Daniel in Japaniel

Fairy Angel

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Okay, before reading this one, you should know I did write about some of the experiences at Hokyoji. I think it comes off as pretentious. Anyway, if you are interested it is the article underneath this. If you aren’t read this cute story about how my first day back in Kyoto was!

First day back from Hokyoji, just needed some time to myself.

On my way back wandering the financial district and the river front of Kyoto, I took a side street that led me to a cute cafe called “Fairy Angel”. This would make it the second venture into a Western style restaurant (the first being Spaghetti and Cake). There are plenty of French style cafes to choose from. It seems when a restaurant is going for class, similiar to home, European style is the goto. This particular corner stop, is more tasteful in the decor.

Walking in, there is a refridgerator full of “Fairy Angel” brand “letus” (that, really, I am only noticing now that I am piecing together this place), past there some ceramics, salts, oils, also by the brand, there is a mini show case full of delicately made pastries, box sandwiches, and poppy seed cakes. Scattered around, since it’s coming on that season, are little pumpkins that read “happy halloween!”.

The music is tip of the tongue recognizable jazz that makes me wish I was some music savant character in a Murakami book, instead I try and pretend the piano player is Brubeck, which is enough for me. There are business men settling a real estate deal next to me, a thirty year old couple sharing a fruit tart, and two middle aged men who, from how they relax into their chairs, and talk with out stress or eye contact, seem like old elementary friends. I sit in the middle, get served water and a pleasant menu. I’ve already made up my mind, though. I get a set, the fruit tart the couple is having, and a cafe latte the friends have, “Ha-toh” I say in request, no ice for me.

Today was an adventure in air travel. With the help of my generous Mongolia-documentary-appendicitis-recovering-fluent-in-seven-languages professor (Crystal-sensei), we make attempts at booking a flight for Hanoi; first, through cheaptickets.com, then, through the Student co-op, and then (finally) at the HIS (international…. travel agency so on), which happens to be at Kyoto eki. Conversation was fantastic though. Crystal-sensei, the freelance journalist, the bank of knowledge and experience, just could talk about anything. She has a soft NPR-esque voice, minus the queen’s english, and was/is patiently helpful.

Sadly, my Japanese, though gets better with every day, still is not strong enough to hold a conversation with a travel agent. Luckily, Crystal had me covered. She has also allowed me to miss her class for a week, in exchange that I research a new religion popular in Vietnam called “Cao Dao” and give a lecture in class when I return. From what I understand from the information she gave me, it consolidates all religions and recognize three saints: Sun-Yat-Sen, Victor Hugo and Trang Trinh (as usual, wiki it).

So anyway, officially from October 27th until November 4th, “Daniel in Japaniel” will actually be “Daniel in Vietnamiel”. More to come.

After some Katsudon at the co-op at Ryukoku University, Crystal and I parted ways. I swapped VISA forms and ticket vouchers for Dharma Bums and my camera and hit the streets north into the downtown Kyoto area.

I took turns walking and riding the bike, staring off into the windows of all the spectacular stores. Eventually I cut east and cruised by the river front. Couples in their same place, still evenly distanced from the next, trumpets, trombones, and french horns were being practiced, their embechure appreciated by the herons and cranes. This time around, the water level was signifcantly higer, so the further upstream I biked, the louder the water gates and falls crashed. Still they were landscaping the grass though, weed whacking with saw blades, pacing backwards slowly in their bright blue uniforms and pristine white caps.

Wait wait, before that I went down an alley. Alleys here have undeniable charm. Tiny grocery stores, kimono shops, futon, little deity carvings, all these little hole in the wall places line up haphazardly down the street. Occasionally people bike by, but mostly they are quiet places. Their collectivist culture permeates even the dingy back alleys, by no means dingy in a negative sense, but just in their faded look.

I get off my bike after passing a store called “Accountant Accessory Store”. As soon as I got off my bike, an owner of a different store starts up a conversation with me and, to the best of my Japanese, made out that he thought I was looking for a job at his used futon store.


The accountant store was beautiful. There was a thin layer on dust on all of this 80s stock stationary. There were various Casio and Seiko calculators, next to stamping material and money envelopes with purple patterns whose lines had smeered from years of exposure to Kyoto humidity.

As I walked around, the owner noticed I was there and came to the front of the narrow store. I asked her what the name of the little district I had stumbled upon, After giving me a weird look, I repeated myself. “Why is my Japanese so baaaaad” my brain yelled. She moved to the little counter at the front and pulled a day out of her mini-calendar and began writing kanji meticulously. She then wrote out the hiragana out above each character and handed it to me.

I went around the store with my little paper in my hand and bought a calligraphy brush pen for a friend, and then found a precious treasure. There, in the corner of rib level shelf, was a pile of palm sized notebooks called “New Language Word Book”. These fake-leather memos had the browned edges like the ones at old book stores. I picked one up for someone’s birthday.

When I brought my pile to the owner, she typed the price on a gigantic calculator, presented the price to me, and then proceeded to type .20 the multiplier sign and then equals. She gave me a bright smile, and said arigatou with distant consanants and I understood.

I’ll go back sometime.

Eventually (after making a couple babies cry as I took their photos) I settled by a bench and jotted some thoughts down, drank some Pakari Sweat, and just breathed.

Now I am here, the “Fairy Angel”, for one of the more memorable times stepping outside of the gaijin-bubble and thinking about this past week, past few weeks. I hope I’ll ever get tired of these moments.


Written by Daniel

September 22, 2008 at 1:26 pm

Posted in wandering

One Response

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    September 24, 2008 at 12:46 am

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