Looking back on my photographs and checking with my notebook, I stayed in Kyoto on Sunday. It was another hot, bright day coming in at 35°.
With a wealth of museums as well as temples and shrines it would be almost impossible to see them all although I’ll bet there are some tourists who will manage. I think I have adopted a different approach to my trips to Japan in that for me I have come to realize that I will be returning at some point for some reason or other for the rest of my life. This means that I feel under no great pressure to cram it all in. It wasn’t always this way until recently I hadn’t been to Japan for 15 years.
One of these museums that I hadn’t been to yet was the Kyoto National Museum of Modern Art.
As you approach the street that the museum is on you are greeted by a very large arresting torii gate which marks the entrance to a modern shrine called Heian Shrine.
I didn’t visit the shrine though instead I went to see an exhibition in the cooler air conditioned museum.
The exhibition was about Kitaōji Rosanjin, not somebody that I was familiar with. However I was soon to see that he was a man of many interests and talents among these was a reputation as a gourmet as well as a painter, lacquer artist, ceramicist, calligrapher and restaurateur.
There were over 135 pieces in the exhibition which was also supplemented by film showing how some of the pieces complemented the food that they would be served with. Also I gather there was commentary from critics of both art and food extolling the virtues of the pieces, I am assuming here since it was in Japanese.
The trouble with many of the shows or the good thing depending on your point of view is that you can’t take photographs of nearly all of the exhibits. This makes you actually look as I’ve noticed in other museums and galleries in London that there is now a disconnect between viewer and object. That is to say people look at exhibits through the screen on their phone camera or digital camera rather with their eyes.
Some of the pieces and the use of the glazes to suggest or remind you of nature were very clever and quite inspiring.
I also saw some of the museum’s permanent collection while good if not spectacular with modern firmly placing everything in the 20th Century and no later.
There was also a temporary exhibition of film posters for American Musical films.
I think in part it’s a childhood memory but I remember going to museums and having curry rice for lunch in the restaurants/cafes, please see earlier posts for mentions of Japanese curry. Although many museums in Japan instead have tried to keep up with the times and change things. I’d noticed this in Tokyo where I once had a good Vietnamese lunch in the Museum of Contemporary Art though I really wanted Japanese curry that day. I should have known since I was in Kyoto, the restaurant here in this museum was a spaghetti specialist. I was tempted but there was a long queue and I’d gotten it into my head that I wanted curry.
So I crossed the street and popped into the museum opposite that was showing treasures from the Louvre, Paris. They didn’t even have a cafe or restaurant and helpfully told me that the museum on the other side had a nice spaghetti restaurant!
I have no idea why they are obsessed with jazz and French and Italian food in Kyoto. Although in Europe we’d seek out a good Japanese restaurant so the same thing in reverse.
So despite my flagging energy levels I headed off down the street in search of somewhere to have curry rice, yes I was that obsessed with the idea!
I found what would be considered quite an old fashioned restaurant definitely not hip nor trendy but still has a place in Japanese life either with older patrons or people like me after a bit of nostalgia.
Katsu curry at Restaurant Miyako.
My curry obsession satisfied I headed back to the museum stopping along the way to see a junk/antique shop to meet my mother who had attended a lecture at the museum. I suggested that she see the exhibition herself and to pass the time I stayed in the museum shop. I found a small book on Japanese fonts which I hope to make use of in the near future in my own work.
After which my mother stated that she wanted to go to a sweet shop. Not a sweet shop in the British sense of boiled sweets in jars but rather afternoon tea of sorts but Japanese style. There are shops that make various types of Japanese sweets and they also serve tea and sweets. After checking a couple of places which were either full or closing up we managed to settle in and I ordered another Kakigōri variant.
This time sweetened with condensed milk and accompanied with red beans.
I can’t remember how we got back, I think it must have been by subway and being nosy I had a peek at my mother’s hotel which was older than mine and in a different part of the city.
It actually had a view and the slightest merest slip of a balcony…
I find something very satisfying in the width of the crossing lines in Japanese cities as well as being good for photographs.
I have a feeling I also made a spare pair of glasses in a shopping centre that ready which were ready for collection on the same day. This would explain the photograph below, everything and everywhere in Japan has a mascot/logo of some sort.
It is a form of visual language that is common in Japan and probably doesn’t get much attention from locals but for me it’s all being stored away for future use or influence.
Since the shopping centre was under Kyoto station it seemed easiest to eat there at one of the many restaurants. It now comes back to me that it must have nearly been 7 p.m because my glasses were ready at 6.45 p.m or thereabouts.
We picked a spaghetti restaurant called Conana where they made the classic Italian dishes but also variants using Japanese ingredients.
My spaghetti served with Japanese ingredients of mentaiko and shirasu with greens and mushrooms.
Mentaiko is the orange coloured food and is spicy marinated cod or pollock roe, it can be eaten in various ways.
Shirasu are the small white fish on the right of the dish are Japanese anchovy.
The pasta was eaten with chopsticks! I maintain that the dish itself is a very good idea using some of my favourite ingredients but it was a tad too salty, I’m not sure if this was from extra seasoning by the chef or due to combining salty ingredients. So I maintain that in theory a great idea for a spaghetti dish but not quite right in its execution.
Since it was my mother’s last evening in Kyoto, we had a drink in Kyoto Tower, which was strangely empty and almost closing. There must have been a time when it was a treat but now the only view is of the bank of hotel rooms above Kyoto station.
I headed back after that and progress towards the Gion Matsuri were becoming more and more evident on the street.