Jim Letourneau's Blog

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Quiet in Kyoto

Our hotel in Kyoto was about 30 minutes west of the downtown either by taxi or train. It was literally the end of the road on the north side of the Hozu River. The Suiran hotel includes a daily sunset wine/champagne tasting on a veranda overlooking the river. Creaky-oared blue rental boats were mixed with longer silent tour boats propelled long poles. There were only a few very quiet motorized boats. On Saturday night we were able to see a long elaborate cormorant fishing demonstration involving numerous spectator boats, food boats and two fishing boats distinguished by splashing birds working under the light of  large hanging bonfires. 

For our first night in Kyoto we ventured out for dinner after hitting the free champagne. It turns out this part of Kyoto shuts down very early. Imagine if Banff, Alberta, Canada shut down at 8:00PM. That's what happens in the westernmost portion of the Arashayama district. There were no open restaurants at 7:30PM and the stands at the train station were starting to shut down by 8:00PM. Lesson learned. During daylight hours this area was completely maxed out with dozens of tour busses taking up every available parking space. 

Good luck finding a parking spot in Arashayama.

Good luck finding a parking spot in Arashayama.

For our second evening in Kyoto we went for sukiyaki at the highly regarded, Mishimatei. Our taxi driver was seemed excited that we were going there. "Shabu shabu! Number 1 restaurant in Kyoto! Shabu shabu!" I didn't have the heart to tell him that we had to pre-order our choice at the hotel and we picked sukiyaki (which it is famous for as well). I'm sure they don't enjoy tourists agonizing over the menu so they pin you down ahead of time. Our driver couldn't take us right to the restaurant as it was in a pedestrian only area. Once he determined that we would struggle finding the place he amazingly jumped out of his still running taxi and quickly walked us half a block to the entrance. Uber isn't going to disrupt the taxi business here in the same way it has in North America.

We took our shoes off and walked up a flight of stairs. A half dozen people bowed as we were led to our table. My neck has been sore on this trip and I'm not sure if it is from using hotel pillows or all the bowing.  Our food was cooked in a big pan on an electric burner in the middle of our table by our server. A raw egg was provided. I was instructed to mix it in the provided bowl and dunk my meat into it (I think).  The beef melted in my mouth, an experience I am not used to but it was very pleasant. I didn't find the raw egg dip a detraction but I started skipping that step later in the meal. We were in and out of the place in 60 minutes flat. 

We put our shoes on and headed out into the evening. Our restaurant was at the north end of a four block long covered pedestrian mall called Shin Kyogoku so we walked of our meal by checking out the stores.