I would like to sit here and tell you my final trip to Kyoto was one where I finally visited some historic sights, or that it went off perfectly with no flaws. But, it was more or less an errand that I took upon myself. I greatly respect my mentor Professor George Nezlek and so when he asked me to purchase some high quality Japanese kitchen knives during my stay here I happily accepted. His request called for 5 ceramic knives. For the uninitiated, these knives are forged from heated ceramic are sharp enough to cut a thick piece of leather with little effort. Sharp enough, in fact, to cut paper in half lengthwise. Thanks to my friend Akane Nambu’s help I secured three of the knives with little trouble from a upscale shopping mall in Kyoto, I also learned there that the Sashimi knife my Professor was requested was not available in Ceramic form inside the country.
I went to Kyoto today to buy the final knife: A Carbon Steel Sashimi. I had the great experience of speaking with a friend of mine, Zack Edgerton, who lives here in the dorms at JCMU and who lived in Tokyo for a year, recommend a good knife shop to me. The shop is apparently home to a family who for 1300 years made some of Japan’s finest Katanas before they were outlawed in the Meiji era. They have now turned their expertise to forging hand made steel kitchen knives, with a similar level of quality. And so today I travel there on my final trip to Kyoto.
I took the train and subway as planned, found the shop rather easily and picked out the knife, went to pay and found they do not accept Credit Cards (this has been a continued frustration for me, as I tend to use my check card for most things). I immediately asked where the Post Office was, as it is usually home to an international ATM. Thankfully, I was told there was one nearby; so I hurried to it. It was, however, not an international ATM thus my card did not work with it. As I stood outside, the rain falling on my head, determined not to return to the dorms empty handed, I wondered what to do.
It hit me, that there is a big post office near the main Kyoto train station that I came in at, so I jumped back on the subway and returned and was able to withdraw the amount of money necessary to purchase the knife. I returned to the shop using the same subway. The workers at the store were happy to see me return and I was even able to have a small conversation with the one of the knife makers as he CARVED ‘Nezlek‘ into the blade with a chisel. This was one of the most dexterous things I have seen since I have been here, truly amazing.
Now with knife in hand, I ventured back to Hikone in the rain which was now falling harder. I got soaked returning to the dorms, but I made it and wrote to my Professor that I had acquired 4/5 knives. I expect a very happy reply shortly from him, he is very excited to say the least.
So what did I learn from Kyoto. Having been to Tokyo, and knowing that both Tokyo and Kyoto are considered major cities here in Japan, I am amazed at the difference in infrastructure between the two places. In Tokyo, the subways came very frequently and were consistently on time, this to limit the amount of crowdiness in the cars, this is not the case in Kyoto. The subway was regularly late and the cars packed full as possible. Somehow, Kyoto seemed more crowded then Tokyo, though is likely because I was in a open market area of Kyoto, and Kyoto hardly has the same level of infrastructure development as Tokyo
All in all, I will miss Kyoto and all of Japan when I depart in 1 week to return to America. Despite this, I am anxious to return to America, I miss my family and my life there. And it is time for me to finish school.