Just got back from 2 weeks in Japan. In week 339, we (Dana and I) were supposed to be attending the Ikenobo World Seminar with 4 days of classes, but it was cancelled due to Coronavirus outbreak, which is fair enough. We already had our Kyoto airbnb and flights booked, so we thought heck… let’s go anyway.
Kyoto was lovely and much less busy than usual (both because lower season and little travel out of China) so we visited some of the more high-traffic temples that we’d have skipped before. We also took a day trip out to Hiroshima and a trip out to Nara (I petted a lot of deer!) and Osaka (fried food on sticks!). The JR railpass really is a good motivator to get out and about.
Second week was just me and Alex in Tokyo. He worked some of it. That was a much less busy week, mostly eating and shopping. We’re thinking about doing 6 weeks in Tokyo this year or next, so we wanted to scope the new location for his office (they just moved) and get a sense of that neighbourhood, in case we decided we wanted to stay longer-term near there.
I took a day trip down to Tateyama by the sea, and visited one of our flower gang’s homes there, as well as the castle and pier. It’s very cute and highway buses are great.
Actually, weeks 289 and 290 since I did something interesting enough last week to warrant mentioning it still a week later.
Was fortunate enough to visit Tokyo again for week 289 – I think for the 6th or 7th time now? – and spend the week there with Alex between two of his business trips. It was very cold and snowed a couple of times, but fun as always. I really want to do a 6 month-ish trip there and really get to know my way around more.
People often ask me what I eat there, since I’m vegetarian (including no fish) but I’ve never starved. There’s one place in particular I’m fond of called SoraNoiro which does this amazingly thick and rich ramen in a carrot based soup with the most perfectly boiled egg in it, but a surprisingly large number of ramen places do “rainbow ramen” which is usually a vegan bowl. A new place this time that fed me well was a tempura place called ippoh cooking the lightest and most delicate mushrooms and vegetables in batter I’ve ever had. Also had a good time at a shabu shabu place called “Let us” with a friend of ours that lets you have your own personal cooking bowl, so you don’t have to share the meat oil bowl if you don’t want to. I had an interesting combination of a soy milk cook bowl with vegetables and tofu and ended with rice and cheese that uses the left over soy milk to create risotto. Very interesting.
There are a couple caveats, though. I’m not going to freak out if something is cooked in the same oil as animal-items and I’ve eaten more dashi than I would in a country where I can speak the language and specify not to have it, but if you are super strict, the trick is to look for food designed with Japan’s strict buddhists in mind – shojin ryori – and you’ll eat like a king.
Also, to be clear, I also eat a lot of tiny perfect sandwiches. I could honestly eat an egg lunch pack every day for the rest of my life.
We saw some good art in Tokyo.
The TeamLab installations are amazing and we visited 2 of them – Planets and Borderless. I preferred Planets over Borderless, mostly because it’s a more curated experience with few people. They’re both very engaging digital, full body art things, both share some features like interactive projections, LED crystal infinity rooms and perspective tricks. Planets, though, is probably especially memorable for having to wade up to your knees in a room filled with warm, cloudy, water with projections of colourful koi and flower petals. It’s really impressively done. It would never work outside of Japan – folks just wouldn’t behave anywhere else.
The other good art was a big lifetime retrospective of Hokusai. I’d seen a few of them before, but never the more funny character pieces. I particularly enjoyed his drawing manuals.
The other thing I spotted was commentary about pieces labelled as X of Y – like 50 illustrations of ghosts or something – and the curators can only ever find 5 or 6 of them. So, they assumed Hokusai never finished the set – he just stopped after 5 or 6. I love that – even extremely successful and well-known artists can’t stick to their 30 day projects. Maybe there’s hope for the rest of us.
Week 290 can mostly be summarised as: jetlag, coughing, 10 thousand meetings.