Kyoto is just as I dreamed it would be. Traditional. Simple. Magical.
We are staying at Gion Morisyo, a traditional ryokan in the heart of Gion.
The homes are two stories high with angled clay-shingled rooftops. Each home's front entrance is a sliding wood panel with a peaceful bit of nature to greet you. One must leave their shoes at the entrance (so Matthew was rethinking his lace-up Converse) and exchange them for slippers to walk the halls. When you get to your room, you must take off your shoes to barefoot the tatami mats. And to go to the bathroom, put on the hallway slippers, only to leave them in the hallway for the bathroom slippers.
Our room is simple. Two futons laid out on tatami mats, a low, big red table where we take our tea with two seats that sit right on the floor, thankfully they have backs and a cushion. There is a cute hallway with two little chairs and a table looking out over the mountains. And, most importantly, we have air conditioning.
Our hosts, wonderful. They sat us down for a Kyoto orientation, giving us maps and showing us how to get to all the places we wanted to see. And they are always ready to give phenomenal restaurant recommendations.
The heat is just too much. Matthew declared he is done wearing pants. Since no self-respecting Japanese man wears shorts, Matthew in shorts and with my frizz-factor-fro, we don't exactly blend. But we own it.
We omikased at Toto, where K, our host, recommended, and actually escorted us there, just around the corner from the ryokan. Again, speaking no Japanese, we simply left it to the Chef's discretion. And wow, are we glad we did. Six glorious courses. There is something to be said for the mystery of anticipation. We had no idea what was coming next; we simply believed it would be delicious. It was.
We went out for a wander. We ended up at Kenninji Temple. It's the oldest of its kind in Kyoto. The buildings were zen, the gardens super green, except for the stone garden where we sat and contemplated life for a while. The Dry-Landscape gardens aren't green. Instead, they have carefully chosen stones arranged carefully among raked gravel.
When a large ant was crawling in my direction, Matthew said, "It is a Zen temple, I think you're supposed to step on it." That's the spirit, Matthew.
In Kyoto, there is a picture-op everywhere I look. Really, my stopping every two feet is testing Matthew's patience. (He will appreciate the pics later, I am sure) but it is just so dang picturesque.
After taking a brief, necessary hiatus in our ryokan, we ventured out for dinner in our authentically-traditional- Japanese Gion neighborhood. Finding nothing open at 8:30 pm on a Sunday night, we knew we could count on Bistrot Atout. French, obviously; obviously, delicious. We had nice French white wine, baguette pieces with melted butter. I ate Ayu poeler, a Japanese River Fish, with eggplant and fresh tomato sauce (which meant no sauce really, but whole chunks of fresh tomatoes and other vegetables) and Matthew had rabbit with mustard sauce. As a digestif we walked in search of geisha, but they were no where to be found.