Monkeying around in Kyoto

So we’d had enough of the whole Japanese tatami mat thing and decided to move over to the ANA International Hotel. This was the most unassuming hotel I’d ever seen on its approach. From the street, there was just a small sign and an arrow pointing down a long walkway and then a dark covered entrance like you’d see in the basement of a parking garage. But once you stepped inside you saw this:

A gorgeous waterfall!

Outside view

A young woman dressed in a kimono took us to our room

Fancy veggies at the hotel restaurant

We first ventured out to Gallery of Kyoto Traditional Arts and Crafts which turned out to mostly just be a place to buy things. But there were a few fun things to look at:

This woman was weaving straps out of silk

This woman had about 30 bobbins of thin silk she was managing and was repeatedly looking back and forth at her pattern with an intense worried expression on her face as though she had screwed up somewhere and things were going terribly wrong. Being a knitter, I could really relate to the anxiety pouring off of her!

They use the same brand of sewing machine here that I do!

Silk worms enjoying their lunch of mulberry leaves, the only thing they can eat

A fabric painter with a sample of his work on the front of the table

There was also a fashion show of kimonos

The final parade

You could also get dressed up in a kimono and model for your family and friends as this young girl did. She was so happy and having so much fun to be the center of attention.

Rickshaws rides are everywhere--like the carriage rides in New York City but much cleaner! (Two of the girls were very accommodating and posed for me!)

Young girls love these rides because the rickshaw drivers are always young and handsome.

This was on the way to see the monkeys at Arashiyama Monkey Park on Iwatayama Mountain. There are 130 Japanese snow monkeys at the park, each with a name and known birth date. There was a woman who was actively doing research the day we were there.

It was a very long climb to the top of the mountain and at one we point we were encouraged in our efforts by reading this:

Perhaps we were too pre-occupied with the monkey--we saw no deer or bird

It was actually quite a lovely climb up the mountain, especially for city dwellers

The brochure we were given gave us strict instructions for rules of behavior with the monkeys:

Don’t stare at the monkeys in the eye.

Don’t touch the monkeys.

Don’t feed them outside.

Don’t take a picture on the way.

Really don’t know what that last one meant–everyone was taking pictures.

We had no idea we were going to be inches away from the monkeys when we got to the top, or that we would have this view of Kyoto:

Who cares about the view, I've got a tick that's really bugging me.

These two had been having a little "fun" right before they started their post "fun" grooming

I can sleep anywhere

Snack time!

Two hands are more efficient than one

Snacks make your hands sticky

Time to play in the trees

The baby monkeys were having so much fun, I wanted to be a monkey

Watch out, here I come

The human babies were awfully cute too

Let me check behind your ears and then you can go play

There's a whole lot of grooming going on around here

So, you say we have opposable thumbs?

Hey, I've got my eye on you

This guy was paid off with one peanut to take a picture with us, but clearly not enough peanuts to pose properly

Personally, I think this is all nonsense

We then walked into the town nearby and visited another garden and temple who’s name escapes me but was very beautiful.

The canal going in to town

The other direction. The woman on the bank was digging furiously for something and putting it in the bag.

Meredith being asked to take the Japanese school boys' picture for them

The most lush moss garden yet

Where's the Hobbits?

A few flowers were still in bloom

Some delicate woodland flowers

That night we decided to go to a French restaurant.  We had picked out one that was supposed to be a kind of “hidden treasure” in Kyoto–excellent but not crazy expensive.  We had the hotel call for a reservation, but the phone didn’t seem to be working. We were afraid the place might have gone out of business, but we decided to take a risk, and so we set off in a taxi toward the address.

We got to the approximate street corner where it should have been and Mark hopped out and started walking up and down the streets trying to find it while Meredith and I waited in the car.

This confused the taxi driver to no end. He was already a bit confused, not having been sure exactly where the address was, which isn’t uncommon in Asia, and Japan especially. When Mark returned from his fruitless search, we were able to communicate to the driver the actual name of the restaurant we were looking for. At that point he made a phone call to someone and found out exactly where it was and drove us to it (just down the block).

Sadly, the restaurant was dark. But then the taxi driver jumped out of the car and ran across the street into another establishment! Our turn to be bewildered! He came back a few minutes later and confirmed that yes, they have gone out of business; we figure probably just a couple weeks ago, having seen reviews a month ago on the web. But talk about going the extra mile! And most of this transaction was done with only a couple of words of English and a lot of gesturing.

So we went back to the hotel’s French restaurant and became their only customer that night.

Carrot souffle on the left, mushroom bisque on the right

Salad with salmon

This was amazing-mushrooms and wild rice and risotto

What I had--hare and fois gras with truffle sauce on the right, vegies on the left

A little custard to clear our palates

Dessert! Chocolate cake with runny stuff in the middle and caramel gelato

The dessert after dessert. Best part--the chocolate truffles hiding under the sesame cookies

Pleasantly full diners

Next Post: Geisha girls

I’ve added another blog on the right that you may be interested to read.  It is by a new friend of mine, Xin, a first generation Chinese immigrant who has been living in Ithaca for about 20 years, who is now living in Taipei. She has, I think, a unique perspective on living in Asia.

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About DECRYPTKNIT: knitter on the loose in Shanghai

Hi, I'm Marisa Newhouse, a former pharmacist (for a brief time during the Reagan administration) who's real calling was probably anything that has to do with cooking, plants, literature and especially knitting; hence my last and favorite job, working at Woolyminded, a wonderful yarn store. But now, I have moved half a world away to Shanghai where my husband will be working. Lots of people are interested in what we will be doing here and I have always kept journals of our travels, so I thought I'd do it the modern way and keep a blog.
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