A statue of an Akita Inu scandalizing a local boy.
Pachinko is a form of gambling that mixes conventional slot machines with the din of pin ball and arcade games. Most Pachinko parlors feature female attendants wearing teeny-bopper gear. At this parlor, the girls wore revealing Santa Claus skirts. The basic idea is that you pay 1,000 yen (about $11) and start out with a handful of metal balls. Using a dial you shoot the balls into the field of play where they bounce off of pegs and hopefully fall into a central slot. Each well-placed ball gains a credit on the slot machine - and then loud computer graphics, usually of an aquatic (and slightly erotic) nature, sound off. When you hit a jackpot (1:303 attempts), you start to rack up balls. With enough luck, by the time you're finished you may have several trays filled. We got lucky and hit the jackpot once, which would have netted around 5,000 yen had we cashed out. But at that time we were still learning the basic principles of Pachinko and, not knowing when to quit, pressed our luck until we busted. Back outside, it took several minutes before the Pachinko sounds and smells wore off - the sound was literally deafening.
Paintings above the front entrance to the Minamiza theater in Gion, Kyoto. This theater is famous for its kabuki performances, which now take place only during the month of December. We showed up at the box office and unsuccessfully tried to get tickets to a performance - the only seats left were the most expensive, about $300 each.
On our way to a huge outdoor market at To-ji temple, we saw this woman making Japanese omelets, called tamago, outside of a store. She had five tamago pans roasting over a grill in front of her. One by one, she spread thin layers of the egg mixture over the pans and then rolled the egg using a spatula as it cooked. People were lined up around the block to buy them. We were surprised to find out that she had attended the University of Washington in Seattle and spoke excellent English. And the tamago was pretty good too.
Adrienne posing with some delicious sake we drank with our meal in a small traditional Japanese restaurant near Kyoto station. The food came out slowly, one dish at a time, and everything was delicious. We had a dish of various cold pickles as an appetizer followed by tofu hot-pot and salmon over rice soaked in hot green tea. Then we had chawanmushi, a slow-cooked egg custard, and a plate of assorted sushi for dessert - delicious!
Stephen resting in a Japanese cemetery. While at another cemetery, we observed a Buddhist ritual - wooden slats with Chinese writing were replaced, along with chanting and a food offering. See the next picture to compare the Japanese cluttered style with Korean minimalism.
The regularity of plots in the picture is somewhat unusual, but the grassy hillock is the same in all Korean cemeteries.
This picture is from a nearby city, Nara, which was the capital of Japan from 710 to 784 (Kyoto then became the capital until 1868). The ancient Naran monks domesticated deer in a park outside of a famous temple complex, and currently there are around 1,200 tame deer. Seen above is a cartoon sign demonstrating inappropriate contact between humans and deer - don't feed them cigarettes, don't allow your dog to hunt them, don't have your toddler son beat them with a switch. An unusual feature of these deer is that some "bow" - drop their heads between their outstretched front legs - to more effectively beg for food. Stephen, always one to befriend animals, used an orange peel to lure several beasts to him. At one point, two deer were flanking him on each side, and aggressively rubbing their stubby antlers against his legs. One almost ripped his cargo pocket right off of his pants!