it's 2023 and i'm in japan for the third time. the first two times i went to tokyo and this time i'm in kyoto. the lobby of the kyoto ace hotel is motly natural wood. the facade of this hotel bleeds into the lobby. red brick, assembled in the 20s, designed by tetsuro yoshida. yoshida-san is credited with bringing japanese style architecture ideas to europe as well as bringing european modernism back to japan. the facade is a squarish cube of a building but yet it's beautiful. textural patterns of brick. arches. i'm drinking stumptown coffee which tastes better than any stumptown coffee i've ever gotten in USA. outside a patio lined with bamboo. a big red post box. more cyclists and pedestrians than cars. the ace hotel is an american chain but it feels like one of the least american things in japan. america's legacy here is hyper-capitalism, competition, de-militarization. the ace hotel is these things, of course, but presented in a far more tasteful way. i guess it puts the pacific nw usa into perspective for me. what i derided as shallow aesthetic dujour capitalism does amount to an artistic expression, loath as i am to admit it. a common theme i have observed coming to japan is taking some idea and going very deep with it; figuring out how to express that idea with totality. japan is full of flimsy mass produced crap (acrylic tchotkes being the primary example for me) but it is also full of examples of people just going very hard into things. this ace hotel is more portland than portland. and it's pleasing to me; visually very satisfying. the coffee from stumptown is better than the coffee from stumptown. last night got in after 12 hour flight and two back to back nights of insomnia. to get from airport to kyoto we took two trains. to board train #1 we had to go to an office, exchange a form for a pass and a ticket, go to a machine that said to insert ticket but it actually needed the pass, sit on train for 75 minutes. continually pass out on the train, which is hello kitty themed, because of sleep deprivation. it's humid and i'm sweating into everything and each time i pass out i feel my mask with drool which smells like the salmon i had two meals in a row on the plane. come into a station and walk to train #2 but find out it's a different rail carrier, try and buy a rail card but there are only "fare adjustment" machines and no card machines, realize we can't leave because we don't have a thing to swipe to exit, find a guard who lets us out, find the card machine, realize it only takes cash, find a 7-11, get cash, get card, walk all the way back to train #2. today i remember something i read in A Theory of Fun for Game Design that forcing yourself to smile can generate feelings of contentment so today my goal is smiling. on previous trips to japan i've focused too much on buying shit (because i'm american or because of the cultural influence of america?). on this trip i'm trying to think of activities that aren't buying or running through a listicle of "experiences". the only thing on my bucket list is to never have a bucket list. my only idea: to find scenes of unframed beauty and write a short poem there. feels appropriately traditional.
yesterday we obtained onigiri from 7-11 and ate it in the courtyard (massive tsubo-niwa?) of our hotel. schedule bike rentals for later in the week and get more excellent coffee. walk to the kamo river and watched teeming teens teening and large eagle hawks fight crows for scraps. cross at the stepping stones. into the east side and south to gion district. a road went through torii and up a hill; we took it. a cemetery massive on the map so through a park past a temple into the cemetery. so big. cut into terraces up the hill. thousands of graves. we criss crossed and went to the top. at the edges no fences; shizen just bleeds right into the graveyard. the wasps had just hatched. people scrubbing graves and placing flowers. from a shady spot, can see: green hills to the west, kyoto, a sea of graves. a pleasing continuity. at the peak a special grave? moss tastefully claiming. descending and bow for obasan who said konnichiwa. i'm american and showing respect to old people is thrilling like a drug. i can't even imagine doing it back home. i feel so freed by protocol. i am not trapped in the prison of feigning charisma. i have private space in my head and when interaction with others is needed: there is a guide. in america every interaction has a main character. i want to be back of house, not front of stage. the things about me that are unique and interesting manifest in artifacts i leave behind, not in the minutiae of daily small talk and commercial interactions. back to the garden and imobou in a restaurant from 300 years ago. beautiful private dining room. many little courses, all unique and novel. numbing nettles in a floral soup. soft savory and sweet potato. head into the densest district of kyomachiya. some streets are swamped and some are empty. tourists do photo shoots in narrow streets with warning signs about 10,000 yen fines for doing photo shoots. it is clear to me that i would live here. one house: black barbed wire covering the upper porch. fit within the color scheme of the neighborhood. nothing like it anywhere else. circular wandering and then return to area of highest tourist concentration for the novelty of the gion starbucks. a pause at the ghibli store where no commerce occurs due to the loud absence of Nausicaa products. a coin purse obtained next door. in the gion starbucks i panic and must exit immediately without purchasing anything. exhausted pausing and recuperative reflection at the base of hokan-ji temple / yasaka pagoda. a fractal of art, age, crow. the buddhists won against the shintoists in 1408 and the original building came to a prince in a dream. of what was he dreaming? did he care about buddhists vs. shintoists? more buildings should come from dreams. or: all buildings should come from dreams. erase everything else. a return to time up a river path of dusk swallows and narrow stone bridges to a soba restaurant. they have sudachi and for an extra 300 yen per person, seats on a porch over the river. sake set and appetizers: greens, yuba, fish chunks reminiscent of imobou. bitter, sour, sudachi udon. a walk to clothing stores and surprising bounty of shirts i want at Uniqlo. back at hotel a bad japanese ipa and worse japanese TV, which I love, though Hell Girl was on the japanese version of cartoon network and it was ok. in 2000 i learned about anime on cartoon network from my dark little house in an american forest. in 2023 i learned about a 2007 anime that no one in america really cared about from a hotel room TV playing cartoon network in japan. this is hardly a poetic comparison; but a funny rhyme. to sleep and today as of 6:30 am local time a runny nose which hopefully does not become a situation. more convenience store breakfast including the most blessed of pan keiki from 7-11. kohi and more kohi. an art gallery of abstractions i hate initially but soften towards as i stare.
northward to the imperial palace to see how badly golden weeked it is. it was fine. paused at the edge of the grounds to see an old tea house where several beautiful pigeons and a crane were being birds. the pigeons were very socialized and one came right next to me at eye level. i leaned in and we gazed into each others eyes. the crane departed. we criss crossed and looked at the various plants and houses and ruins. a massive stone sat on a little hill under a tree. it was full of carved kanji. a stream full of algae and children and small stepping stones that i was compelled to cross even though they went in the wrong direction. massive, loud crows everywhere. at the palace wall no obvious point of ingress so we walked its perimiter gazing at thick coats of imperial moss. an alarm went off because someone we could not see came too close to the wall. north of the palace a three hundred year old dorayaki cafe. i had kinako and it was oishii. too big for the tables. on the way out finally saw where you could enter the palace, so through police checkpoint and onto the tour. the police had revolvers which i found almost comforting compared to the american cops ready to mag dump 20 rounds into people. lavish giant shizen beauty. heavy history. sake cup poetry game. exit to the dense world of the unimperial and south to kinji, a used clothing store. i find cargo pants made in tennesee by a military contractor. the rubber banding of military expression amuses me and i purchase. exhausted and hungry so the italian restaurant in the hotel. okay food but exceptionally oishii cocktails. house negroni and earthen house espresso martini. right into bed with a japanese game show we both actually enjoyed about wordplay. placing kanji such that it prefixes or suffixes multiple other kanji to make words. passed out by 2100.
my head is a congested prison. despite judicious mask wearing i have acquired a headcold. at least it's not novel coronavirus 2019. prior to assuming my current fetal position in my hotel room bed watching oshiri tantei we had a day of biking. though first, attempted meal of obanzai dashed by golden week so instead sakana setto at a breakfast place in nishiki. satisfying. picked up two city bikes from the good day velo and biked through side streets to the kamo river. enjoyed the river bike path all the way to the botanical garden of kyoto. the garden was golden weeked and the sun very hot. a high point was a craft market where i got amazake. another was seeing a preserved rafflesia. and finally, the absolutely massive frogs croaking resonantly and fighting (mating?) each other in a lily-filled pond. between the heat and multiple coffees consumed prior to biking we did not notice becoming calamitously hungry. the nice cafe at the garden which was all italian food and a "spicy curry" which i had my eye on was full so we braved the "cafeteria" which was overrun by screaming children and the elderly. the children were at least mildly endearing in that some of them would just run up to us and announce fun facts ("boku no aisu desu!"). the process for food acquisition included waiting in line, operating an antiquated vending machine with zero english to pay for food tickets, wait on line again, give the tickets to people behind a counter, stand in a cluster while your food is prepared, then fight for a seat in the overrun seating area. we were very thankful for kitsune udon and kare raisu though. i became confused by labyrinthe bathroom and betrayed by half empty vending machine. we exited and biked north to a suburban feeling area with a 7-11. acquired too many food items: mini waffles, egg salad sandwich, natto maki, two kinds of tsukemono. a perfect spot in view of many tori, both chisei and oki, in the shade. genki restored. we saw a muskrat swimming, wandering, grooming. biked through the residential area to the east which i really enjoyed. stopped at a little cemetery and a pond of note, midoroga-ike. i liked the pond. more residential biking to the path along the takano river then south back to the bike place. i liked the river delta area where takano met kamo. unfortunately, a bad panic attack trying to weave through the (presumably golden weeked) throng on the kamo path side. bike return then hotel and room service for the night. at some point watching TV some kind of alert happens; while i was trying to figure out what it meant, the entire hotel started shaking. it didn't last long. was pretty clear to what the alert was referring at that point.
a day where nothing happens because i have a cold. here in this space you can imagine what i would have done if i had not spent the whole day lying in bed watching NHK: [ ]
imagine making a creative work at the lowest point of a depressive episode and twenty years later it being such a cultural phenomenon, still, that its theme song comes up twice in a national live dance competition. imagine that yesterday i felt much better and got up early for coffee and getting on line at the obanzai restaurant we wanted to go to earlier in the week. the wait wasn't so bad. we naturally got the biggest setto each and it was all delicious and unique. i especially liked the yubadon with mushrooms and citrus. kyoto specializes in preserved fish and vegetables and that? ga suki desu. a man next to us was worried we had not ordered properly. but we had? food appeared without issue but perhaps i was supposed to get it elsewhere. a stop at the hotel and then the train to keage station. pictures of wild flowers and then up 疎水分線. the combination of meiji architecture, lush nature, and classically shaped temples was very striking. a stop at nanzenji for otearai and mizu and then up a shrine trail. the trail was totemo utsukushii though the trees weren't very old. the oldest trees had shrines at their base which i appreciated. up stone steps with an iridescent beetle (watashi no natsu yasumi, amirite). found the waterfall i noted on the map and it had a shrine with a monk. he saw us quietly observing the falls from a stone bridge and asked me something about zazen in japanese. since i know what that is i nervously nodded; this began an exchange that i could not comprehend. naturally this was a bingo of panic triggers: unfamiliar country, an old person, a near total language barrier, a religious site. he got out wooden seats and dropped them on a rock outcrop that jutted out in front of the waterfall and insisted, gently, that we sit. the primary confusion was around us taking off our shoes. we got into half lotus and shut our eyes and as an american and an anxious person i was cataloguing all of the ways i was about to get grifted or harrassed: money demanded, stuff stolen, mocked. instead i listened to the watefall and did zazen as i have done many times. it was perfect and just like in the forest by the swamp where i learned zazen as a teenager i didn't notice the mosquitoes biting me. after some amount of time the monk clapped once and we got our shoes back on. he pointed at the water and pointed at his head. i knew what he meant. we went on our way and he took up a horn which reverberated through the forest pleasingly. we passed older and older shrines until it was just woods, frog sounds mixing with the fading horn. i don't recall a time where i've gone from a point of peak panic to a point of total stillness like that. a plane overhead and i remembered the rest of the world like a painful memory. we hiked on, deciding to go up mt. daimonji. it was steep and some kind of natural disaster had laid waste to the trail so going was slow. the air got much cooler and the mosquitoes disappeared. i gave a yen to a little wooden guy. windows of urban kyoto through cedar branches; much bigger mountains in the distance. we took some kind of wrong turn or were redirected by the fallen trees but ended up on a trail unknown to google maps (though blazed) in the opposite direction of where we wanted to go. we chose to stick with it and had a perilous descent down a leaf covered trail. we came upon a light rope fence and dwelled on the absurdity of a mystery fence: we could not know which side we were allowed to be on and which side we were forbade from. from some google maps staring (i have never not had signal in japan) i determined with a degree of uncertainty less than 100% that we were looking at a arboretum open to the public. with immense unease we walked quietly through, worried we were in someone's backyard or a private temple. luckily it was just the arboretum. spat out in a quiet residential neighborhood a couple of kilometers north of the train station where we started. there was udon here: a fancy place with a line down the block and a tiny, empty place run out of a family's house. we went to the latter and it was kanpeki. two large format asahi biru, cold soba, cold udon. for some reason there was a TV mounted to the wall showing the security camera feed from above the front door. we watched people come to the door, think about it, and leave. a japanese family did at last enter, at least. there was a blue bottle not far in a kyomachiya. the building was half-renovated and i enjoyed seeing its bones. a very fine espresso pull and a cube of matcha something. we chose to walk instead of train and paused at the book off on the bank of the kamo river. i bought a golf game for sega saturn for 110 yen. then wandering through the teramachi shopping arcade. completely by chance i noticed a tiny sign for a record store for "noise" and found its locked stall hidden in the very back corner of a forgotten part of the shoppin garcade. it was dark and grimy and reeked of cigarettes. i found them online and determined that yes, parallax records is real and indeed selling noise music; supposedly they will be open next week. i will return. entered a donut shop to panic so i immediately left. across the way a milsurp store. every article painstakingly catalogued which i appreciated: exact designations for the various field jackets and equipments. even found a black m-65. then, a cafe. this cafe filled me with sadness so deep i almost threw up. i will not speak of it further. at this point exhausted so determined to get some food to take back to hotel. we settle on kyoto style sushi (aka pressed sushi) and choose an outpost of a business that's been around for 200+ years. turns out it's in the food hall of a labyrinthine mall. through basic orienteering we find izuu and get our pressed sushi but want more food. all navigation ability breaks down and we circle and wander ending up in grocery stores embedded in the food court. i feel as though i lived a lifetime in that food court. each attempt to disengage only put us further into the nested businesses of the food court. the terminal state was the fish counter in the meat section of the grocery store in the savory section of the food hall; this was the point of madness. we escaped through random path finding. now with bags of food acquired in a fugue state (shoyu smoked saba, an unagi roll, unknown side dishes, creamy matcha goods) and aching backs finally to the hotel. it's too much food. i'm still thinking about that cafe and don't want to eat but drink sake until i don't care and i can eat. completely enthralled by a live dance competition then sleep to nightmares about my cat getting sick and flooding my house with urine.
it's raining a lot. made a multi-course breakfast out of what i couldn't finish for dinner. off to the manga museum which is in a former elementary school and run by a university. mildly crowded but enjoyable. the sheer quantity of manga in their library, all carefully preserved, was impressive. wandering in the rain and a confusing time at a different kyomachiya blue bottle but worth it for blue bottle. feeling exhausted early; digging in at the hotel with legend of dragoon which i was hoping to like more. acquired, through much language effort of t_____, reservations at a fancy tofu restaurant on the kamokawa. walked to odori theater to get tickets for the next day and then nervously await our reservation in a wet yokocho. my rate of faux pas per minute was likely very high but we had a lovely time. totemo oishii. beautiful building with beautiful antiques. back to the hotel very wet but satisfied.
busy days. two days ago i likely got up and went to stumptown but who can say for sure? alternatively i went to 7-11 for onigiri. i tried to update this log daily because i knew i would forget things this quickly. memory begins at karasuma oike where we took the subway to a stop on the arashiyama line. went above ground and waited on a street side platform with a crowd. a single car train that looked suspiciouly like the spirited away train (though upon closer inspection had been made 7 years before the movie came out) pulled up. we crammed in for the ride to arashiyama. in my head arashiyama was a couple of initial touristy sections and then hiking trails. i did not research this notion and i was proven to be very wrong. we went to the bamboo forest which, predictably, was choked with tourists and instagram couples. i decided i would not stress about photo bombing and strode through a lot of elaborate selfie shoots. the bamboo was interesting and i'm glad i saw it but i was thankful to get away from the throng of people. the rest of arashiyama was pretty quiet. we walked through the park and sat with the katsura river, swollen and raging from the two straight days of rain. i noted, but did not approach, the zhou enlai poetry monument. noted some interesting tucked away restaurants worth visiting on a future trip. stared at a cabinet for some kind of old motor that was decayed and claimed by nature and graffiti. the structure was shaped like the shrines that are everywhere so it felt appropriate to meditate on decay. located a tofu restaurant which turned out to be in a beautiful old house surrounded by gravel gardens and buddhist statuary. i had to crouch to get around inside. the wood was soft and worn. our table had a heater and we plucked boiling tofu out of a pot to dip into sauce. it was nice, though we agreed we liked cold fresh tofu over boiled tofu. outside the window in the courtyard a beautifully kept garden; at its center a tree trained to have low long branches was hung with a single CD. after lunch, % arabica, wherein i had acceptable espresso. i remain a % arabica skeptic. minimalist vibes don't work when you court a viral aesthetic that crams your little shop full of dozens of tourists all selfie-ing at once. i recognize that my blue bottle appreciation makes me a hypocrite but at least their coffee is better. we could see what seemed like a potential trailhead across the katsura, so we pushed through the throng on the bridge. watched a person repeatedly pretend to casually walk across the bridge while their companion struggled to take a fitting picture. i guess the katsura being so sloshy and brown did not ruin the "vibe," as it were. the trail head turned out to be a road along the katsura's bank which dead ended at a temple path charging money to walk up it. the road was very pretty and the walk to the end was pleasant. we decided not to pay the toll to walk the temple path, however. i particularly enjoyed the various remains of structures that once lined the river. they were of various eras and levels of destruction and submergence. unfortunately we didn't notice anything else that passed for a walking or hiking trail nearby so we turned back. i was thankful to go back to kyoto for, despite the very pleasant time at lunch, i found arashiyama to be overbrimming with grimness. overgrimming. upon arriving back in kyoto we were far too early for the odori performance for which we had tickets, so wandering down very narrow streets near the theater. found an okonomiyaki restaurant and i resolved: today, i eat okonomiyaki. the odori theater was staffed by older people who spoke no english so protocol was a little confusing but everything worked out. the tea ceremony preceeding the show was interesting but very brief. the geisha's movements were entrancing. one member of the audience received geisha matcha; the rest of us got matcha from the back. after tea a waiting room gift shop combo. here, i realized with the clarity of freshly windexed glass: robot restaurant is a lot like this. the process was so similar there. i took this observation in stride and spent the waiting room time on a balcony overlooking the kamo. the show itself was very entertaining. the first half was a love farce; i preferred the second half which was abstract dancing with a visible orchestra. the geisha taking a night time walk was especially impressive. dark, sheer curtains and lighting tricks made her look ghostly in a beautiful way. the finale had a huge iris bloom backdrop and elaborate dance. throughout i enjoyed watching the orchestra, especially the shamisen players tuning their instruments as they played. this year is the 184th season for the theater. i watched many old and coiffed salarymen exit with their presumed escorts: much bowing and orchestration in their reception and farewell. straight to okonomiyaki which did not disappoint. it felt like an east coast american diner. casual, chill, very satisfying food. in total we got: seafood yakisoba, seafood deluxe okonomiyaki, and a natto omelette. the food is cooked on a big shared surface, then run over on a spatula and dropped on your table's grill where the food continues to cook. a draft asahi each and then a split yebisu mid-sized bottle. i loved it all but was especially pleased with the natto omelette. amazing texture. t_____ did not really like the experience but was content to humour me. left smelling of frying things. at this point my genki was genki and we opted for a long walk near the gion area. i'm out of superlatives to describe walking in kyoto. watched a crane dine at sunset. watched the lanterns come on along a canal lush with vegetation. used a vending machine in front of a house that is probably hundreds of years old. imagined that if i lived there, i would find the intermittent "clink clink ker-klack" of the vending machine vending to be soothing. home through some of the covered street markets and shopping, though we did not buy anything. particularly enjoyed an airsoft shop with some elaborate wwii reproductions. was surprised to see a brick & mortar b-sides shop but sadly they did not carry any of their capcom collaboration. home to a biru and the traditional NHK.
though only yesterday still a blurry morning. memory begins again at karasuma oike station. subway to kyoto station, then JR nara line. i was sleepy and dozed a bit on the train. 45 minutes later and nara: sunny, hot, full of tourists. we pushed through to the deer park and enjoyed shika from a distance while looking for the entry to the kasugayama old growth forest. life was immediately better upon getting into the forest. the difference between old growth and new is stark. this forest is lush, varied, and full of the sound of wildlife. we passed fewer and fewer people on the way up. many of the trees are massive in both height and girth. onigiri snack near the end of the first trail section after which i insisted on a detour to see the vista lookout point nearby. nice view of nara and the surrounding area. surprised how many deer were up there chilling. two bucks fought. lots of shika shit everywhere. we studied a map and determine that we can experience more of the old growth forest by heading for a waterfall then taking a trail south. this second portion of the trail was even quieter. we see only an old couple gazing at nara's biggest cherry tree and a younger couple doing nature photography that we had met all the way at the beginning of the first section. at some point the trail follows the border of the old forest: on one side, human planted cedars monocrop the landscape in orderly rows like a terracotta army of wood; on the other side, the dark tangled old growth. very stark. the waterfall sidepath was treacherously muddy and steep but yielded a true treasure before we even find the waterfall: an old concrete outhouse with a traditional toilet in it. i had already resolved to experience a traditional toilet on this trip and, luckily, i was full of urine. i relieved myself in the mossy hole. the waterfall itself was sugoi and we sat beside it for some time. back out and soon onto the third portion of the trail past the unesco world heritage sign: an old (as in, centuries) road along a stream. this was the highlight of the entire hike and possibly the trip. of particular note was a carving of three aspects of buddha in a rock from the 13th century. we saw just one other person this entire section. the old road deposited us in a residential neighborhood where we promptly crossed paths with a tanuki: an event we very much wanted to happen but hadn't dared count on. it went under a porch. the deer park area was empty of tourists by this hour and the deer were napping or quietly grazing. without the clamour of tourists it was very pleasant there. stop at the lawson for snacks and back onto the train for kyoto. in another bold feat of phone usage which i refused to do, t_____ managed to get us vegetarian pasta from room service. NHK, some legend of dragoon, and bed.
today i intend to do nothing. stumptown sit, blue bottle sit, here i exist in a kyomachiya watching traffic go by. hungry and desire convenience so to a chain udon restaurant for kitsune udon and asahi. wander nishiki and eat yuba and try some sake. have what passes for a conversation with the sake salespeople with my limited vocabulary. have some of their amazake which is pleasingly thick. record store, milsurp, lots of little shops. spend some money to play a shooting gallery game mainly to find out the ways in which they rigged it. i liked the well made pop guns with steel bolts. lemonade from the human made x blue bottle and then early retirement to the hotel to start on the big bottle of sake we bought. pretty sore from yesterday's hiking. dinner in a tiny, fancy indian restaurant tucked into the second floor of a nondescript building near the hotel. very good.
disturbed dreams of a friend in trouble. happy ending but as i came to around 05:20 i knocked over my water all over the nightstand. dawn operation to dry and clean. disgruntled but able to fall back to sleep by 06:30. i went to sleep thinking about hegel and absolute idealism as it relates to japanese buddhist practice vis a vis the lotus sutra; i woke up the second time thinking about typography on japanese content for the playstation 2. we went to blue bottle and drank coffee in the kyomachiya. i read soviet war stories and then we went to a shop for fluffy pancakes. the pancakes were fluffy to an intimdating degree and i got a veganized yakiniku set instead. remembered that we had wanted to see the evangelion unit at toei park and took the train there.
toei was unique. a bunch of old sets for edo period dramas in varying states of disrepair. lots of students on field trips. kept finding caches of schoolgirls tucked away in the corners of the empty buildings making up the mock village. of the many children there one girl broke off to come up to us, wave dramatically, shout HELLO, and then retreat to a giggling cluster. it all felt a few days away from being dismantled and a lot of the buildings were closed off. the very different main attraction was the massive 1:1 scale evangelion unit 01. seeing it was surprisingly emotional. my fandom of neon genesis evangelion is from a deep place within. i have no idea how i found out about it back in the 2000s; i just remember being obsessed with it before i could even get a chance to see it. i didn't have anyone to talk to about it except online friends and it was a well that i went to repeatedly for comfort until college. i felt weird about it throughout. with the new movies and everything it's no surprise that there's now a mini theme park attraction for evangelion but that didn't make it any less surreal to see. i teared up looking at the thing. i went to the top and sat in the entry plug. the knowledge of the show's canon made the experience no less surreal. with no context it just feels like another mecha thing, i guess. with context i'm aware that sitting in that entry plug means i should be submerged in amniotic fluid. after the unit we wandered around and looked at the shop and kamen rider exhibit. nothing was purchased. snacks from Lawson (or was it family mart?) after. The area around toei was very different from Kyoto core; more concrete and grey, narrower streets, more traffic. but i still liked it. saw some unique buildings and restaurants. train back to the teramachi market for parallax records. the store was very small and packed tightly but i was delighted to see a noise focused store. the manager didn't speak a ton of english but was very kind and friendly. we managed to talk about different artists and making music. it felt very special. i gave her my personal card and she said next time i visit kyoto i should play. i don't know if that was an invite to play at her store but i'd certainly reach out to her next time i go to kyoto. it was the most shopping i did on the trip: two incapacitants records, a merzbow cassette, a cassette the manager recommended, a toshimaru nakamura CD, a CD by the manager, and a CD of field recordings from a swamp packaged with dry leaves and such. next, a round at a craft beer bar in the hotel complex, then exceptional cocktails at piopiko and hanging out there for dinner. it was our last night in kyoto so we went out for one last walk, heading to the southwest from the hotel since we hadn't been that way much. watched bats hunt for insects busily over a silent and still crane. saw kyoto tower light up. a very good walk. home to pack and finish up some alcohol that was lying around. i still don't know how i feel about the hitachino brand canned highball.
a much easier day of travel than getting to kyoto. the train systems are more familiar. confusing breakfast of banana bread, yuba chips, and the misozuke brick i bought prior to going to parallax. the misozuke was very good, though having to eat it all in one go was distressing. took the train to osaka and went to a Mandarake and a little 3rd floor record/vhs/etc shop, both in nipponbashi. it was hard to get around with our luggage. osaka seemed really cool and i hope to spend more time there on a future trip (without luggage). at the mandarake, got a very intriguing japanese release of the Cyberpunk ttrpg. at the second shop, a curious VHS of anime designs by and interviews of a particular artist. back to trains to go to airport. the flight was not comfortable but it wasn't miserable either. i passed out for a bit. tried to program. watched a disappointing movie. back in USA we went to BART. while transferring in oakland we came across men yelling and fighting in a train car. definitely back in america.