What a Country
Yesterday, we spent a few hours wandering around San Francisco, on a quest for Japanese snack food. You see, we went to Japan on vacation a few weeks back, and now we miss being in a country whose obsession with soft drinks and snack foods borders on the insane.
San Francisco's Japantown, in case you're wondering, is pretty much exactly like being in Japan. There are a couple of big buildings there that house large indoor malls that are chockablock with noodle shops, bookstores, video stores, and craft stores where you can buy the ever-important tiny glass animals. And I don't use the word chockablock lightly, so you know this is true. Just like in Shinjuku in Tokyo, the big stores are Kintetsu and Kinokuniya.
Anyway, Japan was a crazy good time. I ate fried crickets, raw horsemeat, grated mountain yam which is frankly hideous and Lovecraftian in its snottiness, and (accidentally) whale. I hiked the old Nakasendo Road (which, in the 16th century, nobles would travel yearly from Kyoto to Tokyo at the behest of the Emperor) between two towns restored to their Edo period appearance. I went to a Yomiuri Giants vs. Yakult Swallows baseball game in the Tokyo Dome, where the singing and dancing fans put our own baseball audience to shame.
In Kyoto, I saw the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kinkakuji, the subject of Yukio Mishima's novel about a deranged Zen acolyte; the Zen rock gardens at Ryoan-ji and Daitoku-ji, which are so austere and beautiful I couldn't believe I was seeing them; the eighty-foot giant Buddha at Nara, where sacred deer roam the temple complex grounds and surround you if you show the slightest inclination to feed them; and the Rashomon Gate at Tijo (it rained just like in the story and movie.)
Anyway, I'm trying to write a travelogue about the vacation, but we miss it already, and we were in Japantown trying to recapture some of the tastes and feel of the country.
We ended up finding a good place stocked with rice crackers, cold green tea, Pocky, and shrimp chips. The best moment of the day by far, though, came when we were walking by a tea shop next to a Japanese video stall. An elderly Japanese man was proudly brandishing a new VCD to show to his family, and as we passed I glanced down to see what his prize could be:
Yakov Smirnoff on Broadway.
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