The symbol of his liberty

Last weekend we found ourselves in Kyoto again, with the best of intentions and none of the planning. Having taken the just-shy-of-an-hour train ride there a few times to date, but always accompanying someone more familiar with the city than we are, I was used to being happily drug around from point a to point b. Flying solo, or at least duo if you include my joyfully oblivious to niggling travel affairs like “directions” or “goals” partner, is a bit of a different story. The Macguffin of the trip was that we were out to go to the watch shop, a place we had been past accidentally before but conveniently did not look up on the Internet before leaving, didn’t recall the location of, and couldn’t remember the name of. After leaving Kyoto station, boarding a bus, getting trapped in the back, and then being verbally and physically assaulted by Jessy to get off the bus at a particular stop, I accidentally dropped six hundred and forty yen into the machine as my fare, nearly three times the amount, and then was informed (by said Jessy) that we had gotten off at the wrong stop. Did I mention it was cold, raining, and neither of us had thought we ought to bring an umbrella? Brilliance in action. We are seasoned adventurers.

Jessy seemed to recall a few things about the shop, the most meaty of them being not that it was next to a temple (in Kyoto, a useless piece of information), but that there was a temple nearby, which is like saying you’re looking for that one convenience store, you know, the one by one of those train stations, you know, with the stuff. Less promising was our vague recollection that “we came from that way” and in distant third that at one point during the day we first visited the store we took a bus that may or may not have dropped us off somewhere around here on the map, from where we may have walked north and turned left (or right).

But really the watch shop was just an idea, like the monkey farms or the salt mines of Kessel–a place you might end up if you were concertedly trying to get there. What happened instead was a day embodying the phrase “milling about.” This lead us into and out of a store that specialized in peculiar rhythm instruments including but not limited to the steel drum and assortments of things that looked like combs. It brought us up a street where three Japanese boys with fine English asked if they could take my picture for their photography class, and then proceeded to put strange instruments just under my chin and near my face. It led us down rows of UFO catchers so rigged for the huge masses of people that surely use them that they were entirely unwinnable, and it brought us to a fine stationary and incense store that smelled so good so as to convince me that I needed to buy an incense holder and an assortment of incense immediately because our house should smell like this too. I did not buy the incense.

The greatest place was ostensibly a cafe, though their claims to fame surely seemed to be the parfaits and ice cream sundaes. The menu contains something like two-hundred-and-eleven varieties of them, and I made the most reasonable selection: a chocolate and vanilla affair with fruit-filled yogurt, bananas, apple, kiwi, a cherry, and the obvious inclusion: slices of a panko-breaded deep-fried pork cutlet drizzled with tonkatsu sauce. I only made this choice because the other sundae I was looking at contained instead of the pork a number of fried chicken nuggets, and I had just consumed some chicken earlier in the day. We never even got close to where the watch shop was (we looked it up once we got back home). We did, however, eat ice cream with fried pork in it. As unintended destinations go I found it most fortuitous.

At home we put beef on skewers and fire grilled them in our tiny fish tray while watching some kind of TV show where a man with a sweatsuit and an erection pulls some sort of netting over his wife’s face ignoring her cries of stop! no! to the disgust/amusement of two guests in his house. I think it was a comedy show? People were laughing.

My face looked sort of like the word “derp” would look, if it were a face.

– The back of my package of grape gummy candies says “GOOD ME!” and then in Japanese “Pure gummy project begin!” After that there is a promotion for “Pure gummy fansite renewal”
– On television in the break room, a how-to cooking show during which the lady puts in a casserole dish, with a handy procedural diagram: cabbage, then meat, then cheese, then cabbage, then meat, then cheese, then cabbage. Then she microwaves it
– One of the people I eat with remarking as I finished the last bit of my rice at lunch “you eat up beautifully”

Though I am only permitted to go once a week, I have begun to take a particular and new enjoyment from teaching at my school for blind students, most specifically in that recently I have been tasked with more frequent requests to go do stuff with the little kids. Last week we had an argument over whose string was longer, and it totally was mine, because I am awesome. Then we ate Peko-chan cake with some old people who visited, and my little Yuna-chan totally ignored the old people to bring me my cake first. And then the kids invited me to their sushi party next week. There will be tuna and ham, which is fucking boss, because I love tuna and ham. Also one of them gave me a roll of clear tape as a present and said it was for “when you break things.” It is this kind of compelling interaction that makes me sometimes wish I worked there more than once a week. Though I don’t know that I could handle the tiny Mike n’ Ike sized opaque fishies in my seaweed and octopus salad and 5.3% fatty milk for lunch at an increased rate of delivery.

Tasked to write some kind of essay for the occasional English newsletter/journal of my high school, I came up with something about how the seasons are changing and so is everything, as you switch grades, graduate, make new friends, and (to quote my students) so on. I mentioned that many people regret not enjoying their time in high school more, and so they should give it their all, and enjoy!! I did this because most of them seem to like it here, and saying “high school is a big farce, most of your classmates are dipshits, get the hell out and go to college as fast as your tiny legs can carry you” might stir the seeds of unrest (if any of them actually read it, which they don’t(?)).

Still, there was a special innocence and an availability of time which existed for me at that magnificent juncture, before the obligations of real life crept in but after the ability to reason at a useful level really found its footing. I’m not sure I fully believed it as it happened, but surely high school is the time for video games and instant ramen, or would be if these poor bastards weren’t at school every day playing the same flute scales or practicing their batting stance. I note the special taste of a certain strangeness in that I, as a American high-schooler grinding away on my Super NES and Playstation every day, occasionally wished for nothing more than a sample of what Japanese teenage life was like, and they, being now my second-year high school students, absorbed in clubs and homework, were six years old at the time.

Have I mentioned lately that I love the goddamned toy store? Any toy store is okay really. Sofmap is more of an electronics store that also has an enormous section for figures and gashapon, several rows of new and used video games for everything back to the Playstation, and other crap. Joshin’s all new stuff and a few old games but has neat stuff like novelty clocks and kid toys (walls of LEGO, Pokemon figures, Ultramans). Yamada has a little bit of everything but also a big models section. I just want to buy it all. Sometimes I just wander about and look around, marveling at the fact that such wonders exist. Last time I went to Sofmap I bought some Space Invaders magnets for our fridge for a coin a piece from the vending machine while Jessy ran into the crazy hentai porn area (sectioned off with a little curtain) and scuffled out mortified two minutes later. One day I’m gonna go into Sofmap and come out with another ten thousand yen lewd figure from some anime or video game. I have to avoid Yodobashi Camera in Osaka because it has a floor the size of an entire normal store that is virtually all toys. I love toys, and the goddamned toy store. I am six years old.

Today in an effort to make my lifestyle just the tiniest bit healthier, I decided to substitute my usual two big cans of night school Fanta for a bottle of Natchan apple juice and some green tea. They say the green tea is really good for people to drink! The deal with green tea here is that it is essentially more popular than water, and a lot of restaurants just give it to you by default. I have never had a problem with this and have actually quite grown to enjoy it, but because it is so popular there are literally something like sixty different kinds at the konbini. Short bottles, tall bottles, lighter colors, darker colors, some saying no calories, no caffeine, blah blah blah. The best part is that because green tea is such a WE JAPANESE kind of drink, all the bottles are imperceptibly written with a million kanji that I don’t know and can’t read to get some sort of clue as to what kind I actually am drinking or which kind I like. Every time I buy it, it tastes different, looks different, and costs a different price!

So today I just said fuck it and picked one at random (one of them on sale, a Suntory kind cause hey guys I like you). It’s pretty good. I figure I’ll try them until I find one I don’t like, and then I’ll stop getting ones that look like that. This one is 100% something, and thanks to a couple furigana I have determined it is apparently called iyemon cha, which the Internet says is a kind of occasionally roasted green tea blended with a little matcha (a younger, richer type of powdered green tea). From now, I plan on consuming a typical modern Japanese diet of which green tea is a component, and after enough huge bowls of rice, deep fried meats, chicken with the skin still on, mayonnaise, richly marbled beef, and creamy Hokkaido butter, I fully expect to be the spitting image of health.

2 thoughts on “The symbol of his liberty

  1. […] the opportunity to Try Again with Kyoto on a gorgeous sunny day. If our directionless Kyoto trip of two weeks ago was essentially an example of oblivious ignorance, this weekend’s excursion would be more […]

  2. Cory says:

    You will die.

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