To Kyoto

Hotel Okura

We didn’t want to leave Nara, and Hiro didn’t want us to go. But Kyoto awaited. The quick train ride ended at the station’s Ogawa coffee shop, which we found with the help of a clerk at a sock vendor, who took us up a ramp and around a corner. It felt rather like Track 9 3/4 except we left for the magic of the old city, not Hogwarts

Hotel Okura, (pronounced “Okra”) did in some ways feel like another world. as it showed the strongest British influence. The doormen wore top hats and military looking coats. The room key was of the old-fashioned variety, a heavy brass thing that actually turned tumblers in a lock. Guests returned in the key when leaving the premises. The women at the concierge desk spoke the best English. An odd touch: the bell hops, all tiny women, wrangled bags in the best style.

For the first time since Naoshima, we encountered a large number of non-Japanese people. There were westerners, mostly Australians as far as I could tell, as well as businessmen from India and Chinese families.

The room included free bottled water, renewed daily, which we had encountered nowhere else, the fluffiest of bathrobes (ditto), slippers also renewed daily, and a full selection of toiletries.

After a full reconnaisnce, we ventured across the street to the pedestrian shopping mall where I fell into overload – too much in the way of textiles, clothes, stationery, jewelry, Daiso products. That’s a dollar store, except better quality and everything is $1.50. Britain reared its head again with the Sir Thomas Lipton store, Clarks Shoes, and a fair selection of English-language signs.

In search of a place for dinner, we ventured into one of the ubiquitous 7-Elevens. It had many sad looking items all of which lacked English names, so we wandered along. The seafood restaurant with the enormous animated crab on the front looked too expensive and kitsch-y.

Farther along the walkway appeared a minuscule tendon shop with a few seats and a huge line. We were the only westerners except for one college-age guy with a group of friends, The place had no English name, but we were able to read the menu. The dish adveritsed as shrimp with peppers delivered five enormous tempura shrimp, one tiny piece of green pepper, and a bit of seaweed over rice with a fabulous sauce.

The enjoyment of watching the chefs wrap a skin around the fish, etc., and then drop the pieces into hot oil, transfer to a plate, skim the fat, repeat provided terrific entertainment.


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