Yes, mom, better than the other kind of dump.
Don't even pretend you weren't thinking that...
Now that we've all had our childish moment to giggle at my choice of phrasing, I will go on with the story. Two weekends ago, I took the night bus to Kyoto to visit Dai, who is currently there on a little break from the big, noisy streets of Tokyo. For those who are trying to save money, I highly reccomend using the night bus--it's about half the price of the shinkansen (bullet train). For those who are hoping to travel in Kyoto well-rested, however, I reccomend spending the extra money for a short ride with comfortable seats and snack trolleys via shinkansen.
I arrived in Kyoto at precisely six in the morning, with exactly five minutes of cell-phone battery left. Luckily, I brought my portable charger and plugged in at the yet-unopened starbucks on the ground floor of the building at the base of Kyoto tower. I was not surprised when Dai mailed me to say he'd be late...after all, I was surprised he'd even volunteered to be up so early.
In any case, the first thing we did was go back to his dad's house for breakfast. I, armed with omiyage (souveniers) from Tokyo, was nervously anticipating the introduction to his father and nepharious obaa-chan (grandma), rehearsing the polite conjugations in my head, wondering whether to stick with the more comfortable "for strangers" form, or trot out my few awkward phrases of keego ("I am not worthy"-form). I worried about this as we entered his house and removed our shoes. I fidgeted when he told me to set the omiyage on the coffeetable and sit in the kitchen. I ate the (very sweet, in every sense) attempt at an American breakfast his father had prepared for us feeling like I had taken the rigid-backed night-bus seat along with me.
"Okay, let's go!"
"My friend's here, let's get going."
I struggled to find something to say, and I guess Dai thought maybe I hadn't understood his Japanese because he translated. "Aa yu ready?" He paid special attention to pronounce the R on ready. "Okay, lez go!"
In the wake of Dai's endearing attempts at English, I couldn't do anything but follow. Dai's friend, a hyper, snaggle-toothed punk named Tsutomu, picked us up in a Western style Honda Eclipse (western, because it had the steering wheel on the left side, like God intended. Sorry Rach.). Then, at the last moment, Dai's dad came out of the house, having just dressed. I waved, He waved back, and we drove away.
So much for keego.
We went to McDonalds first and I grabbed a coffee while Tsutomu ate breakfast and Dai ate...another breakfast. The metabolism of a young Japanese male is ten to the twelfth power or so times that of the average non-Japanese female, and sometimes it's really annoying. I'm still trying to work off the weight I gained hanging out with them. After that, we went to my favorite place in Kyoto: Kiomizudera.
Dai, washing his hands in the water that runs down the mountain, for which Kiomizudera is famous. Maybe his soul has been purified, but there's no guarantee on how long it lasts. Likely it lasted until he drank out of the dipper...
Dai and Tsutomu were very unnerved by my desire to see the graveyard outside Kiomizudera. I have never visited a Japanese graveyard before, and this one was absolutely beautiful. There are thousands of family grave sites, and somehow, in the vastness of it all, each family knows how to find their own plot. There were an impressive number of flowers and recently-burned incense, even fruit or juice boxes left as offerings.
Dai told me an interesting story about one of his friends' fathers, who was not a very good guy on anyone's terms, and was so poor that he used to prowl the graveyard, stealing the offerings. I'm not sure what kind of kharma that brings, but I wouldn't want it.
From the walkway between Kiomizudera and the graveyard, there was a beautiful view of the city and Kyoto tower over the canopy. The weather was gorgeous that day, too--the mountains held back the clouds, so there was sunshine all day.
Coming down the stairs from the main temple--this is the gate, which is next to the gazebo that houses the giant bell my family and I watched the monks install last April.
The courtyard of Kiomizudera. At this point, Dai and Tsutomu were speaking in an older style of Japanese, pretending to be feudal lords.
"Ah, long past are the days when the boys of the kingdom would run around the courtyard, yelling and dallying with war-play," Dai said (er...with artistic liscence...)
"Quite so," Tsutomu grunted.
"Yes, now they brandish cell phones, much the same way the children used to brandish swords..."
"Er...yes. We are very old, My Lord. Times have changed over the past thousand or so years."
"I shall never allow this one place of history be destroyed! I am Lord..."
You don't get pictures any better than that. Oh, wow, I had fun. After that, we went shopping and I bought souveniers for my parents and my coworkers...and I couldn't resist the fan that had the first Kyoto-ben (the Kyoto accent) I ever learned..."ほんまかいな!?" (honmakaina!? = Really!?) Most of the rest of the day was spent hanging out with Dai's friends, which was a lot of fun! Unfortunately, my camera died, so there are no more pictures, but the most important part is documented!
Stay on the alert for new pictures and report from my Tour of Tsukiji, Asakusa, and Ginza with Raven this past Sunday...and the new photoshoot I did this morning, taking advantage of the good sunlight in order to get some better shots for my agency to use.