Kyoto, after the temples

It’s my third visit to Kyoto, first in winter.  Snowstorms NW of Tokyo forced the cancellation of my visit to a property in Karuizawa so I will remain here longer than planned, and show up in Tokyo a day earlier.

Yesterday was made up mostly of one long interview with a chef who taught me about the Zen principles behind Japanese gastronomy.  Fascinating stuff, and right up my alley in terms of a longer project than the article I am writing about the role of seasonality in cooking here.

Later, a friend from Tokyo added insight to my thinking on the question: How can people be sad if the food is satisfying?  If the food is based on Zen principles that are meant to create harmony, and if the food succeeds, where is the harmony?

He said that people who do eat well in Japan are not as miserable as those who do not.  I’m meeting with a Japanese doctor later this year who believes the same.

But I have my doubts.

Mind, what kaiseki cuisine–multiple courses–or washoku–pre-Western–tells us is that it’s not just about the food, but its presentation and timing.  Plus, so much of Japanese dining has to do with textures and temperatures, which require concentration to appreciate fully.

But I have my doubts.  Because where is the harmony (wa) in Japan?

Of course, those doubts are what makes this longer project so potentially funny and interesting.

Meanwhile, more pragmatically, last night it was a long walk to a wonderful, hip craft beer joint loaded with IPAs and later, across the bridge, a visit to a great yakitori joint where the tsukune were first-rate.



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