Apr 08: Kyoto Station

It’s been a long day and I’m somewhat tired, so this may be a somewhat abbreviated entry. We’ll see how much I can type before I have to call it a day.

We left the hotel in Kanazawa this morning –gee, come to think of it, I haven’t said anything about getting to Kanazawa in the first place, have I? Well, that shows you what kind of time we’ve been having recently. I’m going to set that story aside for the moment.

Okay, we left the hotel in Kanazawa and caught a train to Kyoto. I amused myself before the train departed by making recordings of the PA system and the trains in the station. During the ride I took a fair amount of video of the buildings and landscape passing by, and Tracie focused (successfully) on not throwing up her antibiotics.

The station in Kyoto is mind-boggling. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Imagine taking Grand Central Station, updating it to a radically modern overall aesthetic, and turning it inside-out so that much of it is above ground rather than below it. That’s a vague approximation.

There are several stories below ground (including the actual train-station stuff like platforms and tracks) and 10 or 12 above ground. Much of it is a shopping center, and a good chunk of it is the hotel we’re staying in. The above-ground part is arched with a huge lattice-like construction of metal beams and glass. The whole place has a very new, modern, vibrant feel to it. Describing it is quite difficult, so hopefully a few photos will make up for my sketchy prose. This is a shot from ground level looking upwards. Our hotel entrance is at the top of the first escalator on the left. Scale is hard to judge in this small photo; note that the two figures in front of the white signs in the lower left are a good deal closer to the camera than the bottom of the escalator.

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This photo is shot from more or less the same location, but looking more across than up:

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The second photo makes it a little more clear that the escalator has a landing partway up. The yellow stripes on the floor are textured to help visually impaired folks find their way around. They have heavy textures that can be easily “read” with a cane. We’ve seen them in every station we’ve been in and on some nearby sidewalks.

Here’s a shot from our hotel room window:

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And here’s a shot of our hotel room bed, which I’m now going to climb into because I’m really tired.

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Oh, wait: this I have to post:

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This is a photo of part of what I had for lunch. We ate at one of a chain called Vie de France, another Japanese phenomenon described to me by Dan Phillips. It’s a French pastry shop that has mutated in strange ways. Many of the wares are quite authentic and tasty; e.g. the croissants are appropriately flaky and butter-laden. Others are somewhat surreal. On the right of the above photo is something whose name I’ve sadly forgotten; it had apple and custard inside it and was fairly straightforward. The thing on the left is an apple sandwich on raisin bread with some sort of creamy filling–something somewhere between cream cheese and custard.

In the center, though, we have a truly wondrous thing: the Special Curry Donut. This was the very thing that Dan-san mentioned to me recently, and I can see why he did so. As I said to Tracie, I will be talking about this delicacy years from now.

For starters, you’ll notice that it’s not shaped like a donut. I’m not sure what the flaky exterior is; maybe they rolled it in pastry crumbs or something. The dough, however, is essentially the same as you’d find in a standard raised donut, although a little denser and a little less sweet. (Generally speaking, any pastry you eat outside of the United States will be less sweet than its American counterpart. Why Americans have decided to completely saturate everything in sugar to the point that it tastes only like sugar is beyond me. European pastries have such a greater range of flavors it makes American fare seem quite monochromatic.) The interior is mostly hollow and coated with a brown substance made mostly of bean paste, I think. It’s slightly sweet, fairly spicy, and yes, has curry in it. The combination of the flavor of the dough and the paste is quite remarkable and delicious. I doubt they keep well, which is actually a good thing because otherwise I’d be trying to figure out how to take a case of them home with us.

Now I’m going to bed.

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