The Honeymooners

My brother, Sebastian, and I had two missions after fighting our way through the crowded bus (and, I think, both seriously injuring two small children) and checking into the Japanese guest house where we would spend our first night in Kyoto: 1. find a pharmacy for my steroid medicine; 2. dinner. We were pointed to the corner drug store (no prescriptions) and told to follow the canal to the Gion district.

In the early evening twilight the canal looked liked something from a Kyoto tour book. The willows lazily trailed their branches down the old stone embankments and the fading light sent shimmers through the gently moving water. We crossed over stone bridges and ducked into small shops as we saw fit. "It's so clean," Sebastian marveled, "everyone told me Japan was clean when I told them I was going, but this is just so clean." (Sebastian has been living in Taipei, Taiwan for several years at this point, a city whose cleanliness - or lack thereof - has been known to make residents allergic to the air)

Stumbling upon a covered marketplace, we were briefly sidelined from our constitutional while trying to fill the prescription. (Incidentally, our last hotel was a block away from the pharmacy we ended up at. We ran into pharmacies everywhere else we went for the rest of the trip) This turned out to be our introduction to one of the main intersections we utilized in our travels.

After returning to the canal, we began to consider the state of our stomachs. We chose a likely looking little spot and peered into a smoky little Establishment with bowls laid out along the counter. At 1900h on a Friday night we were the only two people in the place besides the owner/cook and his assistant.

The perfect canal yielded a perfect first-Kyoto meal. We split orders of fresh tofu salad, grilled chicken, sashimi, and soup. Sitting at the bar enabled us to chat up the owner (the girl's English was good enough to help us out in this endeavor) and find that he had been there for 30 years! Sebastian and I were both utterly charmed and left feeling satiated and good about the experience (the fact that the girl followed us out and bowed and said goodbye again was the icing on the cake!)

Keeping an eye on our 23:30 curfew (!) we continued on to the Gion. This street was a center for Geisha back in the day and women in rented kimonos still mince their way up the street, shopping bags in hand. (This proved to be a source of fascination for the two of us, and spent much speculation on how many of the women were dressed that way by choice as fun, how many were on their way to or from work, and whether any were "working") The aimless wandering was nice, but I think we were both relieved to find a small dive bar to duck into and sit a spell.

Shortly after ordering, an inebriated older gentleman tripped over Sebastian on his way to the, erm, facilities. Much smiling and back-slapping ensued and we thought that was the end of it. He returned, again trying to communicate (this time with me) but only for a moment and with a lot of smiling still. This happened several more times and it was clear that we all were just not understanding each other. He kept pressing his two pointer fingers together and trying to put his hands on both of our shoulders. Sometimes he touched his lips (I'm not going to lie, that kinda freaked me out a little) While he was in the restroom (again) I suggested that we look up the words for brother and sister in Japanese. That was it! Turns out he thought we were a couple and was unhappy at how distant we were from each other physically. Although we tried to refuse, he bought us another round and we committed the words kyodai and musume to memory.