Saturday, December 18, 2010

The honeymooners

One of the beautiful things about travelling is that you sometimes behave, without agenda, more thoughtfully or hospitably than you might in a similar situation at home. I met Raj and Sian on the plane trip over.  Just married and exhausted after 2 traditional ceremonies, a large party ( and several smaller ones by the sound of it!)  they understandably hadn't spent any time "studying" their travel itinerary. They were heading straight to Osaka for a couple of nights then would be in Kyoto for several days so we arranged to meet for a walk and dinner on the afternoon of their arrival. A mini tour just to get them acquainted with "my town".

My newest friends were staying at the well known Yoshi-ima ryokan on the quaint, antique-shop-lined Shinmonzen dori (street) which is a 15-20 minute walk from my apartment and a very handy area to be based. After a quick roam around the local vicinity, including a linger at the ultra cool and only slightly pretentious Sfera building (minimalist furnishings, home wares, design books and a handful of quirky cd's, a gallery space plus a bar and several restaurants I have yet to visit) we head down south from the northern part of Hanamikoji dori and meander over to Yasaka jinja (shrine) where the vermilion painted torii (gates) had taken on an unearthly glow in the afternoon sun.  We skip briefly into Maruyama kooen (park) where we avoid imminent attack by infamous crows the size of small dogs and continue along to the base of sannennzaka the set of stone steps that lead up to ninnenzaka and eventually to Kiyomizu dera (temple) where I advise them to visit the following day. 

It is getting dark and  the temperature drops dramatically so we warm up at The Sherry Club - a very cosy bar serving around 90 sherries, jamon and tapas and run by the eternally effervescent Michiko-san. It is tucked away in a tiny lane way near the east gate of Yasaka Jinja and worth seeking out.  Heading back through that very gateway the newlyweds stop for a kiss in front of the now-lit (and one would have to admit rather romantic) lanterns and it is a sharp reminder that I am kinda crashing their love bubble.... but I make the most of it and absorb a little by osmosis.
We head to the south part of Hanamikoji with the promise of a maiko or geiko sighting but its a slow night and we leave before Sian's toes develop frostbite. We follow our noses along Pontocho and eventually settle for yakitori (grilled chicken on skewers) and kushikatsu  (fried crumbed meats, veggies or seafood on skewers - including pork cheek - oishii!) and sake at Yawataya. It wasn't until the end of the meal, and much guessing which golden cloaked mystery shape contained what ingredient, that we realised each stick had the name and corresponding menu number etched into the handle end... ingenious. Thanks guys for a great night and the pressies.... Enjoy the rest of your honeymoon and see you back in Sydney xxx

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