Journey in Japan Part 18: Prelude to a Quiche

Journey in Japan Part 18: Prelude to a Quiche

The Kaleidoscope Museum is literally a museum with a twist. There are fifty different Kaleidoscopes on display, from a growing collection of about 150. Some are very valuable, crafted by famous artists from around the world. I learn that the word kaleidoscope comes from the Greek words, kalos meaning ‘beautiful’, eidos meaning ‘form’, and scopes meaning ‘to look at’. “To look at beautiful forms.”

The museum has kaleidoscopes that you can freely pick up and use. Some are very well crafted, others are made out of plastic drink bottles. My favorite is one that is also a music box, playing a tune whilst the images turn before my eyes. There is also a little shop selling kaleidoscopes, kits and key chains. The total cost is ¥300. What a great way to start the day. Sadly, no photography is allowed, and I am constantly followed around by a member of staff. I manage to photograph the inside of a Kaleidoscope when she is not looking.

After the museum I walk for fifteen minutes, crossing the river, to Yoboji Temple. I thought it was only fair that my first temple is a Nichiren Buddhist one; the school of Buddhism I am familiar with. The Temple was built in 1548. It was actually a rebuilding of two temples that had previously occupied the area, but had been burnt to the ground two years previous.

In 1536 the warrior-monks of Mount Hiei attacked the city. They burnt down all 21 of the Nichiren Buddhist head temples in Kyoto as well as the whole southern half of the city and a good portion of the northern half. This event is known as the Tenmon Persecution. The temple itself is rather quaint.

Not far from Yoboji Temple, I stumble into a Paper and Printing Item Shop. The gallery is tiny, and there is a woman sitting at the desk, watching my every move. I am tempted to pull out my camera and grab a photograph of one of the ornamental fans, or origami animals, but to avoid any hassle, I don’t bother.

I decide to visit a shrine next. The road I walk down has various temples and shrines, plenty of walking routes, maps, and bus stops. You can literally shrine hop by taking the bus, if you are lazy. I prefer to walk though, and I don’t really want to see more than one temple and shrine a day. It can be a bit too much to take in. I walk up perhaps fifty concrete steps to get to Awata-jinga Shrine. Before entering, I take part in the purification ritual.

This tradition of cleansing is done before entering a sacred space. The basin here has an ironic water-breathing dragon. The dragon also supplies the water needed for the ritual. I will admit that this is one of the nicest purification basins I have seen at a Shinto Shrine. I wash my left hand, then my right hand, then my mouth.

Awata-jinga Shrine was built in 794 AD. It specialises in the prevention of illness. Inside the shrine, someone is noisily using an electric saw. It ruins the moment for me. The shrine itself though is very nice to look at. I leave back down the fifty or so stairs, then along a road lined with traditional Japanese style houses.

Downtown Kyoto is packed full of tourists; here to look at the shrines, temples, museums, galleries, restaurants, and souvenir shops that Kyoto is famous for. I see three cat cafés and one dog café. I buy a can of cold coffee from a vending machine. It is one of those machines that offers a prize if it lands on triple sevens. It does! I win any drink I want, naturally I choose a second can of Coffee Boss Rainbow Blend.

It is mid-afternoon and I fancy a small bite to eat. With it being 35°C, I decide to remain in the cool shade of the shopping arcade. I see a sign for a vegan and organic café. As I walk into the café, every other patron says, “Hello.” Inside, I take a seat and order a vegan quiche set meal.

My food promptly arrives. Vegan quiche, salad with a delicious vinaigrette, a ramekin of squash, chickpeas and pepper. Served with leak, cabbage and mushroom soup; and glasses of cold water and cold green tea. ¥918 for the lot. If I wasn’t full, I would happily eat another slice of quiche, it was delicious.

Outside the café, a guy on a bicycle whizzes past blasting on an air horn; the shopping arcade has a strict no vehicles policy, including no riding bicycles. A little further along, I bump into a television crew. They are filming people and asking them why they like eating crêpes. I consider taking part, but I don’t really eat crêpes.

Back at the hostel, I sit on the roof with a can of Highball, and make a start on my fifth Haruki Murakami novel. The air has cooled, it is still warm though and the breeze is most welcome. There has been a serious heatwave over the last week in Japan, and it looks like it will continue right up until the weekend.

I read until 8pm, before heading to a nearby music shop for a free gig. A stage has been erected next to the ukuleles. The band playing are a two piece folk band. They sound somewhat average. It is nice to see some live music though, although the venue is rather unusual.

My night ends at the hostel bar, talking to random people with their random ideas.

Read the next part of my Journey in Japan, where I visit a golden temple, before going to space by clicking here.

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From England, Luke is a writer and editor living on the edge of Tokyo. He enjoys finding the strange and wonderful amongst the seemingly mundane moments of everyday life and travel, and writing about them.

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