One day of the trip was set aside for my brother and me to do our own things. He opted to explore a region outside Kyoto. I wanted to shoot a music video.
I brought a tripod, and I walked around the Higashi Honganji temple, taking random shots of the courtyard and the trees, which were yellowing in the autumn weather. I also spent a few hours lip-syncing to my cover of "Hallelujah", till the hotel staff had to clean the room.
I took a few more exterior shots, then went back to the inn, only to find the room still being made up. So I spent some time in the inn’s salon, where they had a modern version of a player piano. I tried to get through the only three pieces I knew, and the staff members who were eating their lunch at the time asked me if I was a professional musician. Just a hobby, I answered.
I was wearing a suit for the video shoot, and when I saw the staff was done with the room, I decided to head out to lunch in the suit.
When in Kyoto …
I had the rest of the day to kill. So I paid 770 yen to go to the top of Kyoto Tower. A bit kitschy, and the view isn’t as impressive as the Umeda Sky Building. Probably worth 500 yen, not 770.
I also received a message on Facebook from a co-worker, asking me to find the Maru book. A Futaba bookstore was located on the third floor of the Kyoto Tower building, and somehow I managed to find it.
Kyoto Station is something of an architectural anomaly in Kyoto, a very sleek and modern structure compared to the more traditional buildings in the city. It’s actually a pretty controversial building. So I explored some of the upper levels of the building, hoping to find a comparable view as Kyoto Tower. Not so much, but the station itself is pretty stunning.
With the trip most of the way done, I counted how much cash I still had and decided I could indeed afford the SUPERCAR DVD I passed over while in Osaka. Now that I knew how to use the bus system and where Tower Records was located, I headed back to Shijo-Kawaramachi and got it.
Then I spent the rest of the afternoon downloading gigabytes worth of footage on to my computer.
In the morning, I found a breakfast buffet at Kyoto Station, then bought omiyagi to bring home.
In the evening, I took one last stab to find Shima*Kyora*Umui. I looked up a location for HMV and found one near Shijo-Kawaramachi. My brother and I had dinner at the restaurant court in Porta, then I headed back to Shijo-Kawaramachi to find HMV.
I got lost again.
I was looking for a street that seemed to have been mislabeled on Google Maps. I walked the length of Kawaramachi-dori and couldn’t find the cross-street I was looking for. I dove into a random cross street, then started wandering in the general direction I thought the store would be.
Part of the problem was the fact I expected a paved road for vehicles. The side roads near Shijo-Kawaramachi were actually pedestrian paths, all lined with shops.
People think Americans are consumer culture. I think Japan has us beat. Shinsaibashi-suji, Ginza, Shijo-Kawaramachi — these areas are shopping temples. Outlet malls in San Marcos and Round Rock have nothing on these districts. And the department stores attached to train stations? Makes Neiman Marcus and Macy’s look like amateur hour.
I passed a stand which advertised having your name translated into different languages. Maybe they spoke English? No, not so much, but I did manage to eek out some Japanese. As it turns out, HMV was right around the corner from them.
Nope. Didn’t find the Haime Chitose album there either.
Our flight was scheduled to depart at around 8 p.m. We had planned to leave Kyoto for Osaka-Kansai at around 4 p.m.
Rather than leave our luggage at the inn, we checked out and lugged it to Kyoto station to store in the paid lockers. My luggage was old and damn shitty. My packing strained its ability to stay upright as I attempted to drag it through the city. On more than one occasion, I made an outburst with profane language.
My brother wasn’t pleased, but I didn’t give a fuck. We were already getting annoyed with each other by that point in the trip, he disapproving my lack of focus, me unimpressed with his rigid modus operandi. I was already picturing what I would differently the next time.
After so much walking throughout the week, I didn’t understand why we walked from Kyoto Station to Toji Temple, which was not an insignificant walk. That’s how he did it before, and that’s how he knows how to do it. I would have opted to spend a couple of yen to use a bus.
We went back to Kyoto Station to head to Fushimi Inari.
But the hour we did spend there afford lots of photo and video opportunities.
For lunch, we found a sushi restaurant with a conveyor belt, selling each piece for 134 yen. That’s cheaper than Genki Sushi in Honolulu.
We still had four hours to kill, and the Kyoto International Manga Museum didn’t really have that much in the way of attractions to kill all that time. The Manga Museum is pretty much a manga library, and most of the people hanging out were reading stacks of old manga.
We had already checked out of the inn, and we were pretty tired. So I picked up some translated Full Metal Alchemist books and started reading.
From that point, it was a matter of waiting. We snacked at a restaurant in Porta. Then the Shinkansen to Osaka-Kansai. Then through immigration. Then through check-in. Then the airport gate.
When we left Japan, it was Tuesday night. When we arrived in Honolulu, it was Tuesday morning.
The wonders of the International Date Line.
We were seated in another exit row. There was no way I was going to keep my shoes on for that entire nine hour flight. Japan Airlines provided slippers. Damn that’s good service.
Despite the frayed nerves at the end, I was glad that my brother was willing to show me around. He learned everything the hard way, so I wouldn’t have to.
Next time, I’ll try it on my own, get lost as much as possible and learn. Maybe next time I can bring a friend.
The fact there will be a next time — despite my grousing throughout the year due to a 5 percent pay cut and a canceled raise — is encouraging enough.
Even though it was my first time in a foreign country (as an adult), I didn’t feel so out of place. I probably would have felt very much like an outsider in Europe or even Mexico. But after years of absorbing the culture — from my upbringing in Honolulu to my fandom of Japanese popular music — Japan felt familiar. Not home (not in the least) but a refuge.