Sunday, August 05, 2007


Note from the Office of Persona Management:

It has come to our attention that in recent posts the inexperienced blogger known as “Moose” has referred to several individuals by non-blogospheric names such as “Mary Loeffelholz,” “Bob Pollak,” and “Erland Heginbotham.” This is a clear violation of OPM identity protocols and policies, and it has brought shame to all of us here in Roxie’s World. We would cut off “Moose’s” access to this space if we didn’t realize the mistake arose from jetlag and the aforementioned inexperience. Also, the Office of Clicks and Eyeballs reports that traffic on Roxie’s World is up significantly since “Moose” started offering up morsels of travel commentary and pretty pictures from Japan, so in the interest of giving the people what they want we have decided to let her keep posting but put her on a shorter leash. Our sincere apologies to those individuals whose “real world” identities were inadvertently revealed. Henceforth, they shall be known in these precincts as, respectively, the Bostonian, the Affable Economist, and the Sage Asianist. Please delete all other identity references from your memory banks.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Twain, Director
Office of Persona Management
RW Enterprises, LLC

Postcard from Japan (#5)

Dear Rox and LLF,

Wow, sorry for ruffling feathers over in OPM. Like I said, this blogging business is a lot harder than it was when all I had to do was type!

Back to what I do best: Saturday was an action-packed adventure here in Kyoto. Goose and the Bostonian were liberated from the conference and eager to do some serious exploration of the city, so we set off to the east side of town to hit as many temples, shrines, and other highlights as we could. Or so we thought, until the cab dropped us off at a temple on the west side of town, having heard our efforts to communicate our desire to go to the temple of Ginkaku-ji (which means “Temple of the Silver Pavilion”) as a desire to go to the temple of Kinkaku-ji (which means “Temple of the Golden Pavilion”). No matter. The Golden Pavilion is also a World Heritage Site, and it was well worth visiting. Originally built in 1393 as a shogun’s retirement home, the temple was rebuilt in 1955 after a fire, which was when all three stories of the building were covered in gold leaf, in accordance with the shogun’s original intentions. The golden structure seems to float above the beautiful pond on which it is built. Grounds are lovely, too, though the place is so packed with tourists that it’s difficult to stop and enjoy them.

From the Golden Pavilion, we found our way to our original destination, having learned to point things out on a map to make sure our awkward efforts to communicate were understood. The Silver Pavilion, is not, alas, silver, apparently because the shogun who built it for his retirement home ran short of time and money before he could carry out his plans. Buildings here are less impressive (at least from the outside, which is all we were able to see), but the grounds are beautiful – dry Zen gardens of raked sand, a verdant pond garden, a moss garden, tall, thin trees that reach skyward. This place manages to feel meditative despite the crowds.

Having bagged two major temples, we headed down the Path of Philosophy, which runs beside a delicate stream, in search of shade and quieter places. Goose and the Bostonian were having the experience of unrelenting heat and stultifying humidity that I had had over the past couple of days. We were a sweaty pack of middle-aged American grrls making our way along the path, but we embraced all the afternoon offered in a spirit of adventure and had a wonderful time. Just a few steps off the path, we found the temple of Honen-in, which gets my vote for highlight of the day. It was practically deserted, so it was easier to take in the feeling of tranquility that permeated the place – from its thatched-roof gate to its beautifully tended gardens to its large, peaceful cemetery. We splashed water on our faces from trickling fountains and reveled in a moment of coolness before finding our way back to the path. (Paws up to the Bostonian, by the way, who turns out to be a pretty darn good pathfinder. Even Goose deferred to her impressive skill in this arena. I will follow anyone who pretends to know where they are going because I never do, but that Bostonian knows how to read a map.)

We stopped briefly at a couple of shrines (the names of which we didn’t even note, though one was probably Okazaki) before deciding to head to a main street in search of shopping and cold beverages. We found the Kyoto Craft Center and spent a happy air-conditioned hour looking for ways to invest in the local economy. The Bostonian was successful in that mission, Goose and I less so. They had some beautiful stuff, but nothing spoke to me loudly enough to talk its way into my suitcase for the trip home.

Our quest for cold beverages was, like all good quests, fraught with difficulty yet ultimately successful. It can be hard to spot bars and cafes on the streets of Kyoto, but we were surprised to see so few in a busy part of town on a Saturday evening. We wandered for several long, hot blocks without seeing anything that looked like a bar. Finally, as we came to the river that divides the city in two along its north-south axis, we looked off to the right and saw a sign for Heartland Beer. (Never heard of it? Yeah, me neither.) Our spirits lifted as we made our way into a small but pretty and welcoming place that was deserted except for a friendly guy behind the bar. We settled into seats, managed to communicate a desire for beers all around, and toasted our good fortune in the delightful afternoon. With the first round, we were brought tiny bowls of delicious seaweed. By the second round, a woman had come in to wait tables, and we each got some sort of mystery nut or radish that popped into our mouths when we bit its skin. Then we were treated to sake served in the prettiest frosted glasses I had ever seen, at which point the sake-seeking Bostonian got all misty-eyed and said, “Let’s just stay here for dinner.” Goose and I immediately agreed that we had stumbled onto something marvelous and that we should embrace it as we had the other adventures of the day, assuming of course we could figure out how to explain what we wanted in the absence of English menus.

The Bostonian and I left that job to Goose, who can usually be relied upon to get what she wants through a combination of broad smiles, large gestures, and the repetition of a few key words. Sure enough, she and the waitress managed to settle on a menu of sashimi and tempura that proved to be stunning for its simplicity and freshness. We had a course of salmon and a course of yellowtail as well as the tempura, and then the Bostonian declared we had to have octopus. To convey this inspiration, the Bostonian drew a picture of an octopus on a napkin, which amused our host to no end while successfully communicating our desire. He consulted with other patrons on how to ask us if we would like our octopus to be “spicy.” We assured him we did. A few minutes later, there arrived on our table the most sublime octopus I have ever ingested. We devoured it and nearly wept with pleasure. Then I insisted we have green-tea ice cream for dessert because I am doing a study of green-tea ice cream on this trip and needed to conduct essential research. Even the ice cream was perfect.

Our evening of cross-cultural culinary nirvana ended on a note of high hilarity, as we insisted on thanking our hosts in their native language. Late in the meal, I had realized our Fodor’s has a glossary of basic Japanese words in the back. We had looked up the word for “thank you,” but under the pressure of actually trying to say it to someone we all got tongue-tied. “Wait, wait,” I said to our uncomprehending but smiling host and grabbed the book to look it up again. I flipped frantically around until finally I landed on the desired word. I looked up with a goofy grin and declared, “Arigato,” as proudly as if the word had never been said before. Our hosts beamed, bowed, and said “Arigato” right back to us, and then Goose, the Bostonian, and all the other patrons joined in a lusty chorus of “Arigatos” that accompanied us out the door and into the damp yet slightly cooler Kyoto evening. At that moment, I think it’s fair to say, we were the happiest travelers on the face of the earth. We would pass along the name of this fine establishment where we enjoyed such extraordinary food, drink, and conviviality, but the business card is written in Japanese, so we have no idea what it’s called. Perhaps the Bostonian will supply directions to the place in Comments.

Peace out, kids. Sorry for the late post, but it was a long day and it took awhile to write it all up. Arigato for your patience.

Love to all,


  1. I cannot tell you with what pleasure I read this. Vicarious tourism indeed! I feel as it I should write a poem of thanks, but, no, don't worry folks, I won't.

    I will instead say,



  2. I'm with Katie. Domo arigato for this post. (You're welcome is "doitashimashta"--pronounced "doughytasheemashta".) You'll be conversant by the time you return!

    Love from Kent, Ohio . . . ugh.

  3. We are having such a great time, and are so pleased that our dear friends (family) are enjoying our posts. Moose is probably too tired to blog about this evening, but we also had a grand time eating by the river with The Bostonian. I'm sure she'll post about it tomorrow. Then we'll head out to Nara, come back for dinner, and then Tuesday we go to Hiroshima. You know, tomorrow is The Anniversary. War is such an awful thing, and I think if more people traveled around and came to know one another, even in the casual way we are doing, there would be far less of it. It's very difficult to slaughter people you come to know in some way.

    Even I am trying to pronounce things, and I have learned that a bow, a smile, and a cute grin of helplessness is very well received. As it should be, I might add.

    How we wish you were here. But of course you are, in spirit.



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