Tuesday, April 11
This was to be one of the easier days during our stay in Kyoto.
My wife wanted to take advantage of being near one of her favorite
downtown shopping areas to update her wardrobe (tastefully stylish
clothing for someone of her diminutive stature is hard to come by
in the States). But first, we went to a retail district known as
Teramachi (Electric Town) to shop for some software she needed for
her computer (including a copy of PostPet) and to give me a chance
to do some more interviews for the article I was writing for MacDirectory.
|A computer store and a historic
Buddhist shrine stand side-by-side in Kyoto's Teramachi.
Coming from a much less densely populated region where one is never
more than ten minutes away from a computer and/or electronics super-store,
I was surprised to discover that Electric Town in Kyoto was little
more than one narrow side street branching off a department store-lined
main street. Many of the stores you find on side streets are oddly
shaped to American eyes. When a narrow space (we are talking not
much more than twenty-five feet) is vacated by an older structure,
it is not uncommon for a five- or six-story building to sprout up
in the narrow gap that is left.
The front of the ground floor is normally wide open during business
hours. There are no doors, per se, just a metal awning that covers
the front when the store is closed (and obviously a small army of
space heaters to keep the sales force and customers thawed-out during
the city's frigid winters). It is obvious that shoplifting and theft
is not a major issue here in Japan. In fact, you will often see
cartons of goods that were delivered in the early morning hours
sitting safely in front of stores not yet open. The situation also
keeps prices down for the customers and profits up for the owners.
After spending some time (and a not insignificant amount of money)
in Electric Town, I followed Kazz a few blocks to Kawaramachi, the
department store district where she disappeared into the stores
and I wandered around the streets and stores exploring and trying
very hard to remember the path through the labyrinth of streets
and allies that would take me back to where we would meet an hour
|Wide-screen TV is old-hat in Japan, and prices
have come down to where they are quire affordable.
We walked most of the way back to the hotel, stopping for a quick
lunch of soba sandwiches and iced coffee at one of the three convenience
stores within two blocks of our hotel. My wife had an appointment
to visit her Koto teacher in a southern section of the city and
I spent the next couple of hours walking the streets around our
hotel and learning what I could about the city.
That evening, after a simple dinner at the hotel, we went across
the city to the Yasaka Shrine and Maruyama Park to one of the most
popular cherry blossom festivals in Kyoto. We were in a district
that was popular for its nightlife as well, so the sidewalks were
jammed and the crowd kept getting thicker as we crossed the river,
Kamogawa to the beautiful grounds of the shrine and park. Brightly
lit booths of games, food and souvenirs lined the walkways that
led through the park, lending somewhat more of a carnival atmosphere
to the area of the shrine than I would have expected. Even in the
midst of the lush beauty of the abundant white flowers, the ambience
was far from serene.
The paths led up to the oldest and most famous cherry tree in the
city. It is fenced-off from the crowds and its heaviest branches
are discretely supported by metal and concrete columns. The tree
was in full bloom and under the glow of the floodlights, it looked
like a soft, white cloud suspended before our eyes. The flash from
cameras popped like silent heat lightning all around us.
The tree is actually a "young" (under 100 years old)
replacement for an even grander tree that was the park's centerpiece.
But, it remained one of the places that required a visit while the
blossoms were full.
Next: Day 6 - Can this still