Which salt would Jeff like on his veggies?
Kobe is in the running for places we might move to one day. And since we overslept and missed the Gion Matsuri (Festival) our first day here, we thought we'd catch the Kobe
Matsuri. So back to Kobe we headed for the second day in a row, and what a great idea it was! About a 10 block by 4 block area of the town was blocked off and packed with stands of food, games, entertainment, live music, advertisements, promotions, live beetles (for pets, not eating), and even a place where children could learn how to properly recycle and win prizes. We won a canvas bag! We wandered around for hours, ate some kinda fresh egg pastry and Kobe yakitori (steak-on-a-stick), watched a few musical and dance performances and a martial arts demonstration, and even took pictures with a geisha! All in all, it was a great time on a beautiful day.
What was most impressive, though, was that in spite of the tens of thousands of people there, there was virtually no trash on the ground. There were recycling and trash recepticles in very convenient places and a strong sense of collective responsibility among everyone. What a great place!
Anyhoo, back to Kyoto
we went. We chilled for a bit and then went to dinner at a sushi restaurant called Denshichi that came highly recommended by Lonely Planet. Not the dollar-a-plate kinda place - but a small high-quality place with really fresh and creative dishes. I (Jeff) of course went down the sushi menu ordering anything and everything that looked strange.
A very naughty plate- ovary, cockel and eggs (salmon roe)
Ya know how sometimes you say or hear a sentence you never thought you'd say or hear in your entire life? Well, here's one: I'm a fan of cod ovaries! Yup - "ovary of cod" sushi, and it was actually really delicious. I also tried octopus head (not very tasty), and I couldn't not
try something called "cockle," which disappointingly had no flavor at all. Most everything else wonderfully boasted brilliant flavor and freshness. Kelsey's favorite was the salmon with salmon roe, and mine was a tie between the mentaiko (cod ovary) and a creative mix of flavors on one piece: squid, sea urchin, scallop, and salmon roe with a small mild Japanese mint leaf type thing. The experience wouldn't have been complete without the incredibly enthusiastic staff yelling welcome or thanks at everyone who entered or left, every time.
Ofuchi Kareoke - we found it!
With full bellies, we headed back to Sandalwood Hostel to find a mostly full house. After telling everyone about the cod ovary, I convinced 8 of us to go to kareoke! In Japan, it's much different than America. We had been told that you and your friends get your own private booth, so it's important to bring a group. So at about 11pm, we headed out to the kareoke bar down the street that our hostel host Jimi recommended.
We all introduced ourselves to each other on the short walk, and arrived to find the sign not illuminated and the door locked. Argh! Luckily one of the girls was an English teacher in Japan and spoke some conversational Japanese. She asked the dude standing out front of the video arcade next door what the deal was.
Oh yeah we were rockin
Ends up the kareoke bar was actually behind the building and around a corner. We walked around and sure enought it was open! Score!
We were greeted and escorted up the elevator and into a private room that was more like a lounge - with leather sofas, surround sound speakers, and a big screen TV. Nice! The fee is 450 yen ($5 US) per person per hour, so we bought two hours in the room, ordered our first round of drinks, and then all dared each other to go first. We decided that we should all go at the same time, and after taking a while to decipher the all-Japanese kareoke screen, we put on YMCA. And craziness ensued.
Kelsey required that everyone stand up so we all took it upon ourselves to get up on the couches and run around dancing and singing at the top of our lungs.
Can't do it without making the face
And this is before our first drink had even arrived! We followed it up with Bohemian Rhapsody and by then we were kareoke experts! Representing Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Iowa, California, and Australia, with an age range of 20-30 and a "real world" lifestyle range of teachers, students, cubicle 9-to-5-ers, and even 2 full-on physicists, I can say with the utmost certainty that we rocked Japan! A couple drinks later for Kelsey and a dozen or so later for me, we had sung everything from Prince to Incubus to The Beatles and even Snoop Doggy Dogg's "It Ain't No Fun If The Homies Can't Have None." It was EPIC! And all the while, when we needed more drinks we just picked up the phone in our room and said "bee-ru" or "uiskey" and someone would arrive within minutes with a tray of drinks and find us jumping from couch to couch with mics in hand.
the whole group, representing 5 states and Australia
When our 2 hours were up, Kelsey and I were most certainly not done. And neither was Nick, the 20-year-old Australian. Everyone else bailed, and the youngest and oldest of the group (and Kelsey) rocked for another hour that included Foo Fighters, Black Eyed Peas, Nirvana, and Jamiroquai. As our hour expired, we appropriately ended the night with Muse's "Time Is Running Out," bowed to each other, had a big group hug, and loudly stumbled back to the hostel forever bonded by 3 solid hours of bad singing, worse dancing, and the most fun we've ever had in a bar. For lack of a more original word I haven't already used twice: EPIC.