Vacation

Culture for its own sake


Just in case you plan to set up a backyard saké brewery, here’s how you go about it, courtesy of the folks at Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum.

Step-by-step sake-making at Gekkeikan Museum, Fushimi, Japan

Readable full-size version here. The museum is a fun little side trip, by the way, with a gift shop and tasting bar. The “retro” saké they only sell there is sweeter than most current products; several bottles made it into our luggage, along with their plum wine.

Next trip, we’ll have to visit the Suntory Yamazaki beer and whisky museums, as Jeffrey Friedl did here and here.

Take one drink if you picked “tiger”


One of the drinking games at the maiko dinner is “Tora tora”, a variant of rock-paper-scissors where the players are hidden from each other by a screen, and step out miming a character: samurai beats tiger, tiger beats grandmother, grandmother beats samurai. We had a large group, but every time someone picked tiger, the other person had picked samurai.

Playing 'Tora tora' at Gion Hatanaka, Kyoto, Japan

Fortunately, they had non-alcoholic drinks available for when the kids lost.

Loser takes a drink (non-alcoholic) at Gion Hatanaka, Kyoto, Japan

When an even-smaller little girl lost a round, the honorable samurai who’d slain her tiger generously gave her the winner’s prize and took the drink instead.

Too cute to lose at Gion Hatanaka, Kyoto, Japan

Not a cherry blossom picture


Sometimes all those white and pink blossoms filling the trees get a bit overwhelming, and you need to turn away, look down, and relax your eyes.

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More blossoms in Arashiyama…


Spring blossoms in Arashiyama

Not all blossoms grow on trees…


Signs of Spring at Gion Hatanaka

The Maiko dinner at Gion Hatanaka is not cheap, but is definitely worth it. If you’re not a fan of traditional Kyoto cuisine, however, plan on stopping somewhere for more modern fare later.

(I believe that the girl in white has graduated to full geiko status, having reached age 20; the other is still a maiko)

The hidden cost of cherry blossoms


Shoseien warning sign, Kyoto, Japan

Fortunately, there’s only the one.

Random vacation notes, 2 of N


  • Blu-ray releases are still pretty rare for teen and adult bikini idols, but relatively common for tween bikini idols. Squick.
  • Stores that shelve all Blu-ray titles together really make this stand out.
  • Not that it's just about lolis and pseudo-lolis; adult video stores have substantial sections devoted to 熱女 ("mature women", generally older than those featured in the 人妻 ("married women") section). Also an array of neatly-categorized fetishes that likely prosper because of censorship.
  • The typical pattern in adult videos has an older, dominant partner and a younger, possibly-willing, crying partner (girl-girl is rare, but works the same way). Honestly, if you think sex is supposed to involve consenting adults providing mutual pleasure, you'll find adult video stores in Japan pretty depressing.
  • The Kyoto Visitors Guide map has prominently marked areas where public smoking is now banned. Apparently the locals haven't gotten the word yet, though. On the bright side, non-smoking sections in restaurants are gaining in popularity, and some of them even have sensible placement.
  • By the way, the Visitors Guide is possibly the single most important item to pick up when you visit Kyoto; up-to-date listings of events and markets, ads and coupons for tourist shopping, and clear, useful maps for getting around by foot, bus, or subway. (note that their web site doesn't include the actual maps)
  • The Lonely Planet book has some frustrating omissions. One poor lost soul wandered into the restaurant we were eating at, and the woman running the place asked if I'd help him out. He was trying to get to one of the Noh theatres mentioned in his LP book, and the directions were vague, confusing, and at least partially wrong. They were clearly marked on the Visitors Guide map, along with the closest subway stations.
  • Men who smoke, smoke everywhere; women who smoke, particularly the younger ones, tend to do it in restaurants and cafés. And presumably bars, but I never went into any this time.
  • Explaining the concept of a couple who met through personal ads in a newspaper was difficult without the proper vocabulary. The best part, though, was when the interpreter at Gion Hatanaka finally understood, and attempted to explain it to the maiko. She looked quite thoroughly baffled, demonstrating that her profession keeps her far away from the mainstream dating scene. Sleeping with your head in a box will do that, I suppose.
  • The staff at kimono shops are convinced that if they keep showing you gorgeous expensive things that you don't really want, eventually they'll wear you down. I suspect they're often correct, but we once again managed to escape with our wallets intact.
  • The Nishijin Textile Center has a kimono fashion show several times a day; no pictures from me, since by the time I knew it was starting, I would have had to run downstairs and fight to the front of the crowd, but definitely something to keep in mind for a future trip. Pretty girls, pretty kimonos, and no worries about getting permission to take pictures.
  • They've also got a well-stocked souvenir shop that can take care of a lot of your gift shopping.
  • Morita Washi is a paper and crafting shop that's very cool, and potentially very hard on your wallet. They do some reasonably affordable custom business cards on their papers, but the 10-day turnaround made it something for another trip.
  • Ditto for carved stone hanko, which take about a week at most shops. Bamboo you can get next-day, and horn can be done in an hour or so if you're in a hurry.
  • There is a guy who's set up shop outside the gift shop at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum who'll carve stone seals quickly, but it's up to you to provide him with a design.
  • Most flavors of Mintia taste horrible. Even worse, almost every convenience store stocks a different subset of flavors, so that when you do find one that's palatable, you'll have a hard time finding it again. Juicy Apple, Juicy Grape, and Juicy Navel are good; Lemon-Lime is awful, but seems to be more widely distributed.
  • I couldn't resist picking up the first two volumes of Nareru! SE, both light novel and manga. Tee-hee.

Sublimation


I took a picture of this cherry tree simply as an alternative to entering the sword shop behind it.

Cherry tree outside Tozando sword shop

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”