Kyoto is beautiful:  Large and bustling yet quiet and serene all at once.  It’s the stuff my thoughts of old Japan are made of!  Many streets are narrow and quaint with restaurants and shops tucked in here and there in the most obscure places, making a surprise out of every turn of a corner.  Flowers and plants at the entrances of nearly every building with people sweeping outside their homes or shops to keep the place spotless.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that we are visiting during autumn and the leaves are beautiful and the weather perfect but I have a feeling it is like this pretty much all year: beautiful and clean.

There is a precise slowness about Japan that I really enjoy.  A deliberate movement of the people, understated beauty, and simplicity.  Saying this sounds like I am stereotyping, making a sweeping judgment, but in this town right now it seems that most of what people think of Japan might be true.  Lots of friendliness but it often seems it should be described more as politeness because it’s not like people pay extra attention to you (tourists) or go out of their way to talk to you but there is an overall courtesy amongst everyone toward everyone.

In Japan there is a utensil or bowl or dish for everything!  If there’s a tool needed to do a specific task and it doesn’t exist it will be designed and created!  Often for one single meal (of 5 courses) we were served on 15 or more plates/dishes – – each with a specific use.  One thing that especially caught my eye is a suribachi, a pottery bowl used as the mortar when using a pestle.  It is a regular pottery bowl that has been scratched along the bottom with a fork to create roughness, then fired.  We used one in our cooking class in Kyoto…but more on that in another post.