, as indicated above with Sylvia’s name. The other day, I went into the laundry room and had to conclude that the washing machines didn’t have any English text. I asked her which was the “Sutatoh” button. Yes, the Start button. She repeated it and pronounced it exactly the way I had, which was quite satisfying because I had guessed right on how most people pronounced that. Another example is ‘paper’, they will say ‘pay-pah’. Do note that not all Japanese pronounce English words the Japanese way. Many people in the university and young people (as Huug said, young people in suits) don’t have a thick Japanese accent. You will find some people, though, who will talk to you in Japanese when they don’t speak English. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s considered better to answer in Japanese than not to answer at all? Just guessing.

Something that did bug me on Thursday is that some things are impossible to find. I wanted to visit Cafe Carinho, in Imadegawa-dori (dori = avenue). Thanks to Jan (different Jan ๐Ÿ˜› ), who gave me the Lonely Planet guide, I have been able to find quite some things, but this one I just couldn’t find. Many small cafe’s aren’t indicated in Romanji (our alphabet) but only in one of the three Japanese alphabets, neither of which I can read. Even after memorizing like, the last three signs of the name (dash, double dash, house-thingy ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) I couldn’t find it. Too bad. But I did end up with a great Engrish photo you can see below. (No, that’s not a typing error. Don’t know what Engrish is? Click HERE)

I did find an English pub though, that evening, called The Gael. The moment I stepped in, I heard Dutch, and I was very happy with that. There were two couples who were doing a guided tour in Japan. They were from around Den Briel and today (Saturday) I met one couple again and found out that their names were Leen and Ria. I want to thank them for taking an interest in me that day and today, that was very nice! We shared some information and some thoughts on Japan.

Yesterday I ate at Le Bouchon. It wasn’t cheap in Japanese terms, but for 20 euro’s I had a great three course meal. The restaurant is, as you can guess, a French restaurant. Although the Lonely Planet indicates that the owner speaks Japanese, English and French, personnel only speak Japanese and the basic French that is also used in the menu ๐Ÿ˜‰

Today I visited the Kiyomizu temple and some of its surroundings. I’d gone there by bike, which meant I had to take my bike with me all the way to the top of the mountain.. and I was wearing high heels too. Somehow, I don’t have any blisters or sore feet, so that’s lucky, but next time I really need to remember to wear my flat shoes. You can see some photo’s of the temple below. What was most memorable was in my opinion not the temple itself, but the walk in the dark below the temple. There’s a wishing stone there and you go there in total darkness and, of course, without shoes on. You can really feel the stone floor beneath your feet; it’s not flat but rather… well.. it felt how a rock surface is supposed to feel like when you walk on it without shoes on. It was a little polished, of course, because you don’t want to cut yourself, but it wasn’t a flat surface. You grab hold of this lifeline with beads (huge praying beads) and walk the path to the wishing stone (which itself is, fortunately not in total darkness), make a wish, and continue outside. The reason I find that most memorable because I didn’t expect something like that there. So far, all temples look typically Japanese; I hope I’ll find more of such differences that make them special.

Next, I had lunch at Asuka in Sanjo-dori. They have an assorted tempura set which was really good, it consisted of shrimp and vegetables (courgette amongst others, I’m guessing) that was coated with dough and fried. On my way to the Kyoto Manga Museum, I finally found one of those import shops (Meidi-ya is the name) and I am now the happy owner of a jar of Nutella and a jar of peanut butter. As can be expected, this was expensive: 9 euro’s for two jars :O That’s just one euro away from what my entire lunch at Asuka had cost me. Wow. Totally worth it though ๐Ÿ˜›

At the manga museum I read some things I didn’t know yet and I read some manga in English. Wasn’t allowed to take pictures, though.

Some other things:

  • I’ve made some pictures, but I have to admit I’m not that great a photographer. Also, I don’t really like having the camera glued to my face; Looking at the actual objects/surrounding is better than looking at it through a camera.
  • Note to self: I want to go back to the little shops near Kiyomizu temple.
  • Do you see the picture of the bicycle stands? Do NOT put your bike in there. They have an automatic lock that closes when you put a bike in it and you have to pay before you get your bike back (like our parking lots for cars). The problem: The payment terminal is totally in Japanese. Fortunately, I didn’t have to pay because I got my bike out of it immediately, with someone’s help. Later, I just put my bike next to the lock and used my bike lock to attach my bike to the stand, I’m not putting it in those things again ๐Ÿ˜›
  • @Remco: I just read about air traffic after reading your comment. Indeed, I’m glad I went a week earlier ๐Ÿ™‚ A comparison between Eindhoven and Kyoto is impossible to make. Firstly, Kyoto is huge and secondly… well, you can describe it best with the word ‘mix’, or rather the Dutch word ‘allegaartje’. There are signs, signposts, merchandise and other stuff everywhere on the sidewalks, so you have to maneuver not only through people but also between that stuff. Vending machines everywhere, even in temples. Temples inside shopping malls (yes, really!), traditional dressed people mixed in with businessmen and tourists… In some way, it’s a real mess, to be honest. But, yes, very clean, even though you have to ride for about a kilometer before you can find a trashcan… Edit: I’ve had some tea, yes, green tea. Of course it tastes different from our instant Pickwick tea bags ๐Ÿ˜‰ I can’t really describe, it tastes… well.. more natural I guess.
  • @Marcel: I am eating Japanese food, but not all the time. I had a traditional Japanese lunch today, but I had bread and cereal for breakfast. I really can’t eat ‘stuff that’s supposed to be eaten warm’, in the morning. Whether it is warm at that moment or not, I just can’t. And won’t ๐Ÿ˜› On the topic of that river, it wasn’t a really good shot, further down the road it got wider and I’m sure that if I had continued the road I would have seen it again. But yes, this is another example of the mix that you see in Kyoto, you can find nature everywhere. Also, roads running uphill (or rather up-mountain) will just bend whichever way the mountain wants it to bend, so another nice example of how the original landscape can still be seen through all the buildings and stuff. You may find yourself leaning sideways to stay upright, when walking up or down. What was great about bringing my bike up to Kiyomizu temple: Going down is fun ๐Ÿ˜›