David Chart's Japan Diary

June 6th 2004

Finally, things are getting finished. And starting. And other things are just continuing as before. But then, life's like that.

Finishing things first. I've sent off the final draft of Ars Magica Fifth Edition to the playtesters. This is a couple of days later than I'd hoped, but still earlier than the deadline I'd set. I haven't finished with it completely yet, but the most recent high-pressure phase is over. I still have to finish editing another Ars Magica book in the next couple of days, and sort out some art guidelines for the Fifth Edition book, so this week will still be quite busy. Next weekend, though, I should be able to have a proper holiday. ('Proper holiday' means 'stay in the flat, read the Guy Gavriel Kay book that Sheila gave me when she was over here, and generally relax'.)

Starting things... I've started teaching English to Japanese people. I had two first lessons last week, so I actually earned some money. Both students decided that they wanted to continue, as well, so the lessons must have gone quite well. One even said, afterwards, that she'd been nervous beforehand, but had actually enjoyed the lesson. So that's good. One wants two lessons per month, and the other wants lessons every week apart from the last week of the month, so between them they come to just over one hour per week. I also had a preliminary meeting with another potential student, who's coming for his sample lesson next week.

It was nice to be teaching again; I have missed it. I am, of course, still working out the best way of teaching these particular students, but on the whole it won't require too much preparation from me, as both of them want to practise conversational English. I have asked Mum to send some 'authentic teaching material' over from England, though.

I suppose I now need to find out how to start paying Japanese tax.

School is the thing that's just continuing as before. I'm hoping to be able to start studying again before the end of the week, as I should have all my urgent commitments cleared by then. It's amazing how close we are to the end of term now; I'm really not sure where this quarter's gone.

According to the Japanese Met Office, tsuyu, the rainy season, started today. That means we can expect grey skies and rain for a month.


Anyway, back to the Mum and co visit. We left our intrepid heroes staying at Kinmata, which was very nice indeed, after a walk around Kiyomizudera in beautiful weather. The following day was wet. This was only to be expected, as I always have at least one wet day when I go to Kyoto. Again, I worked out a walking course taking in some of the major sites, but, having learned from experience, I took a taxi to get to the first place.

We were going to start at the Temple of the Silver Pavilion. This is less famous than the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, but I think it's nicer. The Golden Pavilion is covered in gold, and, frankly, I think it looks a bit tacky. This may be because the reconstruction didn't quite capture the elegance of the original, or possibly because I just have an unreasonable prejudice against gold-plated buildings. At any rate, the garden at the Temple of the Silver Pavilion is far nicer than that at the Golden.

Silver and her pavilion Silver in front of the Silver Pavilion.

So, we got a taxi, and I asked to be taken to 'Ginkakuji', the Silver Pavilion. This resulted in a short conversation while the taxi driver confirmed where I wanted to go, as the Golden Pavilion is more famous, 'Kinkakuji', and right on the other side of Kyoto. I spent the trip riding in the front seats of taxis, because four people didn't fit in the back, and occasionally had conversations with the drivers. This was one of those occasions; she recommended a good place to see cherry blossoms, but it was too far from where we were, so we didn't get there.

The family and a cherry tree Ray, Mum, and Silver, on a bridge over the canal at the Philosophers' Pathway, with a gorgeous cherry tree behind them.

At the Silver Pavilion, I took a photo of Silver in front of it. She insisted, on the grounds that it was her pavilion. We then took a leisurely stroll around the garden, which was busy despite the rain. It really is a beautiful garden, with a lot of moss and rocks, and seemed to be very much appreciated by everyone.

The next phase of the day was a walk along the Philosophers' Pathway, which was absolutely breathtaking. It's a small canal, lined with cherry trees, all of which were in blossom. The walk was actually fairly peaceful, largely thanks, I think, to the rain. On a nice day, I'm sure it would have been heaving with tourists. Instead, Silver and I were able to talk about philosophy for part of the walk, and Mum and Ray followed at their own pace.

We had lunch at the end of the pathway, near Nanzenji, where there was a slight problem. The restaurant I went to last time was closed, as the guidebook had mentioned it might be on that day of the week. Fortunately, the toilet was outside and open, so people used the facilities while I picked the next choice.

That place was under new management, just. The new sign was being put up, while the old sign sat on the ground. Since I knew nothing about the new restaurant, we decided not to go there, and ate at a fairly cheap place that served a simple set menu.

After that, as far as I can remember, we went back to the ryokan so that people could have a rest, and do a bit of shopping for things like camera cards. Silver ate okonomiyaki, and while at the beginning she thought she didn't like the sauce, by the end she had decided that she really did. We didn't eat at that point, because we were planning to go out later.

The restaurant we went to was recommended in the guidebook as having a more modern style, but I had a little trouble finding it. It looks like it had Latin letters on the sign when the guidebook was written, but has since switched to kanji. Fortunately, I can read kanji, so when I decided to check them, I found the sign. The restaurant was, indeed, rather modern, and the food was excellent.

Over dinner I broke the news that I was thinking about staying in Japan long-term to Mum and Ray. They just nodded. A most disappointing reaction, I felt. They were supposed to be surprised and need explanations and reassurance. Instead, Mum just said 'Yes, I thought you might', and we talked about practicalities, and the possibilities of having future visits as well.

Over breakfast the next morning Mum mentioned my staying plans, which was a little unfortunate as I hadn't had a chance to tell Silver directly by that point. Silver reacted properly, though, which made up for Mum's lack. (Note to the oversensitive: this is a joke...) We talked a bit about it before leaving Kyoto, and a bit more later, so Silver is now willing for me to stay here, even if not happy about it.

Then we left Kyoto, after stopping to get some money out of the Post Office cash machines. I got the train times a little muddled, but thanks to always planning to have five or more minutes to spare, we were at the platform just before it left anyway. So, we left Kyoto and set off on the next stage of the holiday: Takayama.