Friday, April 10, 2009 ;
10:04 AM
Apr 2
Thu
Afternoon

After Kinkakuji, we took a bus to Nishiki Market and Shinkyogoku shopping area for lunch. We had heard a lot about the interesting food stuff sold at Nishiki and felt we cannot miss seeing that.

Saw a lot of school kids, both boys and girls. I really like their winter and spring uniforms.
Here are some of the boys. Pity by the time I got my cam out, they were back-facing me already. Their boys tend to sport longer hair than normal huh?

Korean boys too, I noticed. At least those who attend the same school as both ds.

McDonalds here, seem to be bound by some rules. Their billboard and signs cannot be too garish and outstanding, and must fit into the character of the place. Hence, the rather unfamiliar darkish sign seen here.

I can proudly say that we managed to avoid eating at McDs, KFC and all kinds of such fast food restaurants our entire vacation. So far, we haven't been able to do that in all of our USA vacations, or the Mexico one. And ya, even our Shanghai and Beijing trips too.

Either that means there are very few such restaurants in Kyoto or that means there is an abundance of similar quick and easy child-friendly eateries that is reasonable in price and very appealing to the kids. I think it is more of the latter.

The kids still don't appreciate authentic Japanese cuisine of course. How can we expect them to, when I don't prepare that in their entire 4 and 6 years of life. Kids don't usually take to unfamiliar stuff very well. But they do slurp up all the ramen and udon and eat the seaweed and rice combos, or tempura. So we always order something like that for them, and Dh and I enjoy our authentic and extremely satisfying Jap delicacies.

A stroll down the strictly pedestrian streets uncovered a lot of charming and interesting stores. And they always have very very neat and beautiful displays and store front.

This is one of Kyoto's special crafts: wood block printing. Can find any imaginable wooden stamp pattern here!

Dh is standing in front of one of the 7 temples and 1 shrine in the Shinkyogoku area. This street stretches from Sanjo-dori to Shijo-dori (3rd st to 4th st - knowing Chinese enables us to guess the meanings of many words here, so that has been a great help).

This particular section is the Nishiki Market. The kanji word 锦 is seen on the sign for Nishiki.

Both ds were very curious and that helped. Cos if I wanted to browse fashion boutiques for example, they are usually restless and totally bored. But at the Market, they were very good, asking a lot of Qs, looking around all the time. ds1 was inspecting some pickled veggies here.
Would be good if our wet markets were so clean, without stinky and smelly floors and a breeze to walk around.

Shinkyogoku means "new edge of the capital". Kyoto used to be the capital of Japan. When it was switched to Tokyo somewhere in the 1800+s, the mayor or someone of Kyoto decided to build all the temples and the shrine and develop this street and the Teramachi-dori (parallel street to this) to improve the morale of the people.

Manga... When you think of Japan, manga/ anime always comes to mind?

Very famous knives shop in Nishiki market. Dh almost bought one for his bowmaking! A lot of people come here specially to buy knives. They can engrave your name and personalise it for you too.

Dried fish, dried seafood...

Have you seen such large chesnuts before??!? Dh bought some. They are so fresh... Yummy.

Puffer fish! Ds was very interested. He kept asking how come they are so poisonous (tetrodotoxin 100x more deadly than cyanide) yet we can still eat them. I told him I think the edible puffer fish sold here is not toxic.

So I checked the internet and some articles said that there are fugu puffers that are not poisonous. Also puffers are toxic because they acquire bacteria from their diet and the bacteria produce the neurotoxin inside their organs. So reared fish not exposed to the bacteria are not poisonous. (The market became a place of learning for us!)


The bamboo shoots looked so tempting... pity we can't buy all these fresh food.

Chillis and spices?


Clogs!


Dried seafood, dried shrimp, dried little fish... The kids kept saying they wanted to buy the "ikan bilis"!! haha.

Kyoto specialises in tea also. They have very fragrant green tea and other tea leaves. Dh bought some for his business partners since most Chinese people appreciate tea a lot.

The kids sure did stand at this shop's display counters for a loooong time. The sweets and candies are in all kinds of pretty shapes and sizes and patterns. Some are soft candy, some are hard sweets... all very very beautiful and tantalising.

Dried bugs and other aphrodisiacs and tonics?


Another we noticed that is very prevalent in Japan is the shortage of space. Particularly for cars. There are many carparks and they will display prominent signs to tell you if they are full, or have how much space left. The charges are very costly.

Many carparks are very high-tech. They maximise space and can be fully automated. This pic shows how the cars are so neatly stacked and parked.

At Takashimaya and a couple other dept stores, they employ the automatic valet system. Ok, that's my own term. I don't know what they call it, but anyway, you just let the machines park your car. You get a number encoded in your parking card.

At the end of your shopping, you present the card to this nice lady at a counter that says "停车" in kanji. She swipes it and enters some info in the computer, and you just proceed to the sofa to wait. Facing the sofa would be LCD screens showing the numbers of cars that are arriving in sequence.

So let's say couple A came first, and their number 1111 is first in line. While they wait for their car to be "called up", family B comes along, with baby in stroller, toddler in arms and so on. They too wait at the sofa for their number 2222.

The number 1111 will be displayed ahead of 2222 and when it is arriving, there will be some signal and words on the screen. The lift doors outside the glass will suddenly open, and it's so cool! A car slides out of the lift onto this revolving metal stand, right in front of the sofa area.

Couple A then gets car key ready, stand at glass door. When the car is in place and lift doors closed, the glass door opens and the couple is able to walk out to their car, start it up and drive off.

We noticed that the family's car had the indication that it wouldn't come in the same lift. It came up in another lift instead. Dh's reasoning is that the family's car is an MPV so it comes up through the lift meant for bigger cars... maybe?

This family took a much longer time to drive off, because they strapped baby to infant seat, got toddler into child seat, got a milk bottle, folded the stroller and packed it into the boot together with all the shopping, then drive off.

When we witnessed this, we realised it is very convenient. Unlike us, who may have to squeeze through narrow parking lots, and walk a long distance from the shop's exit to our car with shopping and kids, people with young kids or disabilities will find it a breeze to drive here. Also, for me, when I reach my car, usually I have difficulty finding space to maneuver the stroller and fold it up. Then I would have a problem getting enough leverage space to insert it into the boot, because of the closely parked cars and the boot being already squashed right by the pillar or concrete structure of the carpark.

This system allows everyone a lot of space, and there is no hurry or stress too. You don't have to circle parking lots repeatedly trying to find a lot as well.

The boys enjoyed watching different cars appear magically and slide effortlessly out of the lifts so much that I left them there with Dh to "watch the show" and I went browsing Takashimaya myself. haha. It was a win-win situation. Dh enjoyed the air-con, and rested on the comfy couch. The kids were being highly entertained. I can walk around and look at pretty things in peace.

Ok, back to main topic. A lot of shops along Nishiki street have demos on how their foodstuff is produced, so the kids enjoyed it a lot. This is one of the mini-cakes demo. I feel bad if I take pics or video clips without buying stuff, so I always buy something, then take pics or videos. Anyway, it was nice trying all the different food.



This is something like a crispy wafer full of nuts. It looked very nutritious so I bought a packet. Somehow, the kids found food much more palatable when they watch how it is being made in a fun way. Cos surprisingly, ds2, who usually shuns all new foodstuff, actually ate a lot of this wafer.



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