Meg goes DOWNTOWN…& gets lost..

Hello again my adoring fans. Hungry for more? No?! How dare you. I’m giving you all a quiz upon my return to check up on whether you’ve been reading this, it takes AGES to write, and as I said before, Jo&I are fully aware that time spent writing a blog can feel like time wasted. Although I do enjoy it.

So, I write to you from an amazing cafe featured in the Lonely Planet guide to Kyoto (despite having the book I just bought the iPhone app because it’s so useful). The cafe’s called Lugol, and the book was right in describing it as “a very nice choice”& although describing it as groovy appeared at first odd and outdated, I realise that the cafe is indeed furnished with retro 60s decor so the adjective is in fact very appropriate. See the photos in the next post. Yesterday whilst wandering around downtown I saw amazingly cool retro shops, I suppose I finally found a window into Japanese stylishness, a sense of fashion and image. There’s a word for a sense of style: iki, I think. Came across it when reading about tattoos in the Edo Floating World movement in Japanese history.. As far as I can remember, this was a time when people enjoyed being very fashionable (much like now) and tattoos became a part of that until European/Christian influence led to nudity being something shameful and so tattoos were no longer seen in public and became something more taboo; then they became heavily associated with the Yakuza (Japanese mafia). Don’t quote me on any of that though, that’s off the top of my head. Anyway so that’s the kind of parallel I’ll draw in my dissertation: fashionable-ness then and now.

Yesterday morning before downtown I visited Shosei-en, a beautiful garden associated with Higashi hongan-ji, one of the temples I went to the other day. I wandered around in the peaceful garden looking red and sweaty to the alarm of passers-by: “Atsui des ne?!” (hot isnt it? the jist being -you look awful). But I didn’t mind, I admired the landscaping and teased the carp inbetween being driven crazy by my mosquito bites. Check out some photos in the post after this one- there are quite a few.

Downtown, once I got there, was crazy. There are two main shopping arcardes, long covered streets packed with shops, some horrendously tacky and others delightfully so, along with loads of mouthwateringly chic expensive boutiques. Yum yum yum. Before exploring, I sat down for a coffee in a place called Precious Coffee Moments. Precious moments they were NOT. Note that my coffee and green tea cake were nice, but the only seat was in the smoking area which had no ventilation so was pretty unpleasant.

Shopping was better. I found a shop purporting to sell things from America that in fact seemed to mostly sell things made in China or Japan, which was funny. I did buy a few things. Check out the photos for (surprise surprise) Japanese tack, including fluff and blinding bling, along with a “Crunching Cat” that pointlessly plugs into your USB port and does relentless stomach crunches (I find this incredibly disturbing), a dangerous-looking “foot peel” pack containing plastic bootees of toxic gel to burn away layers of your feet, and my favourite masks of all time; was Michael Jackson black or white? Who knows.. buy both.

I also saw the CUTEST EVER puppies and kittens in a pet shop: have a look at the ridiculously cute puppy video HERE:

And photos below. Of course they were all horribly inbred, probably, and one was a bit thin, and most of them will live in handbags never feeling the ground beneath their feet, but when you’re staring at them through a pane of glass you’re trying not to think about that, you’re thinking about how sweet they are.

Damn I just finished this post and lost it. Will have to write it again. After the pet shop I wandered around in various boutiques before getting completely lost in a grid of confusing little streets which are unnamed on the map, and ended up in a pasta place, which I thought would be fine but they had no English menu or pictures so I had to usher over a waiter and attempt to communicate for a while by grunting and mumbling and being embarrassed, and finally after he kindly drew me some pictures of vegetables we accomplished an order, which was nice and tasty. Getting home after that was a trial though as I couldn’t use the nearby subway as planned so ended up getting a taxi.

My dorm mates ( I’ve moved into a dorm, which is more social) are fun. JT, who was only here for one night, was a chatty hillbilly at heart from southern USA; he had leant Japanese and come to visit after realising that “all the best videogames come from Japan!” His story was actually quite sad as he’d grown up on a farm, got a job which worked him too hard for too many hours and nearly drove him to exhaustion and mental illness. He’d saved a lot of money by then though and had decided to quit his job and treat himself to this trip. Xenon, the most interesting character, is from the Netherlands (despite the intergalactic sounding name) and hangs his pants and socks out to dry at the end of his bed. He LOVES to talk, albeit slowly and in stunted english, about anything and everything, and many a time I’ve been caught in some weird conversation and unable to escape as he gives his views on why there are few English translations in Hiroshima or the relentless business surrounding your every move in Japan. He is here for a conference, but likes to “how you say… what is it… Mix business with tourism?” All in all a sweet old guy who’ll be staying here for quite a long time like me. The last guy is no character at all, strangely quiet, he appears late at night, says nothing, gets into his bed in his clothes, and snores loudly. He seems to trust Xenon with a few words though!

Got to sleep, I’ll write about today tomorrow, sorry! x

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2 Responses to “Meg goes DOWNTOWN…& gets lost..”

  1. Joanna Says:

    Great post! The kitten to puppy ratio is WAYYYYY off though. You know what I like damnit! Crunching cat sounds awesome. Is stuff really cheap there or not?

    Bring back a pink bunny to keep Rowan company in the garden!

    J xxxxxxx

  2. Laurence DC Palfreyman Says:

    Great blogging Meg, really nice writing.

    I know its a little weird bimbling around by yourself in that place. Make sure you get to Harajuku, its funky. Perhaps you could find an English teaching school that would appreciate an English volunteer for an afternoon. You’d get to chat to some Japanese people, definitely worth a look in.

    The subway is really simple once you get your head round it, just give it a good study.

    Keep it up! xxx

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