May 18th, 2012

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Feeling like we could handle a little more walking, we headed down to Kiyomizudera after a late breakfast. Although it had been among my favorite temples on previous trips, this time it proved to be so crowded that it was difficult to enjoy. A contributing factor may have been that part of the grounds was closed off for renovations, so the swarms of school children had fewer places to cram into.

The crowd thinned once we had gotten far enough away from the main deck, and we were better able to enjoy a view of the temple across the way as we made our way back down the hill.

A girl tries to navigate between the two love stones. Her friend is helping her cheat by guiding her left or right.

Kiyomizudera's main deck, where you can see the crowds of students.

By this time it was after 1 o'clock, and we felt that we ought to seek out some form of lunch, though neither of us was especially hungry. This sort of attitude was problematic when settling on a restaurant; nothing we passed seemed tempting enough to stop for. Finally we decided the next reasonably-priced thing we saw was going to be it.

Thus began one of the more embarrassing moments of our trip. The restaurant turned out to be inside a hotel, and in the US hotel restaurants are of a certain generic type and pretty friendly to people from out of town. I think this restaurant, though, was less associated with the hotel and just happened to be located inside the same building. It was down a short hallway in the back and through a sliding door, and was pretty small, with seats at the bar and a few tables. There seemed to be one chef and one woman who acted as hostess and waitress but had the air of the proprietess.

Since neither of us felt hungry enough to consume an entire entree on our own, we decided to split something. I didn't think anything of it because I'd split things before with Jenn, although in retrospect I think we'd only done this at chain restaurants. I had to explain to the woman here that we really only wanted one dish, and at first she just looked a little taken aback and disappeared. She returned later with our water and an explanation that I didn't completely understand, but we gathered that splitting a meal at a restaurant is just not a polite thing to do, and she warned us to "be more careful next time."

It felt rather like being scolded by someone's mother, and it made the entire rest of our dining experience rather awkward. It didn't help that I managed to drop a piece of chicken and get sauce all over myself. Not only were we rude and ignorant gaijin, we were also clumsy. Once we'd finished and paid, we beat a hasty retreat.

One of the gates into Yasaka Jinja, which faces out onto the start of Shijō-dōri.

On the way back to our inn, we passed through Yasaka Jinja, where we were approached by a group of students. Although the entire group was probably supposed to be practicing their English, they had delegated most of the work to one girl whom they deemed best qualified. She asked us a few standard questions about where we were from and why we had come to Japan, and one somewhat random question like "Foreigners see Japanese men as samurai; is this what you think?" I couldn't think of the equivalent English word at the time and provided them with sarariiman (salaryman), prompting a few anxious murmurs of "nihongo wo shiteru" ("she knows Japanese").

The girl doing all the talking tried to get some of her classmates to ask us something, finally prompting one of the boys to exclaim "Who is your favorite?" Katie and I weren't sure how to answer that, and the kids seemed to realize it was a silly question to blurt out, and we all dissolved into laughter. Then, of course, we all had to get our picture taken together. Finally, the girl handed off the survey to one of her friends to pull some things out of her backpack. As our reward for participating, Katie and I each received a little fan and a stationery set, which both parties agreed was sugoi (awesome). We thanked each other and went our separate ways.

For Katie and I, this meant walking on through the nearby park, and eventually back to our inn, where we began a Princess Tutu marathon.

December 2016

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