Kyoto (1)

Tuesday 17/10 (2/2)

The arrival formalities are very smooth. First impression: it’s very quiet compared to China.

We are very efficient at airport: we take some brochures about Kyoto (to know about the activities during our stay), change money (including rubles but still impossible to exchange the Mongolian tukruts, which I’ve been trying to exchange since China…) and buy 2 sim cards. We have time to eat our first sushis in Japan before the bus to the center of town.

In the window displays of the food court of the airport, we see many ‘fake food’ or food samples, which are a model or replica of a food item made from plastic.

These models are commonly used in restaurant street displays in Japan to represent the dishes available inside and attract customers. They are mostly handmade and sculpted to look like the actual dishes. The models can be custom-tailored to individual restaurants and even common items such as ramen (noodles in a broth) can be modified to match each establishment’s food. During the molding process, the imitation ingredients are often chopped up and combined in a manner similar to actual cooking. The plastic food industry in Japan is a lucrative business. A single restaurant may order a complete menu of plastic items costing over a million yen (100 Y = 7.5 €). The craftsmanship has been raised to an art form. Regular competitions are held.

We take the bus to Kyoto at 9:45pm. It’s a 2-hour trip. The bus brings us quite close to our Airbnb (10’ walk).

I booked a typical house; it’s a small house with 3 rooms (including one room with 2 futons on tatami mats on the floor, with super fluffy duvets), a small kitchen / living room, and a dining room with a low table (we sit on the floor to eat). The bathroom is nice, with a roomy shower (the shower is basically in the same room as the bathtub, which makes it quite large). The toilets are a bit special (for us); there are 2 of them: one is an urinal (!) and the other one is a toilet with a clever ecological system: its flush water is coming first in a “sink” where you can wash your hands (see picture).

A few words on toilets in Japan, which are generally more elaborate than toilets in other developed nations. The most common toilet is the bidet toilet, commonly called washlets (a brand name of the ubiquitous Toto toilets), which includes many advanced features rarely seen outside of Asia. The feature set commonly found on washlets are anus washing, bidet washing (sometimes with a warm air dry), seat warming, and deodorization. Another interesting feature is a device that, after activation, produces the sound of flushing water (without the need for actual flushing). Many Japanese women are indeed embarrassed at the thought of being heard by others during urination. To cover the sound of bodily functions, they used to flush public toilets continuously while using them, wasting a large amount of water in the process, hence this (ecological) device.

The house is located in a central district (near Karasuma Oike metro station); it is a very quiet area (but we have the impression that it’s quiet everywhere…).

The kids are in bed at midnight.

I continue to prepare our stay until 3am. I can’t let go, especially when we have only limited time to see this great city; we have 5 days in Kyoto but 2 are already much busy: 2 festivals on Sunday 22 and sumo competition on Friday 19. So it’s important to define a programme. Unfortunately most of the sights are temples and the weather forecast is really bad: rain for the 5 days. It sucks!

We have one more hour difference with Europe.

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