“Naan that could choke Godzilla”

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5:00pm JST

Just wandered into a random Indian restaurant called “Ashoka” and ordered butter chicken masala, tandoor chicken, lamb biryani rice and a piece of naan that could choke Godzilla. Absolutely nothing Japanese about this restaurant, including the portions which were atypically huge. The chef and wait staff are Indian and authentic to the core.

The butter chicken was quite excellent as was the garlic naan. Paired together, they were superb, fragrant, subtle, wow.

Food is one of man’s basic instincts and necessities. The creation of great food that touches the senses and the soul, and leaves a memorable experience, is one of man’s greatest aspirations.


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11:00am JST

I’ve returned to the hotel room to unpack my laundry and make a cup of hot green tea to go with the bean paste bun I just picked up from the local family bakery. Laundry day is a good time to relax, read the paper and recover from the rest of the week’s hustle and bustle, especially on a rainy day when temple hopping isn’t overly appealing or photogenic.

[ First-Time Travelers Tip: Plan your day by the weather and always allocate one day each week to do relax, do laundry and appraise your trip! ]

This evening I plan to explore the Shinkyogoku shopping arcade, a huge shopping complex at the corner of Kawaramachi and Shijo streets and just one bus stop away from the hotel. What better way to spend a rainy drizzly evening than to go souvenir shopping under covered walkways!

4:00pm JST

Standing in the drizzle at the Kawaramachi Matsubara bus stop waiting for either the number 4 or the number 17.

4:22pm JST

Within a block of stepping off the bus I’ve found a couple high end stores on the street that sell traditional Japanese crafts. Its started raining so I’m glad I decided to shop under covered walkways. All of Kyoto is sporting those Y500 umbrellas you can buy at any conbini.

4:30pm JST

Here is the Teramachi entrance to the Shinkyogoku shopping arcade and whoa is this place HUGE and features everything from both high-end jewelry and designer clothes down to 100 Yen stores. They say the three-street complex is rivaled in size only by Tokyo’s Nakamise shopping arcade in Asakusa.

Not to be outdone by Osaka’s iconic mechanical crab, here’s a restaurant with a giant mechanical crab, so cute!

The arcade map shows several shrines/temples in the arcade and I’m looking at a very traditional Buddhist temple now. Right in the arcade! The arcade and street shops also features several other shrines: Starbucks, so I should have access to WiFi if I’m lucky. And speaking of religious figures, here’s a KFC with the obligatory statue of The Colonel in period Japanese costuming.

By coming to Shinkyogoku I handily dodged the bullet of getting caught in the rain while pursuing temple and cultural sites. Ironically, the rain is now providing me with photo opportunities galore and while I’m under shelter in the arcade.

Laundry Day

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8:30am JST

The hour has come, he said solemnly! Not who’s hour but what’s hour, the hour of laundry. I’ve piled my dirty clothes into a plastic recyclables bag and am now setting off to the coin laundry! The 7-Eleven is on the way so I pick up a quick breakfast of onigiri, a banana, and vitamin drinks. No need to buy a box of laundry detergent since that is usually provided by the coin laundry from a vending machine or fed into the wash by the machine automatically.

9:00am JST

First impression upon entering the coin laundry, they expect you to remove your shoes and put on slippers just as at home or to use the toilet. Pairs of slippers are provided at the door on a strip of carpet. The entire coin laundry is raised above street level. There are piles of manga and magazines piled in plastic bins for your reading pleasure while you wait for your laundry and a bin of umbrella’s in case it rains.

I’m still not sure if you can “borrow” these umbrellas and return them on an honor system or not.

[ First-Time Travelers Tip: While Japanese remove their street shoes and wear slippers at home, you do not wear slippers while walking on tatami mats. Slippers actually damage the tatami mat! ]

This coin laundry has a vending machine for softener (called “Softer”), a coin changer, a sneakers washer and dryer and a stand alone washer which is fed detergent automatically, thus explaining the lack of detergent vending machines. A single wash plus detergent for only Y300. On the opposite wall we find banks of dryers (some with softener, some without) and combination washer / dryers, alleviating the need to transfer your wet clothes to the dryer in two steps as I’m about to do.

I load up my laundry, dump three Y100 coins in the machine and we’re off and running! I settle back and munch on breakfast of onigiri and vitamin drinks.

[ First-Time Travelers Tip: The Y100 coin is used for everything in Japan so I try to stoke on them by purchasing something at the local conbini! ]

9:30am JST

The coin laundry attendant arrives and fastidiously tidies up the place, sweeping the floors and cleaning the dryer filters. Other than the fact that she has keys to the machines, you can tell she works there by the big button displaying the name of the coin laundry.

We strike up a conversation beginning with the usual topics of “where are you from” and “are you here for business or tourism?” We begin forming a common basis for communication, teaching other words in our respective languages although we both already know the basics. We also discuss baseball (I’m a huge Hanshin Tigers fan who are based in Osaka at Koshien Stadium).

I was aware that the dialect , or Kansai-ben, spoken by people in the Kinki region of Japan is much different from the dialect spoken in Tokyo, but today I learned that instead of saying “Arigato Gozaemasu,” Kansai-ben speakers say “Okini” which literally means “very much.” Also the dialect in Kyoto is much softer than in Osaka where they don’t say “Okini.”

This is what I love about (most) Japanese people, they’re warm, friendly, welcoming, eager to learn about you and exchange ideas and knowledge.

10:30am JST

It has started raining.

I’ve run my clothes through the dryer twice for a total of 16 minutes at a cost of Y200, and pack them into my day pack for the return walk home.

I say my farewells to the coin laundry attendant and we wish each other “Okini” and “Goodbye.”

10:45am JST

I happen across a family bakery with baked goodness smells wafting into the side street. I have to stop in for some fresh baked goods and emerge with a hot azuka bean paste filled bun.