Sparrow on a stick…

So, I finally made it to an internet cafe. They can be elusive little buggers sometimes, and when you do find one it’s basically a hive of glorified wanking boothes plastered in pictures of school girls  unwittingly showing their knickers whilst grappling with some kind of slathering space beast. But I digress..

We’ve been in kyoto for about a week now, which comes as a suprise to both myself and Emma as we had only intended to stay for two days. We’ve been staying in what basically amounts to a squat, albeit a very comfortable one, owned (for reasons unknown) by a man who farms potatoes, mans an all night suicide prevention helpline, and (for reasons equally unknown) offers this “spare house”, free of charge, to travellers from all over the world. We have been staying with a group of French girls and a couple of English teachers from South Africa. All have been equally pleasant, but I personally took a shine to Azeem from South Africa owing to the fact that he has a cynical streak a mile wide. Which, if you ask me, is a damn fine thing to possess.

Our arrival in Kyoto was un-ceremonious as we stumbled bleary eyed from the “sleeper” coach from kawaguchiko into the freezing Kansai morning air at 5:00 a.m. We were both struck with the sudden sensation of being very far from home. It was baltic, we had nowhere to go, nowhere to be until 8:30pm that evening, no food and no shelter. It brought to mind something a student once said to me. “most homeless people in Japan choose to be homeless because they just enjoy the lifestyle”. Call me mental, but I can’t  for the life of me pinpoint exactly what the attraction could be. I could go on about the treatment of homeless people in Japanese culture for pages, but this post is supposed to be about sparrows on sticks so I will try to restrain myself for the time being.

The trains started running at 6, so we made the decision to go to the city of Nara to kill some time. Nara is a truly special city with a very long and tedious history which I won’t bore you with at the moment.  Suffice to say that it is one of the most beautifull cities I have been to so far (If you ignore the bit around the station, which is the usuall Japanese mess of grey squares and infuriatingly noisy pachinko parlours.). Deer roam the streets, harrassing the populace for snacks and holding up the traffic, beautifull thatched and tiled roofs poke their heads out from amongst the pine trees, and untill the bus-loads of squealing children arrive the place has a very magical air to it. So magical in fact that the American milatary benevolently refrained from bombing it into the dust during world war II. The women and children of hiroshima, nagasaki, tokyo, yokohama and countless other cities were not so lucky of course but thats their own fault for not building the largest wooden structure on earth in their town i suppose. Again, I digress.

Our five days exploring Kyoto and the surrounding areas took us to some really stunning places too. The higlights for me were the amazing shrine at Inari, which consists of the usuall shriney stuff followed by a long walk in the neigbouring forest through literally thousands of red wooden Torii gates donated by devotees of the enshrined deities. We got happily lost and wound up in a bamboo plantation in the arse-end of nowhere. Just as we began to give up hope of ever seeing civilisation again we spotted a schoolgirl (they are literally everywhere, at all times of the day and night) and followed her to the station. That’s the good thing about school kids here. They are either going to a school, or they are going to a station in order to go to night school and therfore they always lead you to some form of civilisation. If you found a school kid wandering in the woods in England they would usually be of their face on mushrooms or looking for a good spot to sniff glue, and consiquently would be of no use to the traveller.  

The other highlight was the backstreets of Gion which are filled with the kind of teahouses and resteraunts that I could of sworn blind didn’t really exist. Geisha and Maiko trot scerenly along the cobbles between appointments with rich buisness men and the whole area is bathed in an otherworldly sepia tinged glow. The places where Gion blends into the more modern Kawaramachi are equally charming. The sight of Maiko in their glowing kimonos and white face paint walking with a soft clip-clopping sound past groups of plastered salary men, arm in arm with minskirt and luis vuiton clad hostess girls is one I will never forget. The only problem with Gion is sadly, but inevitably, the tourists. Whilst crossing a small bridge behind a geisha I witnessed a group of needlessly excitable Australians litterally mob her, pointing cameras in her face and firing off their flashes like a group of gass-maddened beast men. The poor woman must have been half blind by the time she got to her appointment, and I couldn’t help but feel a little bit angry. Geisha and Maiko are not tourist attractions or street performers. Addmittedly, they do take part in traditional dancing displays in the spring and autumn as they have done for centuries, but on a Friday night in January they are working. Despite their alluring or even outlandish appearance, they are far removed from the cosplayers in Harajuku who go out with the intention of being photographed. Personally, I was just content to watch them clip-clop by, the last few of a dying breed.

Ahhh yes, we went to the world famous Golden Temple, Kinkakuji. This is the one you’ve seen all the pictures of. The golden temple, sitting serenly in its gardens next to the finely landscaped lake amongst the trees. This ancient temple was burned to the ground by a monk in 1950 as the culmination of his obsession with it. It was then faithfully restored in 1955. In all honesty, they should of put up a block of flats instead. Maybe that comment seems a bit harsh, but when you’ve spent nigh on three years listening to people coo over it and sing its praises so highly that you’d swear it fell from heaven itself to bless gods chosen land, you tend to set your expectations pretty high. When, In reality, you are greeted by a kind of medium sized gold plated detached house, you feel somewhat let down. If people just didn’t mention it, and you were left to discover it for yourself it would a lot more impressive.

Anyway, we’re off to Osaka tomorrow, which I am looking forward to. Many students have informed me that Osakaites display outlandish characteristics such as confidence, warmness, talkativity, and humor, which understandably makes them the stuff of legend in Tokyo, where the last smile in written history ocurred in 1910 and was promptly followed by the great tokyo earthquake as a lesson to the culprit. As a self proclaimed “yokohama chap” I’m allowed to say thaings like that, by the way.

Oh yeah, and I ate sparrow on a stick.

sparrow. on a stick.

sparrow. on a stick.

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4 Responses to “Sparrow on a stick…”


  1. 1 Andy January 26, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    More excellent bloggerising. Same from E-chan’s side too, but I have to log in to comment on hers and can’t be bothered at present.

  2. 2 khkg January 27, 2009 at 5:18 am

    so how was the sparrow?

  3. 3 j bizzle February 3, 2009 at 7:53 am

    amazing, im gettin right up for breakfast now after that hardcore sparra’ shot. looks a bit like the dirty ass snails i ate in cameroon, i’d post a pic n show you but its half past 7 and im slightly retarded. come home you gays

  4. 4 valiantskipper February 3, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Sparra onna stick? EEEEEEEHHHHHHHH!? Oishi kata?


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