The noren curtain we passed under had an "O" sign, which we later discovered signified affability and an earnest hope for peace and harmony in the world. We walked through an elegantly manicured garden and could hear the sounds of the shishi-odoshi, a water contraption made of bamboo, which is meant to scare off animals. As we entered a doorway to remove our shoes, we rang a little bell near the closed screen doors and a voice said something in Japanese. Not knowing what she said exactly, we just said, "two for yudofu," or something to that effect. Then, the screen door was opened and we entered a beautiful Japanese-style room.
One entire side of the room was designed with glass screen doors, offering customers a view of the Kyoyochi pond and the lovely garden that we just walked through.
Along with the tofu pot, the hostess also brought out our vegeterian side dishes, all neatly arranged on an orange-colored square tray in a a tic-tac-toe-like grid. The side dishes reminded us of the kaiseki meal with the pickled daikon, miso vegetables, and even a sweet-bean type of tofu which had a peanutty taste. These dishes were also fun to eat and we were reminded again of how the Japanese love pickled vegetables! Oh, and we had ordered some warm sake, too, and it was very fragrant and tasty! Halfway through our meal, it started to rain lightly; the perfect accompaniment to our meal as we looked out the window and onto the little pond.
Fueled now for more sight-seeing, we headed to the Zen Rock garden, acknowledged as a masterpiece of Japanese culture. The rectangular Zen Rock garden at Ryoanji Temple consists only of white sand and fifteen rocks, laid out at the end of the 15th century, and is surrounded by low earthen colored walls. Its simple beauty is said to stimulate philosophical meditation. We wanted to see if we could be inspired to see more than just rocks. After staring at the rocks for a little while, Keith and I had some ideas, like "it's a mother lion leading her cubs!" or "it's a sea full of islands!" Perhaps you can try and tell us what you see?
Our next stop was Kinkakuji, or the Golden Pavilion, to see the gold-leafed temple. In the 1220s, the temple was first a comfortable villa before it was coverted to a Zen temple. Kinkakuji is also a World Cultural Heritage site (there are so many in Kyoto!). Unfortunately, it started raining when we arrived at the temple so we quickly walked through the grounds. Indeed, the glimmering temple was very beautiful and unique. There is even a golden Chinese phoenix at the top of the temple. A few snapshots later, we left to catch the bus back to our hotel.
Well, we had a busy week in Kyoto and our last night--what should we eat?? We decided to save money and try a different ramen shop on the ramen floor of the Isetan department store. This time, we tried Sapporo style ramen! I am not sure if I can tell the difference between all the types of ramen, but it was yummy nonetheless and we got a kick out of using the vending-style machines again. There was also a characteristic little Japanese host at the entrance who kept saying all these things in a high-pitched Japanese voice. After ramen, we wanted to try this Japanese ice cream dessert that we'd been eyeing all week. It came in a little dish and had a layer of white jello, a layer of green tea jello at the bottom, which was then topped with red azuki beans, some fresh fruit, chewy mochi balls, and a scoop of green tea ice cream. They also give you a little jar of sweet green tea syrup that you can drizzle on top of the dessert. Before we realized it, we were at the bottom of the cup, and the dessert had disappeared! A sweet ending to our wonderful vacation in Kyoto.