Japan is a quick hour and fifteen minute plane flight from Seoul, so last weekend I hopped over to Osaka and Kyoto! It was a whirlwind of a trip, only two days, so I think I’ll just have to visit again. Twist my arm.
I spent Saturday in Kyoto, (which is only an hour from Osaka by train), visiting the ancient capitol’s landmarks. They are incredibly beautiful and entirely unlike any royal palaces I have seen before. The differences between Japanese royal architecture and European royal architecture are staggering, as is obvious below.
Does that mean the cultures have little in common as well? Maybe. A friend once told me that Western society is like a bird and Asian society is like a bat- they can both fly, but they accomplish that goal in entirely different ways.
Ryoanji is the site of an ancient Zen rock garden. The estate used to belong to a Japanese noble family, but was later turned into a monastery. It’s beautiful site set among lush green trees and water lily filled ponds. The rock garden itself is oddly captivating, and it is easy to picture monks contemplating life’s mysteries while gazing out at the walled garden.
Japan has a reputation for nuttiness, and even the respectable old city of Kyoto has some bizarre elements to it:
Back to Osaka-
I stayed in the Dontonburi district of Osaka, an area known for its restaurants and nightlife. Actually all of Osaka is known as the culinary capital of Japan, and the city did not disappoint. I spent an inordinate time in Japan eating, so if you know me, you know I had a fantastic trip.
I spent Saturday’s dinner at a yakitori, kind of a Japanese tapas/grill place- they serve small portions of grilled or raw meat and vegetables.
The place was packed, apparently because a famous Korean actor had been spotted eating there recently. Grill cooks were shouting orders, the elderly lady working the register rattled off orders in a strange almost-falsetto, and lively conversations were being had at every table, all of which were full. It was right on the border of rowdy, and I loved it.
I obviously had to have sushi, one of my all time favorite things, while I was in its home country. Osaka did not disappoint.
I flew away from Kansai airpot on Sunday night sleepy and with a very full belly. Thank you Osaka!
I completely forgot to include this anecdote in the original version of this post:
Saturday night in the Dontonburi district of Osaka sort of defines what you hear about Japanese nightlife- tiny bars and clubs packed to the brims with people downing beers and sake, late night eateries serving every kind of greasy, salty, delicious food you can imagine, and gorgeously dressed Japanese people swanning around the streets. After much discussion and quite a few beers, we decided to go to a locally famous Jazz club in a nearby neighborhood. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, the show was over and the bar seemed to only be serving a few regulars, one of whom, we later discovered, was the establishment’s owner, who was with a much younger and very beautiful woman. The Japanese people are known for their impeccable manners, and the other patrons lived up to the stereotype- even though none of them spoke much English, they felt obliged to include us in their conversation, which revolved around the sampling of a very stinky cheese. I was asked to try the cheese and give my review, and of course I liked it- it was somewhat stronger than brie, I wish I knew what it was, but everyone there had forgotten the name. They all gasped at how easily and gratefully I accepted something that most of them found disgusting. Jong-in’s turn came, and he attempted to smile and say nice things, but the truth was written on his face; he thought the cheese tasted like an old man’s feet. One of the other patrons went next and almost gagged, shook his head and swallowed. No one else seemed to care for the taste much, so I was given the leftover cheese, which I gratefully accepted- it was quality French cheese!
After months of strange spices, and wholly foreign foods it was nice to be reminded that I am just as strange to others as they are to me. And it was also nice to get some free cheese.