Kyoto Day 2: Nijo castle, Nishiki market and Gion

July 22, 2009 § 2 Comments

Instead of going to Lake Biwa like we had originally planned (the weather was pretty gloomy and not conducive for a nice day by the lake), we went straight to exploring Nijo castle.  Construction of Nijo was initiated in 1601 by a paranoid shogun named Tokugawa Ieyasu.

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While the castle is impressive in size and stature, what interests people the most are the little booby traps that he set in his home.  The floors are called nightingale floors and make sounds when you walk across.  Gomi challenged me to walk across without making the floor squeak and while doing so, I sparked a trend.  As I reached the other end we saw a man copying my stealthy movements.  We couldn’t take any pictures though because it was prohibited within the castle.

After the castle we went to Nishiki market (in between San jo and Shi jo).  It is famous for Kyoto specialty food and cute household items.

Preserved vegetables

Preserved vegetables

pretty sugar candy

pretty sugar candy

cute oven mitts

cute oven mitts

On the way to a nearby neighborhood called Gion, I saw my first indie Japanese band!  They were actually pretty decent singers and I would have bought their cd if it wasn’t so darn expensive.

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Gion is known for its traditional tea houses and occasional maiko sightings. Maiko are basically geishas in training.  I saw one!  I first saw her walking with an older lady and then later with a group of businessmen.  She was like a celebrity.  Other native Japanese people were running to get a picture of her and got really excited to see her.  One day I want to talk to one and ask about her life.

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The neighborhood had a lot of traditional architecture and old tea houses.  On the way home we stopped by a dango stand.  They are little round rice cake type balls on a skewer, covered with a honey like sauce.  Although they were tasty, they were really small and not very filling.  After eating one skewer, I understood why some people were buying ten at a time.  However, each one was almost one US dollar, which I don’t really think is worth it.  It was nice to try it though and if you go to Gion I suggest you buy at least one.

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Afterwards we sat by the river and rested our weary legs.  It was really nice just sitting there and taking in the lush scenery that surrounded us.  Although it was warm and humid, the slight breeze kept us from feeling uncomfortable.

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On the way home, we stopped by a Pizza Salvatore Cuomo for dinner.

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If you think back, I mentioned a restaurant called The Kitchen: Salvatore Cuomo when I was in Shanghai.  That was the restaurant at which Sam claimed I would be dreaming about the pizza.  It turns out that they have many stores across Japan.  Apparently Salvatore Cuomo won many awards for his pizzas.  Gomi and I decided to try it again together and ordered the same pizza Sam, Ella and I ate in Shanghai.  This time I was able to eat more than one piece and taste the full range of the flavors.  Although it was a yummy, in the end it was still a pizza.  I’m thinking of being evil and sending a picture of the pizza to Sam since he is in America now and unable to eat it. Hehehe…

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While I was unlocking my bike, I saw this!!

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It was a stray kitty and had a few siblings hanging around as well.  I wish I could take it home with me.

On the way home we stopped by a market.  Gomi kept on laughing/yelling at me because I kept on forgetting the proper greetings and continued to say “good morning” even at 8pm.  I also made a blunder while trying to bag the groceries.  There is a special section to bag your groceries but I didn’t know so I just started doing it as she paid.  There are so many little differences here and I feel like there are so many things Americans habitually do that are considered rude in Japan.  For example, you aren’t supposed to ask for special changes to your meal, start up a conversation with a stranger, or walk and eat at the same time (even if it is street food or ice cream).

However, even though Japanese people are very polite and expect the same from you, I feel like they have a good sense of humor and enjoy the most bizarre things.

Japanese Banana Man!

Japanese Banana Man!

Would you see this ad anywhere else in the world?

By the way, I saw a cute baby today while eating lunch.  I zoomed in and took a couple pictures.  Gomi says stalker, I say baby photographer. =D

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Also, I recently discovered my favorite dessert in Japan: macha (green tea) flavored soft serve ice cream.

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I actually like macha flavored anything.  Here are some bon-bon like goodies I discovered at the market!

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Tomorrow I plan to eat more macha flavored things.  =)

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