Comfort Food

“Where should we go for breakfast?” I asked Lynn the next morning.

“Dean and Deluca?”

“We’ve gone there twice.  How about we try that authentic-looking place across from it?”

“All right,” Lynn said doubtfully.  “As long as you don’t make me eat horse sashimi or deep-fried chicken tendons.”

“Or chicken chops.”

We snickered. How bad could it be?

“I wouldn’t call it bad, I’d call it interesting,” Lynn said. There had been no photos on the menu so we’d guessed our best based on the English translations.  Our plates contained Texas toast topped with a thick layer of mashed potatoes, then Sriracha sauce, and crowned with about a pound of shredded iceberg lettuce.

“But it’s authentic,” I insisted.  We were the only westerners in the place.

And here I will sound like a whiney tourist, but it was really hard to get milk for my coffee.  Where you could find it, the coffee in Japan was extremely strong.  If I asked, I received one tiny plastic tub of “cream” which contained about a half teaspoon of white syrup.  If I asked for more they would bring me one more, to total about a teaspoon.

Wah wah. At least the coffee was strong, not weak.  It’s just a tea country, not a coffee country.

“Let’s go to Dean and Deluca tomorrow,” I capitulated.

Today we were visiting the famous Golden Pavilion, Rokuon-ji.

“Or is it Kinkaku-ji?” I wondered, looking at the map.

“We’ll find out … or we won’t,” Lynn answered as we walked toward Kyoto’s main station to catch bus 205.

“Didn’t we take the 205 to the cooking class?” I asked.

“Yes, it must be a different 205.”

We chanced upon a temple complex and walked in, as long as we were there.  This turned out to be Higashi Hongen-ji, which neither of us had seen on a map or guide.

It was impressive, with a beautiful dragon at the hand-washing station and ornate detail on every door and pillar.

“… established in 1602 by shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu when he split the Shin sect in two …” Lynn read.

“There’s a hair rope!” I interrupted.  “When the shrine ran out of rope the monks made one out of their hair.”

“I think I can live without seeing that,” Lynn responded.

I just googled the hair rope.  Call me biased but it can’t rival the world’s largest twine ball in Darwin, Minnesota.

The shrine had a nice gift shop where I bought an exquisite fan for my future daughter in law.

The shrine had inspirational messages on its outer walls.

We stood and pondered what “Now, life is living you,” meant.

“It’s either really deep, or makes no sense at all,” I said.

“I’m afraid I’m not deep enough to understand it,” Lynn said, and we walked on.

Half an hour later, we stood admiring the Golden Pavilion.

It really is layered in gold.  It’s surrounded by a lake and gardens, so you can get photos that don’t show the thousands of tourists.

I felt claustrophobic in the crowd so I stepped aside and contemplated this moss-covered gateway.

You can’t go inside or get close to the temple, so we were back on the bus in 20 minutes.

Lynn studied her map.

“We’ve still got the Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine to see,” she pointed out.  “It’s in the other direction, also about 20 minutes out.  We could see it on the way to Nara tomorrow.”

“That’s the one with all the red gates?” I asked.

“They’re iconic gates,” Lynn replied.

Kyoto Station is part of a massive mall.  Of most importance, it’s air conditioned.  We nosed around Isetan, another department store.  We were interested in buying an omelet pan so we could make the Japanese-style omelets we had practiced with Taro, but they were asking $50 for one here.

On the 11th floor there was a restaurant advertising a sushi set meal for $55 for two, including a glass of saki.  Aside from a salty custard and green jellied cubes, the sushi felt familiar.

“Isn’t it interesting,” I pondered, “how sushi, of all things, has become the iconic Japanese food in the west.”

“Yes,” said Lynn, “It’s almost like comfort food.”

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