09/23/2009

Food's Tight, Drink's Right, Money...Light!

If you and your Party happen to be prowling around the tremendously popular, densely populated, laid-back, hyped-up Sanjo/Ohashi/Pontocho area with dry throats and growling bellies then here's a helpful hint that will definitely satisfy both needs as you fill up your tank with dee-licious food accompanied by very Adult drinks without breaking the bank before you blast off into your Kyoto Evening Mission.

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ISSIAN
http://www.ishiyaki-issian.com/

For the hungry, thirsty, weary wanderer ISSIAN offers a number of attractive features to go along with its alluring entrance and quite convenient location.

Chief among these is, of course, the FOOD!P1000714.JPG

Ishiyaki translates roughly as Stone-Grill Cooking and that's how they do it up right at ISSIAN.
After you place your order (they offer a slew of Beef, Pork, Veggie and sundry options but Chicken is a house specialty that was especially lip-smacking good) your friendly (and timely) waiter will be back in a flash with the Goods to get your grill, your grub and your Good Time started.
Following that He won't appear unless you wish him to (and then he'll pop up like a Magic Genie) and you are pretty much on your own to enjoy the stone-grilled juicy delights along with your ice-cold beverages.P1000708.JPG

Have it your Way!

Next on the list of very strong points- The Drinks!

What did you say you had a taste for? Because if it's in the Adult Beverages Department ISSIAN's got it.
Wine. whiskey, Chu-hi (try it), Shochu (ditto), Sake or just plain old-fashioned Brew (personal fave around now) they got it.....and Yes, my Friend, you read that price list correctly so your next decision will probably be when to stop 'cuz your wallet will be cheering you on-GO, GO, GO!

Next up for my Touristic Amigos- If you're feeling a bit beat down by culture shock or suffering from sensory overload ISSIAN generously offers easy-reading menus in English (go ahead) as well as friendly Ego-speaking staff (talk to Ken-san P1000717.JPGbut try not to bend his ear too much as he is trying to work) who will easily guide you through any rough spots or patiently answer any of your questions.

Last but certainly not least- The atmosphere is relaxed, efficient and comfortable yet gracious enough for Dates (indeed there were 3 young couples digging in when we sat down) and friendly enough for families or small (maybe 4,5 max) parties. I can't think of anyone who couldn't enjoy their particular groove so don't be afraid to pop in and plop down for a marathon grub, chug and growl. P1000695.JPG
Time's flying!

Interesting Sidenote- Last week was actually the 2nd time I've indulged in their fare. The 1st being one of the luckiest nights of my Life in J-Land and hey.....Don't we all need a little luck around now?


posted by Billy at 15:44 | Kyoto (Japan)

09/08/2009

Free for me and You too!

I'm not sure about anybody else but I hail from the U.S. of A. where we have a little saying that goes, "If it's free, it's for me!"
Yes, we love free stuff better than Christmas presents and birthday cakes combined no matter what the sh*t is, where it comes from, how we got it or what we can or can't do with it.
I suspect we are not alone in this compulsion.

In Japan, however.........well, most J-Folks appear to have a real aversion to all things gratis and tend to generally treat freebies with disdain.
Indeed paying your way seems to be deeply embedded in the J-Character along with all the responsibilities and rewards that surely follow behind.
Case in point- try to imagine a country where grown, successful, adult Men pay lovely, young, seductive Girls for, wait for it..... conversation. In the West you may recall conversation, it's the thing that happens after sex.

But I digress.

My point is freebies of any kind are damn difficult to come across on this side of the Pond (perhaps for good reason) so yesterday I was very pleasantly suprised to discover

Harimaya Station.
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A Free (yes, you read that right) Cafe that offers Osembe (rice cracker) snacks along with soft drinks, coffee and a perfectly comfortable, bright, spacious room to enjoy same. I pulled in quite accidently and had no real expectations but exited refreshed and impressed by the efficient yet warm and laid-back atmoshpere waiting to greet you inside.

Located on Kawaramachi just north of Maurutamachi and directly across the street from the Western edge of Gosho, Harimaya graciously offers their wares as a brand of product advertisement and while I was there chugging coffee I saw plenty of K-Folks gratefully partaking in the generous spirit of the enterprise as they chilled, munched, sipped, smiled and generally enjoyed the gift.
Books and newspapers were in abundance (bring your own), wallets and purses unopened and no one seemed to be in any hurry to hit the doors as they took a wel-deserved break from the sweltering Sunday heat.

Bottom line?
If you're banging around Gosho and need a spot to decompress as you enjoy some delicious coffee and light snacks then drop in here and your budget won't suffer a scratch!

And if you absolutely feel the urge to plunk down some of your hard-earned cash, my Tourisitc Friends, then hit the Gift Shop on your way out the door.
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Easy to pack, feather light to carry and a tasty Japanese treat for your good neighbors back home!
posted by Billy at 12:16 | Kyoto (Japan)

08/31/2009

The People have Spoken!

And the Winner is.....

The Citizens of Japan.

No, that was no earthquake felt over here last night but it was a seismic shift of historic proportions in the political geography of Japan as dissatisfied Voters turned out in record numbers, 69% of the voting populace, to let the long standing ruling Party (the LDP in power since '55) get a taste of their frustration as they hammered away at the ballot boxes, pounding out their crystal clear message and fellow foreigners let me assure you they did not pull any punches!

I personally visited a polling place and my head was spinning as I tried to keep track of everyone filing in and out but it was damn easy to keep track of the smiles because there weren't many on display.

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The DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan) was swept into the drivers seat in an overwhelming landslide as they captured a clear Majority of seats in the J-Parliment and can now exercise their will as they see fit while the LDP, and soon-to-be-former PM Taro Aso, retreat to the kids table to lick their many, many wounds.
Of course numerous theories are and will abound as to the reason/reasons for this fundamental realignment in J-Politics but I think it just comes down to the average Japanese citizen's desire for a choice and a change. You may be familiar with the dream of Change as it was something of a buzzword back in the USA recently when Americans picked a New Guy (name's Obama) for President.

Over on this side of the pond I get the distinct feeling that most folks had no great affection for any of their candidates but they did have a strong and very healthy distaste for the decades old political status quo.
Disappearing pensions, a basket full of scandals and various shenanigans while losing your job (and watching your neighbor lose his) will sometimes have that effect on a normally complacent person with a ballot in his fist.

Yesterday a mandate was presented to the DPJ by the Good People of Japan and the ball is very clearly in their court so let's see what they do with it or, if you're up to it, roll up our sleeves and pitch in.
There's gonna be a new Sheriff in town and his name is Hatoyama-san!

Let the Good Times Roll!
posted by Billy at 15:15 | Kyoto (Japan)

08/27/2009

Politics- The J-Way!

Although I am loathe to bring up such a dirty subject (and in danger of putting the mixi/myspace/facebook Generation asleep) I have to mention that the BIG ELECTION is coming up next week and J-Politics as we now know it may experience a veritable earthquake of change (or is it CHANGE) as the elemental plates of power are slowly but steadily shifting over here along with the patient dispositions of many a Japanese Citizen/Voter.

THEY'RE MAD AS HELL AND THEY'RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE!

Or.....you know...at least as mad as the average Joe gets around these parts.

Case in point-



As you may have observed this Communist Stump Wagon (Yes...they have them here) was met squarely on this lovely Sunday afternoon with what I've also experienced head-on when discussing politics in this part of the planet.

Polite apathy?
Mild disregard?
Vague disinterest?

But change is on the way whether we or they like it or not (how's 4 different PM's in 4 years sound?) so hold onto your hats then vote early and often.

In defense of my Kyoto constituency, however, I have to lay part of the blame for the comatose reaction to the campaigning of these particular Pols on their own logistical braincramp.

You're at least halfway down the block from every exit of one of the busiest Train Stations in central Kyoto (Sanjo/Kehan) facing away from the nearest sidewalk with your backs turned to any curious passerby while purposely blasting your ear-splitting exhortations across 6 lanes of hi-speed traffic moving in both directions with the nearest potential voter positioned on the opposite side of this deadly barrier as he/she strains to ignore you and you were expecting what now?

Whoever set this gig up must be working for the other team.

posted by Billy at 10:07 | Kyoto (Japan)

08/23/2009

It's STILL BEER GARDEN TIME!

By now we can all agree that it's hotter than Hades around these parts...still...and so what can we do, Fellow Fun-Seekers, but endure as best we can as we desperately plot our escape from the sweltering sauna that is this City around about lately.

And what better way to ditch this devilish heat wave than to kick back Riverside with a chill breeze and an even chillier brew?
So this week Our crack Research Team infiltrated the rooftop Beer Garden at the Hotel Fujita and sampled just about everything they had to offer in the penthouse.

Located on the NW corner of the Nijo Bridge and overlooking the Kamo River the Fujita is easy to find (5 minute walk North from Sanjo/Keihan St. and even shorter from City Hall) and on Monday night the Roof came equipped with the coolest breezes the Weather Gods have to offer!

Oh.....did I mention Beer, of the ice-cold variety?
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Ah yes, life was good but lest I paint too rosy a picture let me explain that this particular Beer Fest is a somewhat Good News/Bad News situation.

First, unfortunately and let's just get it out of the way, the Bad-
In short, the food was not exactly thrilling and sparked no desire to return, not terrible mind you, just...sorta.....forgettable.(which was actually hard to figure as I counted at least 5 chefs hammering away in the spacious kitchen area but win some/lose some)

But let's move on to the Good (which was very good)-
1. The View, while perhaps not World Class, was certainly lovely and definitely relaxing as we knocked 'em back and leisurely stretched out the old bones.

2. The Schedule was easy-going as was the Staff. We arrived around 6:30 and left just after 10 but no one asked us anything about leaving and, in fact, the Party just seemed to be getting revved up as we made our exit and the place was still packed with happy revelers when we hit the elevator.

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3. The Beer was absolute J-perfection. At Fujita you have a variety to choose from (Sapporo, Yebisu, Lights/Darks, etc) and a variety of sizes to accomodate anyone of any temperment or taste. And icy, frosty COLD!

4. Lastly but certainly not leastly, the Upper Deck Summer Wind.......Kids, mere words on the page cannot adequately capture how wonderfully comforting and perfectly pleasurable was the all-natural, heaven-sent, A/C blowing gently through the crowds of smiling faces and bent elbows that evening. I might say that it beat a kiss from a pretty girl but I've known some real pretty girls so I'll just say this- I'd go back anytime (especially in this season) to get that cool and cooling therapy again!

And I did mention beer too.....right?


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The Staff was friendly and helpful but visitors should probably know that the payment system at Fujita is a bit more complicated than your average one-price-gets-all Beer Garden adventure but don't let that slow you down if you're feeling hot, tense or in need of some refreshments of the Body/Mind variety.

Bottom Line?

Chill, relax, drink early and often (then late and well) and have just a little grub to keep your strength up as you bask in one of Kyoto's more pleasurable places to tie one on.

And call me before you go.

タグ:Beer gardens
posted by Billy at 16:01 | Kyoto (Japan)

07/28/2009

Here comes the Rain again

How can we easily sum up the Weather conditions around these parts most recently?

Well.....in a word-

CRAZYMADNESS! (wait a sec...is that 2 words?)

In a normal year Rainy Season generally starts somewhere near the end of July and generally ends in the middle of August, indeed many older K-Towners consider Parade Day for Gion Matsuri (Aug. 17th) to be the Official finish to the Rains and fully expect this to be so ordained.
This year, however, the Gods of Weather have thrown us one wicked breaking ball after another and, as of this typing, it poured yesterday, threatens to do so again today and very well may start up again tomorrow then continue throughout the weekend.

The results?
Well apart from the gloomy dispositions that match the endless grey skies the Kamogawa is a decent example of this year's meteorological mayhem.

The Kamo River that splits the City in two is about ankle to knee-deep in most places and the natural North-to-South flow of its waters is about as gentle as the tap in your bath which, for most of the Summer months, makes it an ideal spot for frolicking picnicers and their offspring as the shorties can easily bounce around in the water quite safely and cooly with little fear or danger to bruise the mood.

But it's been raining for quite some time now and when that happens the River rears up on its hind legs and starts growling.



This is Sanjo/Ohashi where on weekends youngsters gather in drunken hordes to blow off steam and girl hunt around for that special someone (or at least that special someone tonight)while basking in the River's chill blissfulness.
Occasionally the overserved may wade into the water and splash around just for relief as this is a very simple accomplishment normally even when somewhat inebriated.....I'm told. Ahem!

Now?
As you can see you'd be gambling with your Life even attempting to get your toes wet around now, I mean unless you're a Sumo Wrestler with fire hydrants strapped to your ankles so steer clear and stay safe!

Along with this inordinate amount of precipitation I should also mention that last Weds. (in case you missed it) The God of Death and Pestilence rode across the midday sky and completely obliterated the Sun for some minutes treating us all to a chilling daytime darkness that amply and awesomely demonstrated his power and Dominion over us mere mortals.

(I managed to heroically sleep through the cataclysmic Event because, you know.......I figure I'll get a chance to meet Him personally soon enough so why ruin a good nights slumber.)

Global Warming- Get it while it's Hot!

posted by Billy at 16:24 | Kyoto (Japan)

07/12/2009

IT'S BEER GARDEN TIME!


Lest we overstate the most obvious...Yes! It's HOT!

We're talking steamy sauna heat every single waking moment the unforgiving Sun shows Her glorious face as She slowly but surely simmers us in unrelenting sweat and dizzying discomfort.
But.....
When the stone-cold Mr. Man-in-the-Moon comes out He brings chill breezes to cool the flesh, calm the heart and soothe the tenderest of tempers.

And what better way to celebrate His graciousness than to get boozed up beneath His gentle countenance as we bask in grateful relief, breathe in the natural A/C, chug down the icy beverages and count our many blessings.

P1000100.JPG(your humble reporter vigorously pursuing research)

So this Saturday Night we repaired to the Beer Garden across from Kyoto Station (and under K-Tower and if you're wondering how to get there then just lift your head, open your eyes and move towards the Godzilla-sized red/orange/white candle) to celebrate Summer nights, scope pretty girls and praise the God of Hops.

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\3500 gets you in the door and into the All-You-Can-Eat/All-You-Can-Drink Festival where excess is encouraged, restraint unwelcome and big happy smiles abundant.

Doors open around 5:30 and this humble reporter would encourage one and all to get there early as the place is swept clean and the exits slammed shut around 10ish. This somewhat unfortunate schedule may require a disruption to your own timetable in order to attend but if you can find the opening I can garauntee that it's worth the effort.

The Grub? Check!
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While certainly not haute cuisine the fare is plentiful, tasty and the variety will test your ability for marathon eating as you dig in and dig in..........and then DIG IN!
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If you can work that fork, Brother, they'll keep giving you more so pile it on!

The Atmosphere? Check.

After a long day under the sweltering Sun the rooftop, cool breeze setting will undoubtably be just what the Doctor ordered. No luxuries here, only big, boisterous, happy crowds kicking back in picnic-style tables and chairs as they indulge in bountiful goodness.

And of course.....the Booze.

Party-Style Home Slice!

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The energetic Crew behind the bar will cheerfully serve you (I recommend starting off with the ice cold Nectar of the Gods provided by the Good Folks from Asahi) any amounts or combinations you can imagine so don't be shy about asking and don't pay any attention to the Rules the uptight Staff may spout at you when you enter. All night long I witnessed Happy Campers exiting the Bar area with armfuls of icy beverages to match their blissful grins as they no doubt were already plotting their return trips.

When in Rome...Do as the Romans do!

K-Towners may be famous for their somewhat haughty reserve but the vibe at this particular party is definitely laid-back, down-home and almost Osaka-style so oil up that elbow and get in where you fit in.

And if somehow through some truly dedicated but overzealous indulgence you perchance happen to wind up returning your evenings dinner/drinks in an unfortunate or untimely fashion, fear not!

K-Folks will administer gentle care and hospitable kindness (as opposed to the numerous degradations you may incur back home on such an occasion) as you yak your hard-earned money back up and out.

No charge for the plastic Baggies and a free escort to the elevators, Hercules!

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Summertime and the living is easy!

One Sidenote and Word to the Wise- On Saturday they had the Japanese Dudley Do-Right manning the gates and upon our arrival he gave us some J-Land shuck-and-jive runaround about “so sorry...no seats......long wait.......can't do it.......impossible blahblahblah” (and you ain't heard blahblahblah until you've heard it Kyoto-style) and while I would never normally suggest this, we stood our ground as I stared holes in his head and in about 30 seconds he brushed off a couple of seats and we forked over the cash.
Moral of the story? Yes, this may be the occasion to share your all-natural Gai-jin impoliteness if you want to get some Good Time.

Kanpai!P1000116.JPG
posted by Billy at 20:17 | Kyoto (Japan)

07/06/2009

GOOD LUCK!

In Japan it is a somewhat common belief that to see a spider in the morning is Good Luck, to see one at night...not so much.

If this holds true Team Kyoto and I must be in for some Hellacious great fortune.

Yes, yesterday morning (alright....very late morning.....ok...ok, early afternoon) I was sawing logs most fitfully when I was abruptly awoken by the panicked shrieks of 1/3rd of Team Kyoto who happened to be out on the balcony enjoying the morning air when greeted by our new cellie.

"YAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!"

It seems a friendly neighborhood spider had taken residence on our veranda and so I was promptly yanked from my blissful slumber and immediately drafted into spider removal duty.

Fearing not I stomped onto the porch confidently expecting some thumbnail-size creepy crawly but was instead introduced to this arachnid behemoth.

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Like the guy from "Jaws" my initial thought was,

"We're gonna need a bigger boat."

I have no idea what type of Kyoto flies Jumbo here was eating but Brother he was well fed, fat and sassy!

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Well after a frantic chase and an unfortunate loss of a couple of his limbs I managed somehow to corral this monster and snap a pic before I released him into the distant (and I mean very distant) Wild.
The mornings' excitement was complete when during the capture he sank a wicked bite into me so the News for today is that sometime in the very near future I fully expect to have the approximate strength and speed as well as the wall-crawling and web-spinning abilities of my formerly 8-legged freaky friend.

LOOK OUT..............here comes the K-SpiderMan!
posted by Billy at 15:30 | Kyoto (Japan)

06/26/2009

Cheap Eats!


Summer has most definitely arrived in all its hot steamy glory and so it's BBQ Season once again and here in K-Land that means Yaki-Niku!
Now like many a popular dish in Japan there is an awesome variety to choose from in terms of menu and quality in this Nation of food crazed Maniac diners but in deference to the Economic Depression (it's OK...we can call it what it is) Team Kyoto decided to seek out some of the more affordable options.

This week we discovered Jonetsu Horumon! (Passionate Meat? And keep the jokes to yourself)P1000073.JPG

Conveniently located a stones throw East of of Demachiyanagi Station on the Keihan Line (and yes...that is an exact distance calculation as I literally picked up a rock and threw it Easterly thus striking the front door of the establishment) and waiting to serve you Jonetsu has the BBQed goods for carnivores of every persuasion with a hunger for hot beef on a slim budget.

Don't be shy because the graciously young (20's) energetic Staff sure ain't!
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You'll be enthusiatically greeted outside the door, inside the entrance and at your table before being bid a grateful farewell and a “Y'all come back now!” on your way out and they don't spare the smiles!

Yes J-Folks enjoy their BBQ indoors as well as out and the set-up may be a tad bit different from what most Westerners might expect (they serve, you grill) but just go with the flow and you'll find yourself on a heavenly wave of culinary delight heading for a satisfying shore.

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Jonetsu is a large chain and this particular franchise only recently opened (perhaps accounting for the almost giddy service) but why look a gift horse in the mouth? (and don't forget to snag a free 10% off coupon on your way in)P1000071.JPG

Just order plenty, man the grill and get your grub on with no fear of bad news on the bill to come because there just won't be any.

Yes it's perhaps safe to say that JH isn't for bovine connoisseurs and you can likely find a higher grade of choice cow in many a finer establishment but if you're looking for a bellyfull of hot, juicy goodness and some lip-smacking, knuckle-cracking satisfaction then you need search no further.
Family, Friends, Dates or Parties, Come One, Come All 'cuz at Jonetsu they're cocked, locked and ready to rock.
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And you won't have to break the bank as you bend your elbow!

Team Kyoto and I sat down to our meaty feast and dug in washing it down with Lemon Chu-Hi (try it, you'll like it) and ice cold beer (otherwise known as “a Gift from the Gods”) then ever so slowly made our exit where we received the real treat that followed dessert.

The check was a refreshing breath of economic relief and we hit the streets grinning like we stole something with cash burning a hole in our pockets, most likely you will too!

BBQ, BEER and BANK.

Get it while the beef is hot and the cash cold!

If you can beat that I want to know how.

And where.
posted by Billy at 16:40 | Kyoto (Japan)

06/16/2009

Made in Japan

Oh Sundays!

They never cease to amaze me here in the land of cultural schizophrenia where girls wear skirts so short you can almost see Heaven but dare to look them in the eye and they're likely to run as if on fire, where ball and chain salarymen who wouldn't even dream of stepping out of line at the office nonchalantly knock unsuspecting females out of the way on their dash to the last seat on the train, where kindly old grannies take on the vicious delibrateness of a menacing NHLer if you happen to inadvertantly cross their path while shopping, where uptight office workers in dreadfully sober suits and ties wearing tight faces of grim death quite suddenly turn into drunken lunatic werewolves when the sun goes down along with the booze as they roam the streets in jailbreak abandon pissing on the sidewalk and growling at the police on their nightly journey to their families and televisions all the while working that keitai like a fiendish crackhead on his absolutely final hit.

J-Land. Gotta Love it!

And I can imagine no better example to display this bizzare dichotomy then the Too-Cool Gang that forms at Kyoto City Hall on any given Sunday to do their thing come Hell or high water, curious onlookers, serious shoppers, goofy skatebums, gawky tourists, hyper busybodies and societal snobs be damned.

I give you the Kyoto Lucille Rock-N-Rollers.



Only in Japan.
You very well may be thinking- They can't be serious.

Try telling them that only keep your dukes up when you say it.

Yes, like many a J-Land Citizen then and now these fanatical characters approach their vocation about as eagerly as a drowning man grabs a rubber raft in the middle of a vast lonely ocean.
I've actually witnessed these Rockabilly enthusiasts performing on numerous occasions in the past but this Sunday was the first time I decided to at last and at least attempt to strike up a conversation and perhaps gain some knowledge regarding their group identity as I hopefully approached rapport.

The conversation part? Pretty much hit-n-miss. They hit. Me miss.

The rapport? No dice!

At first contact, however, I did immediately gain some valuable insight into a collective mentality that definitely sets them widely apart from the majority of their countryman's countless social clubs, hobbyists or lifestyle fetishists.

While they certainly go to extraordinary lengths to present and maintain their unique aesthetic (just try walking into a Japanese 9-5er with a giant greased back pompadour sometime and see how well it goes over with the Boss) and make no secret nor display any shame as they energetically pursue their passion unlike most public performers the Lucillers devoutly displayed an absolutely hardcore disdain for any unwanted attention that may happen to inadvertantly float their way, treating the crowds that scurried past them as if they were ants at a raucous Lucille Rock-n-Rolling picnic as they boogied, strutted, struck poses, smoked squares and pounded beers while the Law kept a watchful eye (and safe distance) on them.

When I approached the guy I assumed to be one of their Senior Leaders his initial response to my very polite query could not have been more clear- He half snarled a “Not now....busy workin' it'” at me and waved me away with an imperious backhanded dismissal. After some persistence on my part he did allow me, however, to bust out my camera and after I hung out a bit I caught him when everyone was kicking back and polishing their Cool as they polished off the beers and he finally deigned to answer a few quick questions as he saw fit.

Name? Wrong question.

What do you do for a living? Next.

Is the group name Black Shadows? No, those guys are just visiting from Harajuku in Tokyo. We're the Kyoto Lucille Rock-n-Rollers.

How long you all been around? 30 years and going strong. (indeed the Next Generation was patiently waiting their turn on the sidelines)

Here every Sunday? If the weather's good.

Sensing I was losing him and chilled by the universally frosty stares of his gang I then gave up on the interview and bowed humbly while offering him my most sincere thanks.

He stood tall and shot me a crooked grimace that said- “Cut the act roundeye before me and my Crew dance on the back of your head.”

I felt right at Home.

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KYOTO LUCILLE ROCK-N-ROLLERS FOREVER!
Forever Lucille!





posted by Billy at 18:34 | Kyoto (Japan)

06/12/2009

Shinkansen Sushi!

Of course by now most of the entire planet has heard of, seen or actually tasted Japan's perhaps most popular contribution to the Wide World of Fast Food- Revolving Sushi!- but have you experienced this unique little update in its delivery system?



Yes Train Buffs, Model Maniacs, Sushi Lovers and Children of All Ages can now gleefully wait for their personal orders to arrive by Shinkansen. Express!

Team Kyoto stopped in recently to load up on fresh fish fuel and we were so universally delighted with and mezmerized by the recent advances made over at Kappa Sushi (located at the intersection of Sanjo/Kawaramachi and difficult to miss) that we went a bit crazy and gorged as we eagerly kept our eyes peeled for our Express Orders.
It's a very simple system and all one has to do is operate the easy-to-use touch screen pictured here
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to place a special order then wait for your grub to zip directly to your table as if by some techno-magical minor miracle.

Big Fun and Good Eats!

A Word to the Wise- Kappa Sushi is not fine dining. I suspect most everyone visits (and when I say most everyone I mean it as you're very liable to see old folks, teenagers, families, couples on dates, J-natives and numerous foreigners alike digging in) to get their grub on and chow down on the decent and decently fresh sushi and sundries then hit the door with a bellyful of protein and a bill that harms no budgets (one plate=2 pcs sushi=\110).
So if you want high quality sushi, romantic atmosphere or you wish to impress your guests, go somewhere else!

If you want to eat hearty and healthy, witness smiles of universal contentment and enjoy the continuous delight of any shorties travelling in your party then come on down.

The apres sushi carnage.
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J-folks do it right!
タグ:sushi
posted by Billy at 12:24 | Kyoto (Japan)

05/28/2009

Night Falls.....

P1010416.JPGDespite what any calenders or men of weather may be telling you let me assure you,

Summer is Here!

The days are hot (t-shirt weather) but not yet stifling, the nights still pleasantly cool and Kyoto Natives have regained control (at least temporarily) of their Ancient Capitol as the armies of tourists have retreated (at least temporarily) to the comfort of their homes.

Yes, K-Friends and Visitors, roam the streets at night around now and the City is yours- Wide Open, mostly free, lushly serene and maintaining a degree of public privacy that anyone could/should cherish and enjoy.

Submitted for your approval just one minor example- Okazaki Jinja.P1010386.JPG

My neighborhood place to unwind in the cool of the evening and away from the madding crowds, cameras, cars and general cacophony.

This Shrine is actually, and specifically, for Mothers-to-be and offerings for the healthy births of their imminent offspring and perhaps because of this vibe it always makes me feel giddily hopeful as I lurk under the moon and breath in its tranquil air.
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If you happen to be in the Family Way stop by and say hello to the Rabbit, drop a note, say a prayer or just fake it.

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And my point is that at this very time of year (and especially in the evening when everyone else may be chasing their own or someone else's tail) K-Town is chock full of these gentle pools of peace and blissful escapes from the ubiquitous hubbub of our 21st Century Ratrace so why not shake a leg and poke your nose around a few corners?

In Kyoto you really never know what secrets you can find.

So throw away those maps and explore!P1010378.JPG


posted by Billy at 18:52 | Kyoto (Japan)

05/18/2009

May the Road Rise with You.....

How does one sum up 10 years of a Man's Life?

Words are inadequate...

Thanks are thin...

Reviews inappropriate.

And then it happens and we must all face the future together and alone as our new hand is dealt.

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Well last Tuesday night we did our level best to express our gratitude to our comrade-in-arms, now moving on to a brighter tomorrow, and attempt to demonstrate our thanks for a decade of dedicated service, invaluable labor and faithful teamwork including all the blood, sweat and tears that building a future brick by brick entails.

Doubtless we came up short but we tried.

We gathered at Sekaiya, http://www.manzara.co.jp/sekaiya/index.html

one heckava decent joint, where Wine was poured (and gulped if you believe the rumours), beer chugged, delicious food gratefully consumed,

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cigarettes inhaled and wry smiles exchanged.

Greg-kun treated us all to an illuminating dissertation on the use/usage of English colloquialisms, Our Fearless Leader moved us all with a speech that hit you in the heart, we had at least one lovely girl in our midst and the Man of the Hour stepped up to the plate and delivered a home run.

Farewells are bittersweet and perhaps best remembered rather than performed.

Or as that eternal Roman Marcus Aurelius wrote-


"all that is of the body as coursing waters, all that is of the soul as dreams and vapors"

Thanks K-Man.


posted by Billy at 14:58 | Kyoto (Japan)

05/11/2009

Struck by "Lightning"!

If you happened to be in K-Town this weekend then I hope you bought a lottery ticket 'cuz you (and me and everybody else) were officially In Luck.
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The perfect weather (wonderfully warm but not at all hot, bursting brilliant sunshine without the sweltering scorch) definitely arrived in time for Mom's Day and Team Kyoto had a date to catch the cool breezes off the Kamogawa with a group of Mommy revelers but We first made a quick swing by Heian Jingu to catch an Ikebana (traditional Japanese Flower Arrangement) Exhibition by a friend of ours (Thanks Sueko-san and Ryo-kun!) on display there.
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It was the final day of the show by about 12 local Artists so We were grateful to get in under the wire and sorry to all the Ikebana Lovers out there for the late notice but we did at least manage to snap a few pics of the goods.
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Great happy crowds were drinking in the voluptuous displays of floral beauty, however, and I was very pleased to see that everyone seemed very pleased.

Sueko-san's work was titled "Lightning" and it was a real jolt, easily distinguishable even amid the many lovely pieces surrounding and enhancing it.

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We lingered longer than perhaps we should've as we basked in the warm glow and inviting allure of the work but I guess that's the Ikebana Effect-
A seemingly simple yet beguilingly subtle study of the Natural/Planned Perfection/Imperfection Human desire, an experience central to so many and the love and appreciation of these attractive opposites as painstakingly practiced then graciously, openly offered by these Artisans of one of J-Lands oldest Traditions.

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So........yea.

Sometimes it's a good thing to get hit by Lightning.


posted by Billy at 13:02 | Kyoto (Japan)

04/30/2009

The Yuuka are on Schedule!

One sure sign of Summer in K-Town is the annual appearance of the Yuuka (elevated outdoor decks) beside the Kamogawa which provide such cool and sophisticated dining/drinking pleasures to countless Tourists and K-Natives alike as We all slog through our Long Hot Summer.
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Just as we wave goodbye to the Cherry Blossoms the trucks begin to roll to the Riverside as a small army of construction crews starts hammerin' away, setting up the scores of outdoor oasis' along the miles of riverbanks that will be the place for so very many a memorable Summer Party in Kyoto.

ATTABOY MEN! WELL DONE!

Yes some are fairly straightforward all wooden frames and posts that require little more than sweat and skilled carpentry and some are solid steel structures that call for a small crane and a large crew but all will be in play in time for next weekend and about Half are in use as of this writing.

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i wish that I had more practical wisdom to impart on this Special Summer K-Treat but, alas, I have yet, myself, had the privilege of enjoying the casual luxury of river relaxation at its finest but let me say I've never heard friends or fans describe it as anything other than delightful so if you're planning on visiting Kyoto then I'd say-

Treat Yourself, don't Cheat Yourself!

And while the dozens of decks that dot the banks have an almost countless variety of deals everyone I've spoken to swears that to maximize your experience the NightTime is the RightTime!

Sexy lighting, cool breezes, elegant service and Kyoto Original cuisine will likely add up to an evening you, and your guests, will doubtless want to remember and isn't that at least one of the reasons to come visit these parts?

So if you manage to beat me there this Summer then please save me a spot next to a pretty girl.

タグ:yuuka
posted by Billy at 18:42 | Kyoto (Japan)

04/18/2009

That's All Folks!

Spring has indeed been sprung like a jailbreak and, along with its many virtues, this means that O-Hanami Season has officially closed the doors, rolled up the sidewalks, turned out the lights, hopped into bed and set the alarm for Next Year.

How short and sweet she was!

Yet this is no time for tears or remorse but rather it is cause for some celebration because this surely means that Summer is on the train and rolling towards us just as fast as it can bringing the heat along with mini-skirts, high-heeled sandals, tiny tops and Hot Love for every single (and I mean single) girl or woman you see.......everywhere.

So let's all of Us lucky, lucky K-Towners take a final moment to bid a fond farewell to the lovely, gracious and gentle time that was this Spring in all its glory.



So long, Beautiful.....
See Ya' next year!
タグ:Cherry Blossoms
posted by Billy at 14:37 | Kyoto (Japan)

04/10/2009

O-Hanami Nirvana at Heian Jingu

I swear to you I'm really not the biggest Cherry Blossom Fan around these parts but I was simply blinded by the beauty that was bursting all over the breathtaking Garden inside Heian Shrine this 4/09/09.

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They call it the Benishdare Concert 2009 (benishdare being a type of particularly lovely Cherry blossom) and it extends through Sunday. Yes, Concert. The Classic piano, cello and shakuhachi (traditional J-Flute) Trio, Kobudo, performed this entrancing Thurday night and if the combination of enchanting Music and Nature's Finest gets any better than this than I, and you, are truly in for one heavenly treat but this night was more than enough to satisfy my senses and then some.

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Yes, ticketholders (about \2000) were anxiously lining up to file in about 1 hour 45 minutes before the 1st note was played and, of course, cameras of every conceivable variety were ubiquitous but the overall vibe, I must say, was quite calm and comfortable if somewhat crowded but then, you see, this is Sakura Season in Kyotoville.

Our K-Squad laid back nice and easy then breezed in fashionably late and with absolutely no wait (so make up your own minds how you want to play it) and proceeded to indulge in the bounty of blossoming Nature that was surrounding our every step.

Breathe!

The Night air was gentle and soothing ...
the Moon bright and full...
the Crowds were kind and the Music delightful, a perfect fit for an otherwise perfect evening.



I also noted an abundance of single young men (and some older) strolling the grounds with beaming GF's clutching their arms and squeezing their hands while those lovlies were blissfully smiling from ear to lovely ear and I'm pretty sure that if you asked those guys today they (like me) could faithfully testify-

Yea.....I GOT MY MONEY'S WORTH!



posted by Billy at 17:42 | Kyoto (Japan)

04/08/2009

Hi-Speed Momiji!

It is indeed O-Hanami Season (Cherry Blossom) here in K-Town and of course this means-

Crowds, Cameras and Picnics everywhere!

So this vid is for the ADD Generation and for all those who want just a sneak peek at this most popular time of the year. I, myself, have but one small request.

Let's play a Game!

See if you can spot-

1. The Crazy Lady with the Sun Parasol

2. Watch out for the Gloomy Girl

3. Casual Foursome lunching with drinks

4. The Solo Book Lover (God bless her)

5. 11 bicycles parked at the side of the road and not 1 but 2 groups of Students making the most of their fast-fading freedom.

6. LOOK OUT FOR THE DOG!

7. A lonesome party waiting to happen.

8. Hi Girls! Shy Girls.

9. The lone cyclist taking pictures of me taking pictures. (No unusual sight at this touristic time of year)

10. 2 (count 'em) Cute Girls chillin' with beverages.

11. 1 couple falling in Cherry Blossom Love!

Viddy well, My Brothers.....Viddy well!




posted by Billy at 15:13 | Kyoto (Japan)

03/30/2009

BACK IN THE U. S. S. A!

Sorry KyotoFans, I know that O-Hanami Season (Cherry Blossom) is just ramping up but I just had to make a quick getaway to snatch some piece-of-mind and gear up for the touristic onslaught that is sure to commence.

So.....

Hawai.

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For many of Us, especially women I've polled (no pun intended), the 1st Time isn't always the Best but I have to say that for Me that Lead-off spot has been working out just fine and the perfectly precious island of Oahu was no exception.




The Beach at Waikiki was a mellow, honey-hued beauty with an inviting smile, open arms and bedroom eyes.

If there is Weather Heaven it must certainly feel like Hawai- Perpetually Sunny, warm and topped off with a gentle cooling breeze like a Lovers sweetest kiss.

Food? Check! Fish pulled fresh from the Ocean, Steaks that will make you glad to breathe, fresh delicious fruit in abundance and Kona Coffee to smoothly kick off your day.P1000887.JPG

Every single person I talked with was friendly, relaxed, easygoing and in no rush to get anywhere, doubtless because they were already there.
Happiest Taxi Drivers I have ever, ever met!

Hell.....even the Golf was great! (2 pars, 2 bogeys, 4 doubles and the rest we don't need to discuss)
And please don't neglect your ice cold Brew at the 19th Hole.


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Alas, this Holiday sadly could not last forever and so it is back to Life/Reality but thankfully I brought a little of the Island Spirit back home with me.




Aloha!






posted by Billy at 17:38 | Kyoto (Japan)

03/18/2009

One Night in Gion.....

One of the more sublime pleasures for foreigners living in Kyoto are those rare and wonderful occasions when you can step into the lush beauty, refined elegance and serene mystery of a timeless World beyond understanding that lives, breathes and thrives, vibrantly glowing with gentle glory while wrapped inside a calm and cool cocoon of tranquility, moments away from our fingertips yet centuries removed from our more modern senses.

A dream that is real if you just turn the right corner.P1000797.JPG

And then beautiful girls serve you delicious food and pour your drink as they treat you to summer breeze voices and shy smiles.

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So if you're a well-heeled adventurer looking for a truly unique dining experience (and I'm not kidding kids, this ain't just Dinner, it's an experience) then trip over to Gion Hatanaka, a very Traditional Restaurant & Ryokan located in the heart of Gion and waiting to take you on a delicious ride to culinary paradise.

http://www.kyotokyoto.jp/dining_cafe/de010/index.html

If you want to be treated like a King/Queen for the evening than look no further than the absolutely Out-of-this-World and Once-in-a-Lifetime service, dinner, performance and other fun features that await you just behind this very humble facade.

Your dinner is a 5 course meal and, trust me, none will disappoint. The pristine presentation alone may knock your socks off but please don't hesitate or lose your breath....Just Dig In!P1000774.JPG

Your 1st course is a fish and veggie serving (the vegs locally grown in/around Kyoto) and as you begin your delightful journey the Show will commence.

Yes.....Entertainment ensues.



The Maiko (Apprentice Geiko) and Geiko will glide out of the clouds and into your reality sometime during your 1st course and treat you to an Otherworldly yet perfectly pleasurable Song and Dance.

And that's just the beginning!

I should mention that even for Native Japanese, Maiko/Geiko are truly RockStars of the most unique brand and their entrance alone is something to behold but watch out for the cameras because a photo frenzy will begin as the Girls make their Maiko Magic.

The 2nd course is a delectable Ebimo (a hot cream shrimp stew) and tempura round and I don't usually care for tempura but I have to say that Hatanaka does it fresh and delish. Thumbs Up!

The Girls (Taneju and Kanewaka) also treat you to a superfun round of drinking games that are gaurenteed to delight and amuse one and all.
If you happen to be shy (like me) please be prepared to be placed at centerstage as the Girls will definately choose you to play because the drinking games, as you will no doubt find out, are no spectator sport so play along and have fun!



As you dig into the 3rd course, an incredible octopus and crab soup combo, please remember to drink up because it's All-You-Can-Drink at Hatanaka and your Waitress is poised and waiting for your signal so don't be bashful.

As the Girls graciously urge you on-

”Otsu Yoi!”
(What a Strong Drinker!)

The drinking games continue throughout and the Girls also join you at your table to chit-chat, answer questions, pose for pics, pour your drink, make you smile and generally make you happy to be alive as you indulge in your delicious 4th course and bask in oisuimono (a clear soup with fresh bamboo shoots) happiness.
But save some room for dessert because.......DAMN!

Alas, in my opinon, Beer and dessert don't mix too well so I don't normally partake in the Sweet Stuff but Hotcha served up a fresh mango ice cream/strawberry/blueberry/whipped cream combo that even I couldn't resist and, Brothers and Sisters, it was GO for launch! We had Lift-off!
And I don't know how they made that Mango Ice Cream but I hope they never lose the recipe!

P1000792.JPGIf there's a more proper finish to a splendid meal than I've never had it.

Yes.......You will have to break open your Piggy Bank in order to take this flight to Foodie Heaven but when you walk out you'll be grinning and your Date will almost certainly be in the mood so forget the pennies and enjoy the ride!

As we were getting ready to hit the door (last ones out, you know) an older Gentleman from Tokyo who was also making a break and was with his family at the next table softly, sweetly and sincerely reflected,

“This is a memory I can take to my grave.”

He was wearing a blissful smile on his face when he said it and I thought he summed up the whole evening rather neatly.








posted by Billy at 18:17 | Kyoto (Japan)

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