Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Kyoto part III

27th February

7:05 am - sleepy morning update.

Woke up early this morning, my neck bothering me. As it does when I'm in a hotel bed; though I bring my travel mattress pad with me it is not the same as my memory foam haven of a bed back home. Loren is sleeping but soon the alarm will wake him so he can get up and take the subway to day one of the tournament. Day one is for everyone; the top 50 make it to day two,* and the top 8 make it to day three. Day one starts with hundreds - and it feels like half of them are staying at our hostel, even at 7am there are six magic players in the lounge talking strategy and sorting cards. This is Loren's first tournament on this level, still I hope he makes top 50 which would mean he walked away with some amount of prize money.** Ok, on to the travel log:

* editor's note: it was actually top 1/2 makes it to day two.
** It was actually top 64 players get cash prizes. You'd think I wasn't paying attention and maybe that's true.


We had breakfast at a bakery serving both French-style pastries and Japanese-style steam buns. I had a plum blossom steam bun with sweet bean paste. We did a tour around the massive Kyoto station complex. It's a weird sort of modern architectural style; when I get home and the the photos up, you'll see what I mean. Loren spent the middle part of the day playing and watching Magic games; preparation for the event. Apparently there is a somewhat famous Brazilian player staying at our hostel. I took the subway to down town to do some shopping which I knew Loren wouldn't be much into. I started by walking down one of the covered open-air markets, taking my time looking at exotic sweets and incense shops, pottery shops, chopstick shops, etc. In one sweet shop, there was a glass-walled kitchen where you could see them making something. It smelled like cinnamon buns in there; it turned out the were making a sort of crunchy, thin cinnamon cookie. I bought a small box of them, they were really good. Later I read in my guidebook that they are some sort of Kyoto speciality and are actually made of mochi.

Kyoto station complex
Looking down from the 11th story at a series of escalators and granite stairs.

My destination was a Japanese paper merchant, I spent some time looking at elaborately-designed paper, and all manor of things made of paper. I bought some small colourful origami paper there. I then walked to Southern Higashiyama just across the river. I was headed to a tea and sweets shop. This was in the Gion area - traditional theatres. This area was just full of every type of sweet shop! By the time I found my destination, It was getting close to time to head back, and was unsure how log it would take if I ordered matcha. So I bought a box of tea sweets and then walked back along the river - the Kamo-gawa. I saw cranes in the shallow, broad river, and a hawk or falcon hunting for fish above the water.

Late afternoon, and I was back at the hostel. Needed a break from all the walking, so I read my book some in the lounge and then we headed to an area just South of the city to the place where the Magic tournament will be; Loren needed to register. We didn't have a good map of this area, and got a bit lost, wandering through a residential neighbourhood with some ancient-looking houses and some houses that were new but done in the traditional style (austere wooded construction, elaborate tiled roofing, manicured lawn with a stone lantern in it). It surprised us that here, in a still somewhat urban area, there were sizable plots full of rows of vegetables, interspersed with the houses.

We had dinner at an Italian restaurant because Loren insisted Italian pasta was the best thing to eat before a big tournament. It was actually very good, and we were amused to see the Japanese diners around us eating their pasta dishes family style, and slurping the noodles just as they would with a bowl of ramen.

plastic food
The ubiquitous plastic food in restaurant windows. Even Italian restaurants. Note the fried egg on the pizza on the right.

Today the weather is bad, rainy and only meant to get to about 8 degrees Celsius. I am determined to head out there at some point and find some Japanese tea. My destination is a place down town which both serves tea and sells packages of it.

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