Having neglected planning my summer vacation and consequently having nowhere to stay, I decided to visit my beloved Kyōto again.
While the first trip was jam-packed with temples, shrines, and castles, this holiday had comparatively fewer destinations (but was still busy!).
Our first order of business was a tour of Kyōto Gosho, the former imperial palace of the former capital city. As I noted in an earlier post, entrance to the palace grounds is subject to approval. Well, I procrastinated back in May, too, so they said no.
We stopped in the guest house to have a snack of matcha shaved ice and udon before embarking on our hour-long tour.
Since it was an English guide, there were quite a few foreigners on the tour with us. Being from New York, tourists get on my nerves. Living in Japan, I don’t want to be lumped in with ignorant tourists.
If I sound overly-harsh, allow me to explain two gaijin encounters. We stayed at K’s House, a lonelyplanet-recommened establishment. “It’s a gaijin meccca,” as Mike said. Most of the foreigners we saw around town were staying at K’s.
The biggest problem is people assuming one speaks English. Passing a man to my shoe locker I said, “sumimasen,” which means excuse me in Japanese. He replied, “No worries. It’s OK.” Of course, a nice things to say, but strange all the same. You’re in a foreign country, addressed by someone in the country’s native tongue, and you respond in slang English? It just strikes me as so odd.
Now, to bring this full circle, it’s not just the assumption about speaking English. It’s the arrogance.
I witnessed a man, full-clad in his finest beach shitwear, as Mike has appropriately described casual summer clothing, saunter up to the counter next to his equally shabby girlfriend, throw up deuces feet away from the counter, one hand in his pocket, and announce, “Breakfast. Two.”
What the fuck is that?
I can understand assuming another white person speaks English, but at least ASK if a staff member speaks English first! It’s pathetic that my feeble knowledge of nihongo staggers waitstaff because they’re accustomed to people barking at them in English.
Anyway, the tour was lovely save the 33°C (91.4°F) heat.
After that, Mike and I headed to Kyōto’s east side, the site of our busy biking day three months prior. Ascending a hill on foot, I glimpsed the head of the beautiful and enormous Kannon statue, and a feeling of peace, happiness, and a fondness for my first trip welled within me. I love this city.
After much huffing we arrived at the Sakamoto Ryōma Memorial, a man instrumental in political reforms in Japan in the 1860s. I’m currently reading a history book, Sakamoto Ryōma and the Meiji Restoration, so the visit was fitting.
We also popped into the adjacent Ryozen Museum of History as much for the exhibits as for the AC. “We’re not allowed to leave here until I’m completely dry [of sweat],” Mike quipped as we entered.
If I may digress and rant about tourists again, there’s a monumental different between knowing the history behind something and gawking at some old, pretty thing. This is often New Yorker’s biggest gripe about tourists: they know fuck all. I’m no self-professed historian, but I know the horse-drawn carriages are worth shit. Literally.
So, we finished the night at the awesome ramen place we frequented on our first trip: