Finally, I realise what a sense of accomplishment is. The year long struggle with the SCDL project was officially wrapped up! I look forward to feel the same way with a lot more things soon, only so that I can sulk and do nothing at all, without regret!
With less than a month ahead, I find it hard to strike balance in my day-to-day things. I wonder whether to sleep a bit more because there’s nobody to wake me up. (Parents in a different zone come in handy now!) Or should I just use the opportunity and take a peaceful walk in the morning? Work, food, visiting places – everywhere I find this same dilemma. Opening the last packet of Maggi was the toughest choice though!
It was a normal routine day, except that Divya had plans to make lunch for her lab mates, Tadamori, Takato and Hung. And I was glad to join too. It was nice to see the care with which she was making the chicken. I did my part too, making rice 😛 Thoughtfully, we had also packed pickle, just in case if the curry doesn’t feel spicy enough! It was amazing to see them struggle trying to eat with hand. And more fun to see Divya teach them to hold a morsel with fingers. Never would I have imagined such a sight, as using fingers to eat is the most obvious thing for an Indian. Spoons and forks are what you get trained for, never for hands!
Japan hasn’t given me cultural shocks, really. But there’s been a great lot of cultural ‘Wow!’ moments. The one today is very distinct, among the many such!
Arashiyama, Sagano Scenic Railway, Bamboo Forest and the Monkey Park were hot things on the list, ever since we came here. Divya showed me the train, and it was a straight yes! But somehow, it wasn’t as amazing as imagined. We hopped into a crowded train to Saga-Arashiyama from Kyoto. The station staff have been extremely helpful at all the places we have been to so far, but not really so here. Figuring out the place, partly with the map and partly with gut feeling, we headed to the Bamboo Forest. And somehow again, it was not quite what we expected. Walking through the forest, we met another Tamil family, on an official visit to Kyoto University. The same that we saw at Nishiki, a couple of days ago. Talking to them, helping them through their itinerary for a rather short trip, and finally clicking a photo for the family, it was a pleasant feeling of connectedness.
Moving past a lot of nice people, asking for a photo of us to be taken, and returning the favour, it was a good walking tour meeting new people. Heading back to the station, we reached the Saga Torokko Station, right next to Saga-Arashiyama. The scenic railway, the Sagano Romantic train, was again a disappointment because we couldn’t get a seat in the open coach. And the seats we got did not even have openable windows!
The view was awesome – the cliffs, the bridges, the flowing Hozugawa (river Hozu), and the boats. We wished to take the boat trip back to Saga-Arashiyama, but it felt too costly at 4 grands! Alighting at Kameoka Torokko Station, we were lost. The day so far did not feel awesome enough. We were not motivated enough to cover the Monkey Park or the Kimono Forest, though they were also the reasons we came all the way for. We decided to go back to Kyoto, from the nearest JR Umahori Station.
Somewhere on the way from the Torokko station to the JR, we found a cafe with an amazing view. Suddenly, it felt like the purpose of this entire trip. Munching on the nachos, and sipping on the amazing grape juice, with an inspiring view in front of us, we spent hours there. Multiple rounds of juice, nachos and an ice cream, and some great snaps – the day felt so perfect to me! Each of us zoning out into our own worlds, we let time slip by without the hurry of a schedule.
Back at Kyoto from Umahori, we went to Teramachi for the usual souvenir shopping dilemma. And in no time, headed back home. A peaceful strip of the day, caught in between many boring and tiring hours, made the day complete.
And comes a day without a plan! The three of us reached Kyoto and still had no plan. Yodobashi was a safe bet, since we all wanted to look at electronic products. It’s been two months since we are here, and yet this is the first time we step into an electronics shop. We spent a considerably long time, until we decided to split ways. Caught off guard, I was left with no plan and a lot of dilemma.
Lost, I got out of Yodobashi and walked in a random direction. At the foot of Kyoto tower, a vegan restaurant board heralded me in. As usual, it was a place with salads and crazy vegan juice. But again, I met Asami because of that ‘vegan’ board. Asami is a tourist information staff at Kyoto tower. She probably sensed me being lost as I was looking at their brochure. She gave me an overview about everything I asked for, in Japan and in no time, cheered me up. Asami means a pleasant morning in Japanese. She told me that, out of nowhere. I parted with her, in gratitude and respect. I gave her my contact details, and promised to help her plan a vacation in India. As she gave me her card, I thanked her once again and told her she made my day. How I wish I do a job that makes people say that to me!
At the basement of Kyoto tower, I found a place with an ambience – a food court. With my share of French fries and doughnuts, I contemplated life, sitting on a high chair in the middle of nowhere! With a sudden revelation, I went straight to Bic Camera, another electronics shop nearby. Bought a couple of stuff, as it was more than just electronics there. It was then I realised that it was connected to Kyoto station from inside. Soon, I was at hostel, before Saikat and Divya.
The auspicious time and day arrived finally, for me to relish food! Thilaga, the South Indian restaurant satisfied my palettes in ways I didn’t know existed. The food was good, more on the average side. But yet, it was amazing, given the fact it was served on plantain leaves and with authentic taste and flavour, all in Japan, a country that’s polar opposite in food preferences. The chef Prashant, a malayali and Arogiyaswami, a tamilian, were both pleased to see us, who were a mix of both Kerala and Tamil Nadu. They were the first people here with whom I could talk in the regional language, and that was an amazing feeling in so many days! The masala dosa, chutney, rice, the side dishes were all awesome. The best part however was the crispy uzhunnu vada (medu vada), spicy sambar and piping hot tea! If only if they weren’t running ahead of their close time, I would have ordered more of everything. Some other time, some other day.
Walking out of Thilaga, we took a bus to the Kyoto Handicraft Centre. Only when it felt like too south Indian a day, we met Sukumar, a visiting faculty at Kyoto University and his wife Sudha. Again a mix breed of Malayalam and Tamil, we spoke in both the languages and English. They gave us a quick idea about the Indian restaurants, shopping spots and good souvenirs to take home. We even got their contact, to keep in touch for a meeting again! A typical Indian couple suddenly appeared angelic!
Next stop was at Teramachi, the one stop shopping street in Shijo Kawaramachi. Tea sampling and shopping, souvenir hunting and exploring, we went around the place for quite a while. The routine bus to Kyoto, train to Minami Kusatsu and bus to Matsugaoka were wired in our system by now!
Cube, right next to Shiru cafe, has always been enticing us. Finally, we stepped in and I kept wondering why I didn’t go there sooner. It guaranteed fried potatoes in the campus, after all. Some cheese, some potato, some eggplant and some blueberry. It was a perfect lunch. The dinner was to be more perfect though, for it was the proper dinner here, after almost two months. Shoko, the coordinator here, some other international students and us – it was a good time! Forget about food, its always french fries for me. While they enjoyed a traditional okonomiyaki, Shoko desperately tried to get a customised vegetarian option one. When I listed everything I couldn’t eat, and as Shoko translated it to the waitress, it was a priceless look on her face. She wondered what is left to cook, as we kept removing ingredient after ingredient! The first proper Japanese dinner, however, was a worthwhile experience. The makeshift grill on the table, the communal platter as everyone’s food went into the same grill plate, and the first look of okonomiyaki – a new memory to my Japan Diary!
From the poori success, Divya was inspired to suggest chappati for dinner today. And as always, I am in for food, as long as its veg! Over dinner, we discussed how we want to travel around and see more places in Japan. Time is running out, and in no time we are heading back to India. Lot to do, in terms of the internship, as well as seeing around Japan. Just when I was about to call it a day, and slide into sleep, Divya just gave me the best news here so far. Thilaga, the south Indian restaurant, that serves south indian meals, masala dosa and uzhunnu vada! Next trip already planned!
I feel this often here, while going shopping vegetables, that we never get enough of anything. No matter how much we buy, it tends to be over sooner than what we plan. It has nothing to do with my shopping pattern, but more with my food insecurity, I guess. It was never a thing back home. What if I run out of all my vegetarian supplies suddenly?! 😀
P.S. After effects of going to Friend Mart, for the nth time!
After a lot of activity, it felt like the right time to have some solitude. Incidentally, Divya wasn’t around when I took a walk to Shiru cafe. Contemplating life, sipping their tasty chocolate shake, it was a much needed break from the chaos!