Sunday, August 17

Kyoto Day 2

I wake late -8:30 am. A group of us decide to go shopping and after some amount of scanning the transit map we figure out how to get there. The Kyoto Handicraft Center is designed with tourists in mind. Shops full of souvenirs and a western style buffet restaurant. It’s not as classy as the real shopping malls I’ve seen so far. I thought Americans were conspicuous consumers but the Japanese put us to shame. Especially the towering, massive eleven story mall we go to for dinner.

Anyway I get some presents and pass up a silk kimono for a cheaper cotton one. ( When I get home I discover it doesn’t reach around my fat gut as it’s designed for skinny Japanese). I keep looking for the one thing I really, really want while in Japan. A sword.

At lunch fellow traveler Nancy tells me how Ken got his sword. Ken and Scott, her hubby, were looking for a sword in a shop but the salesman looked bored with the obviously ignorant gaijin shoppers. Nancy was annoyed by his attitude and gently leans over to inform him that these two men have black belts in Aikido. Now it is unusual for adults to train in martial arts in Japan, surprisingly enough, so this gets his attention and he starts giving them the ninety degree deep bow reserved for those who deserve great respect. He brings out more swords and leaves them alone while they test them out.

Damn I wish I’d seen that. When we go into a nearby sword shop and I ask to see one on sale. Nancy pulls this stunt again because she loves messing with peoples heads, bless her heart, and calls me sensei ( again, an unusual term of respect in Japan)while I’m shown the sword. The salesman has a puzzled look on his face seeing a short fat blonde woman referred to this way.

I decide against the purchase and immediately regret it. Thereafter whenever I see a sword I feel intent longing but they are just too expensive for this poor artist. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes.

We return to the hotel where I ask two other fellow tour members where they are going. They found a paper shop. I LOVE paper. It’s the one other thing on my “must get” list . We set out in a brief but intense downpour, the only rain we encounter on the trip. I discover my crocs are very slippery on the wet pavement. I nearly fall several times but I’m steadied by kind Japanese in what looks like a comedy routine. All my disappointment about the sword vanishes as I enter the store and I am in heaven. I show remarkable restraint, buying only $38 worth of lovely paper.

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