The Japan Notebooks: Wa, Wa, Wa

Just after dawn in Kyoto.  Turns out I know the city pretty well having rented a small, old “tea house” in Gion over the summer of 2012.  It’s one of the best walking cites in the world, and yesterday we did just that.

The Nishiki market, for example, with its array of fish, shellfish, fruit, vegetables, tofu and yuba, and kitchen supplies.  People were unusually outgoing and friendly, which was a pleasant surprise.

En route, we stopped at one of the city’s old, finest rice cracker shops.  And we walked by a “cat cafe” where people sit and have coffee or tea while cats are “rented” to be stroked by them.  What a concept.

Lunch was a classic soba joint: Beautiful buckwheat noodles, slices of duck, and cold draft beers.

That afternoon and evening I had long interviews with two chefs about the philosophy behind the seasonal and ingredient driven cuisines of Japan.  I found myself wondering: If the food is so exemplary, and the aesthetic so refined, why are there such high rates of sadness here?  And: Is there a relationship between sadness and dissatisfaction?  Can one be sad and still be satisfied?


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