The restaurant that my guidebook had recommended for lunch specialized in kamameshi, a local fare. The place was packed and there were a dozen people crammed into the entry way waiting for a table. A server thrust menus at us and ordered, “You pick food before you get table!”
The menu was simple; I ordered crab and Lynn ordered shrimp kamameshi. What is kamameshi, you ask? We too wondered as we read the eating instructions.
“It’s very complicated,” Lynn said.
“This is the important part,” I read, “after scooping out your first serving, make sure you place the lid back onto the iron pot. Remember to take the paddle out to ensure a tight seal—this is the key to delicious okoge!”
“I guess we’re going to find out.”
“There are certainly lots of exclamation marks,” Lynn counted, “I hope it lives up to the exciting taste experience implied herein.”
To be honest it was just okay. Okoge turned out to be rice that is crusted onto the side of the pot.
A boy of around seven was sitting with his family at another table, playing a game on some device. The device was not on silent and a constant refrain of “bloop, bloop, BLOOPITY BLING bing bing bing” filled the restaurant. I won’t say what nationality the family was. Everyone in the place, including the servers, were staring daggers at them but they were oblivious.
After lunch we found Isuin Garden, one of two “famous” gardens Lynn had bookmarked to visit in Nara. At the entryway, a man in a pink hat bowed and introduced himself as a volunteer tour guide, then set off at a brisk pace. Lynn and I barely had time to exchange glances that said, “Please, no!” before we were forced to march after him.
Now, when I speak Spanish it is at a very slow pace because I know my Spanish isn’t great. Our guide, whose English was just okay, didn’t let that slow him down. He spoke a blue streak while pointing and waving and telling jokes—we thought they were jokes because he laughed, so we laughed too—it would have felt rude not to. He was delightful, and we got a bonus aerobic workout racing up and down hills and over bridges and across stepping stones.
After about 20 minutes he rather abruptly bowed and raced off, leaving us at the far end of the garden, presumably to return to the entry and collect another group of unsuspecting tourists. Lynn and I wandered, off leash.
I was mesmerized by this 100-year-old glass in the tea house. The photo doesn’t do it justice, but it was slightly wavy. How wonderful that it has survived time, earthquakes, and war.
This lady seemed happy to have me include her in my photo, to give a sense of scale. Exquisite, isn’t it?
Lynn picked up more bamboo tricks she can try in her Scottish garden.
We consulted our maps and decided to walk to the art museum. The heat was stultifying so it was slow progress. We passed Nara City Hall, which we thought looked vaguely like a samurai helmet.
There was a gigantic gift shop next to city hall. The art museum was closed, so we returned to the gift shop, where Lynn found saki for Richard. I bought some rice crackers and stood outside feeling the sweat roll down my back while I noshed. It was only about 3pm, but I had hit a wall.
Some travel days are like that. You just can’t force yourself to do one more thing.
“Would you be okay with going back to the hotel to veg?” I asked Lynn.
“We did hike a mountain this morning,” she reminded me.
I bought a beer in the vending machine outside our room and drank it while reading, scrolling through social media, and watching news of the G20 Summit. True to form, Trump was insulting the Japanese—his hosts and our ally.
Later, we ventured back up to the rooftop lounge.
“You came back!” our server from the previous night exclaimed.
“I’m not sure if he was pleased to see us, or shocked,” Lynn said after he seated us at “our” table.