We spent the early part of Monday talking to Christine and her friend, then shopped for gifts. In our travels, we visited the local version of the Dollar Store, which was playing the most obnoxious music, the Chipmunks with an Asian flavor. It was there that I discovered my friend Maria, who had visited Japan several times, was right. It isn’t that women don’t turn gray, she said, they all just dye their hair. One entire wall of the store was covered with bottles and packets and all the accoutrements. At least no one stared and patted my hair as they did with her silver bob.
A bit farther along, a craft fair in the square in front of the train station had a few items of interest – jewelry and textiles, but it couldn’t compare to the massive display of Houston Street in NYC that I encountered a couple of years ago.
Hiro was entertaining when we returned: the scroll maker and a dollmaker (wooden carvings of all sizes and shapes) from Kyoto who was the fourteenth generation of his family to carry on the tradition. It could be either liberating or oppressive to know that your path in life is set. His English was limited so I couldn’t ask if the entire family made dolls or only just a few select members of each generation. He issued an invitation to visit his studio, which we didn’t have a chance to do. But his works will be part of an exhibit at Boston University in two years. I will attend.
That night Hiro drove us thirty-five minutes to a restaurant, once more no idea of the name. We met his wife, Kozumi, who orchestrated the meal and kept us in the best Matcha I’ve ever tasted. Since the menu was also in Japanese only I can only guess at the dishes: various soy products, pickled Chinese cabbage, a small hotpot. Among my favorites was the lotus root. The world’s best miso soup arrived toward the end of the meal. Then a surprise, a small pot of molten cheese. This dispelled my idea that the Japanese never ate the stuff. Dessert was either soy ice cream with bean powder, which I did not try, or a small portion of bean paste. It was gelatinous and not as sweet as expected.
We visited the 1,300 year old palace and gate, which are under renovation but look magnificent under floodlights. Of all the structures we saw, the Chinese influence is most evident there.