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Travelogue: Spirited Away


Peter Green
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Maid Cafe!

scandal.

Was the food any good?  :blink:

Can't say, although I saw some very good looking baked goods at a table occupied by two middle aged ladies nearby.

I supposes I should have had some dessert.

A little cheesecake might have been appropriate, perhaps?

:biggrin:

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I think it's important to remember there are different levels of "otaku", or a continuum of otaku, if you will. The prototypical otaku is all that you've read, but I think they comprise a small percentage of those who call themselves "otaku". The ones I saw at Melon Books (note, I don't usually spend my time there, I was just showing Peter around. Really!) weren't true otaku, but just people who liked manga (and almost all Japanese like manga, from what I can tell). From the perspective of my teenaged students, I feel being "otaku" is almost trendy, but those who are "otaku" would be on the lower end of the continuum.

Now where's the food?

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March 17, 2008 - A Wanderer

Sometimes I can tax people’s patience. And remember, I’m Canadian, and our taxes are really high.

Scud will put up with a lot, but what he really doesn’t like is having to wander for hours in search of a restaurant.

I look upon it as a voyage of discovery. Scud’s looking at my knees as a target of opportunity.

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We’d been back up by the Glico Man to take in the night lights of Osaka, and from here, looking at my map, it was clearly a simple matter to make it to the famous curry place I’d read about.

Yeah, right.

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We might’ve stopped in on Sammy’s Ebisu, but that would have required a decision to be made, and the boy and I are every bit as good at making decisions as Rona and I were.

In fact, Sammy’s is a place that Rona and I hadn’t been able to make a deceion about the previous day, so it’s good to see that consistency was ruling the roost with us.

This is a place replicating different old parts of town with classical Osakan dishes. It’s in the books, but not for us.

Because, I’d already made a decision.

Coming back to the original thread of this (I did have one…somewhere back there….) I’d wanted to get some curry. I’ve been a fan of Korean curry for ages, having survived on it pretty much (along with rice) for a really bad month in Houston back when I was young. I could probably get by just eating the blocks of ready-to-stir roux (I tried it once. My fingernails kept pushing out turmeric yellow for about a week).

There were a couple of important kare landmarks in town, but this one was close, and accessible. Once I find the ^(*^&*^ brochure (buried in a suitcase that I am not about to tamper with, given my limited time here in Hong Kong).

I found the area. I found the street. I even did the most unmanly of things…..I asked directions.

We were close.

Real close.

Finally, I admitted that I couldn’t find it.

I broke down and asked a cop.

He was quite nice, and pointed me directly at it. I walked over, and looked confused.

He came by and told me, in no uncertain terms, “I just told you, it’s closed! Not today!”

Okay, given my Japanese, maybe I shouldn’t say “no uncertain”, but that was the gist of it, reinforced by the fact that he had his microphone on, and the whole street was now staring at us.

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Scud was not amused.

“This is what I was worried about. We’d spend ages getting here, and then it’d be closed! It’s just like when you dragged us across Beijing looking for that restaurant!”

“That was Loft. They were open.”

“But it took you three hours to get us there!”

It appeared I had a potential mutiny on my hands. I figured I’d better feed him sooner, rather than later. Either that or push him in the river, and make it look like an accident. Maybe if I said he was a Hanshin Tigers’ fan?

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I briefly considered having Ultraman hand cut our noodles (or is that Masked Rider?), but then passed on the idea.

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Finally (well, after ten minutes) we took something that just looked good.

This place was doing Chanko (?), meals for the sumo. It looked like a good feed, and it had enough fish and rice to quell Scud’s incipient rebellion. If nothing else, I’d pour alcohol into him and then leave him with the cheque.

The restaurant itself was, by my standards, quite attractive. Lots of old wood, a rickety staircase, and no customers.

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(actually, the downstairs was doing good business, which was why we were upstairs)

But, when we tried to order, we ran into some general confusion. This required a few phone calls downstairs. After a few minutes, we worked out what we thought was the story.

The meal came with “free refills”. However, as it was only 90 minutes until closing, they didn’t feel we should order this, as we wouldn’t get our money’s worth.

Okay, my basis for that is rather tenuous, but I think that’s what the deal was.

So we ordered other stuff.

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First up was a plate of gyoza. I have no idea of what it was stuffed with, but it was generally meaty.

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Next was a great dish. Crispy fried stuff on sticks. Generally, I think of fried stuff and stuff on sticks as two completely different food groups. But this makes senses. You get all the natural goodness of deep fat frying, along with fewer serious burns!

Scud approved of this. He was getting back into a better mood.

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And then it was a plate of sushi. Scud had a good comment, and one I put some credence in, given that amount of raw fish he’s eaten in his life.

“it’s not so much the fish, but the rice that’s really good here.”

And my notes indicated the same, that the rice were “like pearls left in your mouth”.

So, what was on the plate? Eel (fresh or salt?), tuna, prawns, salmon roe, a bit of raw beef – marbled better than marble, squid, some pale but fatty fish, salmon, and octopus.

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And then it was grilled squid, with a good soy marinade. This was incredibly soft, and set the tone for squid that I would have throughout the trip. Or, rather, as Scud commented on the tentacles “parts are soft, but then the ends are crispified.”

Remind me to have a chat with his English teacher.

Perhaps its just having spent too long in the wrong places, but I find the Japanese squid to be much more “buttery” than what I’m used to in the Gulf and Canada.

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And, for some bizarre reason that neither of us can quite recall, we ordered pizza. Why pizza?

But it was actually quite good, more like a flattened quiche than a pizza, with a lot of egg in it, some fresh tomatoes, onion, and corn. Gotta have corn on your pizza. Good finger food, helped out by traditional Japanese Tabasco sauce.

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And French fries. Another traditional Kansai dish. This time with a dollop of katsup, as opposed to the more standard mayonnaise. The fries weren’t as crispy as I might like but the salt loading met with my approval.

When did the Japanese start using mayo? Is it something that only came recently – Meiji or later? Or is the discovery of the emulsification of eggs a common element throughout the world’s civilizations?

I’d been drinking Suntory Malt, which was on tap. Not a bad brew, with a solid flavour. It was a good match for the different foods we were working through. But, when Scud proved to still be hungry, we ordered another nigiri sushi, and I called for some sake.

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The cuts on the second plate were noticeably larger. And they’d become more dramatic with their garnishing (or so it seemed to me). I think they might have slid another piece on there, too. Maybe we were growing on them?

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Next – More Wandering

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And to think I thought you were wrapping up this travelogue for its end. But you're not... so whoopee! :biggrin:

I can't wait to do my own travelogue in a couple of months when I go visit Manila and our son Jai for a couple of weeks. I'll show y'all what real Filipino food looks like.

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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And to think I thought you were wrapping up this travelogue for its end. But you're not... so whoopee! :biggrin:

I can't wait to do my own travelogue in a couple of months when I go visit Manila and our son Jai for a couple of weeks. I'll show y'all what real Filipino food looks like.

Yes! I desperately need to have a reason to go to the PI.

I'm counting on you, Doddie!

:biggrin:

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Peter, this is a wonderful travelogue.

Of course, as a person who retains her original 45 of the Astro Boy theme song purchased from the Helms bakery truck man in the 1960s AND has her own 16-year-old son I find it especially relevant.

Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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Peter, this is a wonderful travelogue.

Of course, as a person who retains her original 45 of the Astro Boy theme song purchased from the Helms bakery truck man in the 1960s AND has her own 16-year-old son I find it especially relevant.

As an aside, the guy who wrote the theme song for Astro Boy (called "Tetsuwan Atom" or sometimes "Atom Boy" in Japan) spoke at the school I work at a few months ago. He's quite a famous author and poet in Japan (and he also translated the entire series of the Peanuts comics into Japanese). His visit ended with the entire school (and him) singing the theme song for Astro Boy (in Japanese, of course). It was very cute!

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March 17 – Nighthawks At The Diner

Scud was down and out. The trans Pacific flight was having its way with him.

Me, I was another story. I wanted to roam.

I like walking. You get a better feel for a place when your feet are on the ground. And you can go where your fancy may take you.

Myself, as I age, I find I’m growing fonder and fonder of the empty spaces. The parts of the world that don’t get on postcards. I exited my place, on the other side of the tracks, and cut under the JR line and hung a right.

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Like every night so far, I could hear the karaoke coming out of this small place built into the underpass of the rail line. There were others I would pass, and sometimes you could see inside you could see the people, all with a pleasant smile on their faces while the microphone was passed hand to hand, their eyes’ glinting from the shochu.

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In contrast to that sense of quiet community, there’s something just “lonely” about a vending machine late at night in an empty quarter. Like a prostitute too old to work the trade, but too poor to give it up.

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The station’s shut, the grills down, and not a person in sight. Not even a taxi driver to urinate in a corner.

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You come across the lockers, and you wonder if someone’s left children inside. It’s a recurring image, and I blame Ryu Murasaki and his Coin Locker Babies for planting it’s seed in my brain. There’s a film version in production now (if not already released) and the notes say that it’ll star Tadanobu Asano. After Ichii The Killer (directed by Takashi Miike) and what is one of my favourite films for watching over and over - Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl - I can sort of see him in the story.

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In 1994, when I was last in Japan, I was struck then by the large numbers of homeless living in Tokyo’s parks. It’s gotten no better, that was obvious.

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I’d heard, as a youth, when my friend’s parents (nisei and sansei) went to Japan for the first time, about how the most amazing things would be thrown away. At night in Osaka you can find all sorts of treasure on the street. Vacuum clearners, rice cookers, microwaves, furniture..... Where do they all go? Can you furnish a dwelling fully from what’s left on the evening stoop?

There were tents on the streets, tucked in against the corners where no one would see them. Pots, plants, a chair, the accouterments of a life of some sort in many cases.

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It wasn’t just the Bubble Economy. This has been around for quite some time, the marginals of Japanese society. A great opening scene in the Beat Takeshi classic Violent Cop, had a group of young thugs terrorizing an old tent dweller. And a classic anime, Tokyo Godfathers, makes play of similar material.

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Hmmm……I should look into that. Did Violent Cop predate A Clockwork Orange?

Is there a Milk Bar in the neighbourhood?

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But the dead zones only go on for so long in a modern city (at least for me, but then consider Murakami Haruki’s Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World – with it’s grim parallel land of kappa), and soon you find yourself with life unfolding again.

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A curry shop sparks the dark.

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The lights get brighter, like flowers opening up, and the people come back into the picture, straggling into the small restaurants and bars.

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By now I was closing on Namba, and the bright lights that never stop.

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I’d had enough. This was a good point to head back to home.

Next: More Male Flesh and Thongs Than a Germany Beach Movie

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March 18 – More Male Flesh and Thongs Than a Germany Beach Movie

(that was too good a line on Scud’s part not to repeat)

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This was one of the treats for us, and all credit (the good part) goes to Rona. She’d snagged us tickets to the Grand Championships being held at the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, which Rona and I had checked out a couple of days before.

Somewhere along the way, I’d made up my mind (what there is of it) that this was a chance to really immerse ourselves in sumo. Rona had advised that things wouldn’t really get going until the afternoon, but somehow that hadn’t really sunk in.

The sumo began at around 9, but we weren’t there for the very beginning. Instead, we’d been drawn a little aside by a nearby shrine with a great set of teeth.

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This sidetrip used up about an hour, at which point we decided we really needed to get inside the gym.

“What do you mean “we”?”, said the boy.

Once seated, we could see what Rona meant by “it doesn’t get going until later”.

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Yeah……….

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……..“kind of empty” would sum it up pretty well.

Still, this gave us plenty of opportunity to worm our way down to ringside and getter a better view of the action. The right leg up, the left leg up, the slapping the wrestlers go through, the ceremonial squatting, and the ref in their somber black clothing taking a break from time to time to get a smoke.

I didn’t come to this with much knowledge of sumo, other than what I’d seen at a Hawaiian friend’s place. I knew it involved very large men pushing each other. And there was rice and salt involved.

I hadn’t realized that there were no weight classes, and some of the fights looked, at first, to be quite mismatched.

But, more often than not, the smaller guys (at least in this, the introductory session) were able often to evade the larger fighters, and get them to lose their balance.

And there’s a lot of face pushing.

There may not be a lot of people in the stands, but they were vocal. One girl was obviously there supporting a particular group, and she would yell out encouragement from her box, a blanket drawn up around her for warmth, and a box of pastries.

At the boxes you could see paper shopping bags neatly laid out. These were the prepared set lunches that we’d notice a couple of days earlier.

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It was fun to watch. The bouts are quick, and the ceremonial that goes on before the fight is pretty cut and dried, not the drawn out dance/warmup that you’ll see with Muay Thai.

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There are a few cases of people crashing out of the ring (one of which involved both fighters, and the judges had to confer to decide on the winner), but there’s not the sort of mayhem you see in Korean ssireum, where it seems like every fight ends with two guys unconscious on the concrete outside of the rim.

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That’s not to say it was all kindness and light. One fellow went down wrong on the edge of the ring, and it looked like his back was badly done in. The traditional paramedics were there quickly enough, and dealt with things by throwing salt on the ring where he’d been hurt.

We’d been through about three hours of this now, and our tummies were talking to us. While breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, I can’t say it’s something I indulge in. I’d had Scud get some yogurt into him while I did coffee in the morning, but that was a long time ago.

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Each floor had its own souvenir/food stand, and so we wandered over to see what we could see.

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Throughout the stadium we saw Hello Kitty posters. Scud was curious about this, and so I explained to him that Hello Kitty actually weighs 300 lbs, and was in the competition to move into the top ranked makuuchi division, when Hello was badly hurt by Doraemon, who had used an illegal technique (kinjite) to break off Kitty’s jaw. Doraemon was disqualified, and, in an act of attrition, he had his ears removed, but Hello Kitty never wrestled again.

It’s odd, Scud stopped believing most things I say a long, long time ago.

That’s probably a good thing.

I sprang for one of the bento for Scud. These were in pretty little Styrofoam boxes done up to resemble wood.

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Inside was a neatly compartmentalized set of small, bite sized bits of food.

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Fish, prawns, rice, more rice, fish with corn, and a sweet mochi wrapped in sesame leaf. Sorry about the glare on the plastic wrap, but I had to shoot this quick, as once Scud was through the wrapper, it didn’t last long.

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The stands were filling out now, as the higher level fighters entered the ring. These were the bad boys we were here to see.

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And so Rona made her appearance.

She’s much smarter than us. She saw no reason for being here before lunch.

And she brought snacks.

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Snacks are important.

This was a crispy little thing in wax paper. No idea of the name, but I’ll accept input.

Likewise, she’d brought some excellent pound cake, and her latest experiments in caramels.

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Oh, here’s a picture of Rona and myself. I’d dressed as a bag of Old Dutch BBQ flavour chips for the outing. (Scud insisted on sampling one of the bags)

The stadium was taking on a picnicy atmosphere (yes, I know that’s not English, but neither am I), with crowded boxes of merry drinkers and eaters, few of whom seemed at all interested in the matches. The paper sacks were being opened, and there were bento everywhere.

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I felt the time was appropriate for a refreshing beverage (which generally means after 6 a.m.). I’m not exactly certain what it is, but I have a suspicion that it’s shochu, lemon, and soda.

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Unfortunately (and I blame the Boy, who had the wee camera) this came out a little fuzzy, like a picture of Nessy. But, it does document the effects of compression on cotton candy as perfected by eGullet’s own Rona (aka Prasantrin).

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The final matches were great fun to watch. There were (to me) a surprising number of Russians in the top level, but the real shouting in the crowd was for the West over the East. In one instance all of the schoolchildren who had come were chanting their support for a particular local, and Rona was concerned that the kids would start crying if he lost (and they would, she assured me).

At this point, Scud was running a little low on sumo enthusiasm, which is where the title for this section came up. The final bout came up, the winner twirled the bow (and dropped it), and the matches came to an end for the day.

At which point, we needed food.

This evening was something different.

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We considered our choices, and then, out of the blue, went for something completely different.

(Another picture of Rona, with me in the background)

Tonight, we were having Mexican.

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What!!?? You were expecting octopus or something?

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Scoff if you will, I like to see what differences can crop up in transplanted cuisines. This place was quite good, with home-made tortillas, and the sort of attention to detail that the Japanese can put into things. These “choriz taco”, with fresh vegetable and potato toppings and very tasty chorizo sausage, were an excellent gap filler.

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The nachos came with good sour cream, guac, and tastefully shredded onion. But what I loved was the beef tendon and bean soup. This was really, really good, the tendons at that soft melting point that can be so good.

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And then there was a quesadilla, stuffed with cheese and chicken.

And they had Herradura Reposada. There’s nothing like tequila to put me in good form…..okay, there are a few things that’ll put me in good form….but tequila’s a lot faster.

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And we had to finish up with a photo opportunity at a nearby spot.

Next: Trading Places

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Wow. The Scud is looking very handsome ne! I've sometime transplanted food can be better than what you'd really get. Interesting to see something non Japanease. Did you get a chance to try yoshoku? I just finished watching Jyoou no lunch (j-drama) so I'm really craving some of those dishes.

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Wow. The Scud is looking very handsome ne! I've sometime transplanted food can be better than what you'd really get. Interesting to see something non Japanease. Did you get a chance to try yoshoku? I just finished watching Jyoou no lunch (j-drama) so I'm really craving some of those dishes.

We didn't get too much into the Yoshoku until Tokyo, and I must admit I was more interested in seeing what some of the chefs were doing with putting some Western touches into Japanese dishes (but that's another story).

But, as another comment, I picked up the new collection of old Murakami Haruki short stories "Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman" with its story "The Year of Spaghetti". It makes me smile to read it.

Okay, I'm back home, and jetlagging. Time to have a bath and then go to sleep.

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The picture of us is missing! How sad! :sad:

I hope Yoonhi didn't mind the picture of Scud in front of the inappropriate bar sign. I was thinking that it was probably one of those bars like in Lost in Translation--you know, with the dancers on the table.

For those wondering (which is probably no one), potato chips, cotton candy, and Mexican food don't mix.

I thought the tacos were the Tinga--chicken, beef, and pork in chile tomato sauce, says their website.

And my pound cake was excellent! Humph! :angry:

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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The picture of us is missing!  How sad! :sad:

I thought the tacos were the Tinga--chicken, beef, and pork in chile tomato sauce, says their website.

And my pound cake was excellent!  Humph!  :angry:

With Scud present there was a chance for a proper picture of the both of us. Unfortunately, from where he sat, and with his composition skills (and the short focus on that little camera) what came out was a picture of the left side of my nose and a tiny bit of Rona's smile.

They had both types on the menu that evening. My notes worked this time.

And, yes, the pound cake was the Prince of Pound cakes. (but we didn't get a picture).

Okay, I'll get back to work now.

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March 19 – Movin’ On

We had the morning in Osaka beefore moving to Kyoto.

The beautiful spring weather we’d enjoyed the last few days had given way to rain and the greyness of late winter. But that wasn’t going to save Scud. We were going to go out and do something cultural.

Otherwise I could see how Scud planned on spending his morning.

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And I could see how I would spend mine, the computer being hijacked….

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I’d wanted to see Himeji Castle for some time. The last hold out of the Toyotomi’s, it’s been used in one set period piece film after another over the decades.

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So, the boy and I set out into the drizzle to see what we could see.

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The castle is an impressive sight, built on a low hill, it’s white walls dominating the sky, even in the grim, grey light we had.

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There was a statue to the side of “the Monkey”, “Bald Rat” Toyotomi Hideyoshi himself, who’d restarted the building of the castle (although it didn’t come to its present form until after his death when the Tokugawas had taken over). A conemporary of Napoleon across the sphere, he goes down as one of the great unifiers of Japan. Risen from the peasants, he was the major patron of the tea ceremony, as well as a promoter of traditional Noh, and a doting father…. when he wasn’t slaughtering his enemies and depopulating Korea out of spite for their having foiled his plans to be King of the World. Rising to power under Oda Nobunaga he took over by betraying the Nobunagas, then tried in vain to stop the same thing happening to his line. (For a good read on this, I recommend Samuel Hawley’s The Imjin War)

What goes around, comes around.

As the boy hadn’t eaten, we figured one tourist trap was as good as the next, and I took the opportunity to get some local food into him.

This place had all of the requirements for a grim Wednesday morning.

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Big steaming pots for ramen……

Spurious looking hot dogs…….

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Corn.....

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some crepe looking things (Jump in here! What are those called?)

And the fixings for takoyaki and onomokiya (and what’s that other one they list in the middle? A soba of some sort?)

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But, this was perhaps our last thing to eat in Osaka. And the boy hadn’t had takoyaki here yet.

The decision was made (quickly, for once). Scud needed takoyaki.

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They’d sprinkled green stuff on top. I’m not certain what it was.

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Scud was content. At least I’d fed him before noon this time.

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We continued our tour of the castle grounds, but, with the drizzle, our hearts weren’t in it to a great extent. I couldn’t even talk Scud into posing in one of the cut-outs. We chose to leave early and headed back to the JR station to get back and pack.

It had been a nice stay. The room had been cozy, but that somehow fit well with the feel of the city. And I’d quite liked the atmosphere of gentle dilapidation in our neighborhood (we never did see the impressive rooftop amusement park at our subway stop running).

Rather than messing with the Nozomi, we just took a limited express out to Kyoto, changing once to get to our stop at Gojo. Even with our accumulated luggage, this was a fairly easy bounce.

Once at Gojo we surfaced in Gion, and made our way up to the apartment we’d arranged.

Oh, what a difference it makes to move up.

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We now had two beds (to Scud’s applause), a kitchen of workable size (not that I would do much besides make coffee and store snacks

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but it did come with a coffee machine (and I’d been carting about 2 kg of Columbian ground from Bogota), and a microwave and range.

And, in revenge for Scud’s blurry pictures, the TV confounded him utterly (but not for long).

Next: A Change of Wa

Note: edited because I'm too slow witted to preview first

Edited by Peter Green (log)
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Wow, Scud has really grown up!...he must be beating the girls off with a stick...and I just noticed that the quaintly named resto that Rona and the boy are posing beside is the exact description of the portion of offal I was referring to in the Thai offal thread :smile:

ps. love the off-piste way you cast your blogging spells Peter...

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March 19 – Timing Is Everything

Gion had seemed like a neat place to stay, and I was happy with the feel of the neighborhood. The only issue was that we were close to a JR station (Gojo), but a good walk from the subway.

But that just means we have a good excuse for walking.

We crossed the Kamogawa, and headed towards the Gojo underground. We’d decided that a dreary day like today was perfect for taking in Kyoto’s number one cultural attraction.

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The International Manga Museum.

Unfortunately, our timing stinks.

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Still, we made the most of our tour, and ambled about looking for something to eat.

Again, our timing stinks.

Much of what we found that looked good wouldn’t be open until the evening. Finally we found ourselves down by the train station. Train stations always have food.

And then I remembered Rona’s words of wisdom “fried things are good”.

I like tonkatsu, and this was a good opportunity for a nice piece of fried pork to drive away the rainy day blues.

Scud ordered a straightforward cutlet, with coke as his beverage of choice,

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While I had pork wrapped about carrots, spring onion, and other unnamed vegetables.

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Fried things are good, and they’re better with pork involved.

And Asahi beer helps, too.

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Plus, there’s pickles (as always) to go with our rice.

With warm food in our tummies, we made the wander back towards town. It was getting on into the late afternoon by now, and we’d need to think of dinner soon.

En route, I made the drastic mistake of taking Rona’s other sage advice….

“Snacks are important”.

Travelling alone, I would agree, seeing nothing wrong with picking up some crackers wrapped in nori, made fresh at the little shop around the corner from us. But, in truth, I had fallen into the Boy’s cunning trap.

With boxes of fresh Pocky in hand, Scud saw no reason to accompany his insane father out into the pouring rain, in search of a restsaurant that would suit said father’s whims. Scud was intent on staying home with a supply of chocolate covered pretzel sticks, a television, Coke, and my computer.

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I know when I’m outmaneuvered.

The One Cup Ozeki better still be there when I get back, though.

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Before I left, I tried Yebisu’s The Hop, which wasn’t bad, but not quite as good as their malt. As something labled “The Hop”, I was looking for more bitterness to come through, but this was a little too restrained, a characteristic to be appreciated in a malt, but derided in an IPA, for example.

Scud did manage to get some of the channels to respond on the television, and we anxiously checked out the Cherry Blossom forecast. It looked like we were just going to miss it on this trip.

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I liked out neighborhood. Walking through Gion at night, in the rain, you find long narrow streets of very good looking places laid out.

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But I was just a little too intimidated to cold call upon one. Not yet.

At this time in the early evening I could see geisha being escorted to their appointments. All white face and beautiful kimono. I know, I should’ve taken more pictures, but it wouldn’t do them justice, and, as I said, I was in an intimidated mood.

Across the Kamogawa again and up Pontocho.

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I was in heaven. Beautiful restaurants on the river side, abrim with quiet expectation, and on the inland side, across the small Takase “River” faced dining rooms full of people and kitchens, alight with glee. I found a place that looked good for dinner, sleek and tasteful. It called to me, as opposites attract. This was the Tazuru Annex, associated with the Ryokan Tazuru. It looked perfect. Clean lines, beautiful lighting, and every table looking out upon the river, while behind us the smaller Takase burbled along.

Timing again.

They were so apologetic, but, at 9:00 p.m., it was too late. The hostesses spoke excellent English, though, and suggested that I try just across the small bridge over the Takase, as that area would be open later.

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This took me to the Kiyamachi dori, full of bars and restaurants of all kinds, Japanese, Italian, Thai, French, Chinese……

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I walked along, looking for the right fit, and, near the Northern end of the alley, found a small place that talked of their restoration of the old house in the advertising outside. It looked pleasant, it was raining, and I was wet.

Qulio

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(Ah, I’m home and have my scanners back…)

Qulio was…..pleasant. Through the narrow hallway and into a large room fronting onto the Takase. I was seated in a stylishly one-armed chair (which I approached from the worong side), and relaxed, knowing that I would get a meal. Quiet, modern music, and a babble of conversation that never grew raucous.

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I didn’t shoot the room, as there were other people there, particularly one young lady who was skittish as a deer with her companion. Like me, she’d nearly toppled over her chair, and my presence wasn’t helping her unease. So here’s a piece for Qulio’s little brochure they gave me to give you a feel for the room.

The menu could be described as “fusion Japanese”. At least the English one that they provided for me.

I ordered cold sake, and a dish of fresh octopus with a sauce of soy, vinegar, and citrus. They also had an interesting, almost Korean dish, of internal fish guts that sounded very good, but this I was told was “sold out”.

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They brought an amuse, pickled squid with some pickled vegetables, and a fish mousse (almost a fishball), with a plum vinagrette.

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And the octopus, when it came, was very soft, the citrus in the marinade having taken it down in chewiness just a touch to provide a wonderful texture.

This was a good opening.

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Following this I had the pork; slow cooked for over 10 hours, braised with soy in the Chinese style. This came with a lump of mustard, bright orange like uni, that gave a satisfyingly British burn to the dish.

And the pork was soft. It pulled apaart easily with chopsticks, “bound ethereally by the fat” is how I see it described in my notes.

I’d had some more sake by that point.

I went back to the menu, looking for me. There was an ikura don, something I’m always fond of. Nice little salmon eggs on a bowl of rice.

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The squid was good. Not quite as spicey as Korea, but then again, this is Japan. For this country it was a pretty solid burn. I switched over to Suntory Malt, which had a creamy head, that it held for some time.

Excellent bubbles, too, I might add.

I ordered the “handmade sesame tofu” the girls were having (and forgot to photograph it). By this time we were quite comfortable, two of the Japanese girls having been in Canada before, while the other had done a homestay in Brisabane with the young foreign girl. She’d just arrived in Japan that day, and this was her introduction to the city.

I moved on to the desserts – a red bean parfait with fresh tofu. The young lady beside me explained that in Kyoto they use tofu for desserts – donuts of tofu, and cubes of soft tofu. This came with a machaya ice cream and sweet rice balls.

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A nice finish.

I bid good night to the youngsters beside me, and went looking for a bar. I remembered seeing one earlier.

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The Jam House was still where I left it back in the daylight.

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(I’ll post these here, out of the proper chronology of the photographs, as daylight does the place more justice…..from the outside)

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They’d advertised live music, but on close inspection it appeared this only happened every so often. What they did have on offer, though, was a very healthy selection of old vinyl.

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I had a pint of Sapporo, and then settled into a long discussion on the joys of Thailand with the one other foreigner in there. He was working on some IT thing in Tokyo, and had come down here to go furniture shopping.

A few more beers, the Pogues’ Hell’s Ditch and we were soon the best of friends.

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And, as a major discovery, I may have found the only toilet in Japan that didn’t have electronic controls and a seat warmer (but it still had the automatic sink on top).

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The bar had a nice, cheerful feal to it. The bartender himself was in a band, the Noraneko, which styled itself upon the Jam and the early Style Council. That’s as good a souvenir as any say I (I still remember when the Jam, at that time the #1 band in the UK, played in a third-filled hall in Vancouver…..damn, they were good).

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And what followed was one of those fine cross cultural nights involving lots of beer and old music. We worked through the collections with the bar tender, pulling out some old Clash (Yellow Riot), and even Iggy Pop’s Zombie Birdhouse.

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And, to top off what had become a wonderful evening, I was able to see a traditional performance of salarymen being sick in the bushes!

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I was growing more comfortable with Kyoto culture by the moment.

Next: Gone To Town

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If you don't mind, how much did the sumo tickets cost? I went to a sumo tournament in Nagoya and had good seats but it was a present from an exchange student's host family. We were told by some English teachers that sumo tickets are incredibly expensive (a few man). Is this true?

p/s: Scud is indeed cute:-D

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Peter, this is a wonderful travelogue.

Of course, as a person who retains her original 45 of the Astro Boy theme song purchased from the Helms bakery truck man in the 1960s AND has her own 16-year-old son I find it especially relevant.

As an aside, the guy who wrote the theme song for Astro Boy (called "Tetsuwan Atom" or sometimes "Atom Boy" in Japan) spoke at the school I work at a few months ago. He's quite a famous author and poet in Japan (and he also translated the entire series of the Peanuts comics into Japanese). His visit ended with the entire school (and him) singing the theme song for Astro Boy (in Japanese, of course). It was very cute!

Rona that sounds very cute indeed. Serendipitous connection between Astro Boy and Peanuts!

Peter, I loved the photo of Scud sitting w/the takoyaki. Very atmospheric.

And very cool to see the international language of rock music being spoken in that bar.

Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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