Daily Archives: 30 July 2008

Wordcatcher Tales: Nebaneba Land

Start of the Philosopher's Walk (Tetsugaku no michi) near Ginkakuji, Kyoto, JapanI started my second day in Kyoto by taking an early bus to Ginkakuji-guchi, near where I used to live as a kid, then taking the Philosopher’s Walk (哲学の道 tetsugaku no michi) along a ditch above my old neighborhood, most of which has long since been torn down and rebuilt enough to be almost unrecognizable. But when my rechargeable lithium-ion camera battery gave out unexpectedly about 8:30 a.m., I wasted the rest of the morning running errands. First, I tried to find somewhere to recharge (再充電 saijuuden) or replace it. I had to wait until Bikku Kamera at Kyoto Station opened at 10 a.m. to find that (a) they couldn’t recharge it for me, and (b) if I bought a replacement battery, it would have to be charged before use. And they didn’t have any disposable (使い切り tsukaikiri lit. ‘using-up’) digital cameras I could buy. And I had to check out of my hotel before 10 a.m., so I had a full backpack to schlep around, too.

So I gave up taking more pictures and went shopping to replace my overstuffed backpack (ryukkusakku), which had begun to fall apart the previous day on Mt. Hiei. (I had inherited it from my daughter when she upgraded hers after junior high school—nearly a decade ago!) The Isetan department store at the train station had poor selection and high prices, so I headed to Daimaru in midtown, where I still paid more than I wanted to. The helpful sales clerk asked me if I wanted to transfer everything into the new pack (詰め替える tsumekaeru ‘stuff-exchange’) right there (詰め込み教育 tsumekomi kyouiku is education that stresses cramming facts, rote learning). But I wanted to do it over a leisurely and refreshing lunch, so I began hunting for a likely place to eat.

I found the right spot along Nishiki-koji Food Market, a narrow, covered street parallel to Shijo-dori where you can find all sorts of Kyoto specialties. Genzou (元蔵) drew me in with a sign that offered cold nebaneba-bukkake-udon ‘sticky-topping-udon’: noodles in broth topped with slimy natto (fermented soybeans), okra, tororo (grated yam), seaweed (a bit like mozuku), and a runny soft-boiled egg. Sticky food is supposed to give you quick energy on a hot day, and this one served me well. Of course, I also had to sample a few other local kushi-katsu (‘breaded kebab’) seasonal specialties, like 穴子 (anago ‘conger eel’), 鱧 (hamo ‘pike eel’), 賀茂 (= 鴨 ‘Duck’, the name of the main river) Kamo nasubi ‘Kamo eggplant’, and 小柱 kobashira lit. ‘small pillars’, which looked like small scallops (帆立の貝柱 hotate no kaibashira) but were the adductor muscles of a smaller round clam, also called bakagai.


Filed under Japan, language