Around Kyoto

October 19, 2016

Do I just follow my husband around in foreign countries taking his photo? Am I his stalker? Sometimes I wonder if I should charge him a lifestyle photography fee.Jokes aside, Ryan wrote a great blog post recently about letting go of the need to check things off lists - especially when it comes to travel - and our trip to Kyoto this summer was a lesson of such. What's the downside of visiting Japan in early August? It is fucking boiling, and if your constitution resembles mine, you won't want to do much. Aside from our magical trip to Nara, we didn't do or see a lot. That was fine by me, and there were lots of small moments that I treasured.In particular:Walking through a street festival in the Gion district, drinking beer outside by a stream, and izakaya-hopping. When I'm in Japan, I love to randomly pop into tiny little pubs serving up fresh, inventive, small plates. By tiny I mean, seats 8-10 people, max. I couldn't tell you the name or exact location of my favorite spots, because I just happened upon them. The mackerel sushi at Nishiki Market and trying nattō for the first time; for the record, it's a preparation of fermented soybeans and it had the consistency of snot but a delicious, nutty flavor. It was mixed with sweet potato and a raw egg, and we liked it quite a bit. We enjoyed the nattō at a pub along with shiitake skewers, fried octopus with horseradish and ponzu sauce, perfectly grilled peppery beef, and fried tofu. Ramen. Is it possible to go to Japan and not eat ramen? Sure, but I don't want to do it.Going to the famed Fushimi Inari shrine but being okay with leaving after 10 minutes. It was too hot, and there were too many people. Would I try again on another trip to Kyoto? Of course. But I have no regrets about getting the hell out of there that day. I'm pretty sure Ryan and I squeezed hands and thanked one another for being on the same page about it. But then we dropped our hands back to our sides because, sweat.Walking around Arishiyama; it is shaded, beautiful, and dotted with little pleasure boats and shops. We got lost trying to find the bamboo groves, and ended up making a new friend from California named Jimmy. He was an awesome guy and we walked and talked for hours with him about his experiences over the past few months in a kind of spiritual cleansing program in Nara. Ryan met up with him the next day to watch baseball. Jimmy had beautiful tattoo sleeves and a gentle soul. I am certain that he is the kind of person who touches souls wherever he goes, and I was glad he approached us when he, too, was lost and looking for the forest.Escaping bad travel decisions. At Jimmy's suggestion, we went to a nearby town for a fireworks show. Though the fireworks were impressive, the whole town was packed; we knew that if we stayed, we would be stuck standing in the street for hours, waiting for a train. We watched the gorgeous display while walking backwards back to the station, battling the deadly trinity - hot, hungry, tired - and trying not to bicker. Back in Kyoto, we stopped into a restaurant for a quick bite to eat before bed and ended up sharing sake with a crew of friendly, inebriated firefighters, ages ranging from 20 to early 60's. The youngest of the group, most proficient in English, served as interpreter and we all chuckled good-naturedly at the crew's drunken administrator, who eventually passed out at the table.Masses of young people strolling about in kimonos. It reminded me of the more touristy spots in Korea, where young couples dress in hanbok - traditional Korean clothing - take selfies, and eat ice cream together. I won't soon forget the sound of the geta (traditional wooden clogs) clattering down the streets.I'm sure that on a future trip to Kyoto, I'd try to experience more of the local history and culture. I'd like to go back to Fushimi Inari, suck it up, and hike all the way to the top. I'd like to eat at the amazing tofu restaurant that opened just 30 minutes too late on our last day in town. I'd like to visit more temples. I'd especially love to go to this moss temple, but boy do they book up in advance.Here's to traveling free of the need to prove something and to keeping our hearts open to those we meet on the road. And cheers to you - thank you for reading and supporting what I do here on this blog. I love sharing my experiences with you.

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