17/6/16. We will come back to what we have been up to over the past couple of days in Kyoto later but we just want to “place on record” our thanks to Satoru and Asa Nishida (otherwise known as “The Pearson Two” because of their cycling jerseys when we first met them).
We had a most wonderful evening with them after Satoru got in touch when he saw that we had reached Kyoto, where they live, and we arranged to meet up at the railway station. We were whisked off to a street of upmarket, traditional Japanese restaurants and taken into one where we sat outside overlooking the river, with the almost full moon shining down on us.
The menu was in Japanese but we were delighted to be guided by Asa and Satoru in the selection of a set menu of dishes that were simply wonderful! There was a such a variety of flavours and textures and colours, all washed down with a beautifully smooth sake, thankfully served in tiny “shot” glasses – otherwise Stephen would have been under the (9 inch high) traditional table at which we were sat. (Christine was steering well clear of this potent brew!)
The food was mainly fish – but such a variety! The sashimi squid was a real highlight but there wasn’t anything we did not like. The funniest moment was when Stephen followed Satoru’s lead in eating a whole river fish (we did not catch the name – a summer speciality, about 10 cm long) while Christine copied Asa’s more delicate approach of leaving the head and tail on the plate! (And you should try removing them in a decorous manner with only chopsticks!! Not easy.)
While eating we thoroughly enjoyed a conversation about Japan, what we have seen, why we are here, what we like, etc as well as kick boxing (a passion of Asa’s – she might be tiny but Stephen does not want to get on the wrong side of her!) and (of course!) cycling. Asa is a big fan of Bernie Eisel, a well known Austrian team mate of Mark Cavendish, whose signature adorns the back of her phone!
We lost count of the number of courses – it must have been 7 or 8 – but by the end we completely “stuffed”, to use the vernacular. And then it was off to their favourite drinking place!
This was another lovely experience! The taxi drove down a street of traditional Japanese houses, most with red lanterns outside (which does NOT have the same connotations as a red light in the UK!). We pulled up outside one and entered a very small room with seating for 8 people at a bar about a foot high, but with a “footwell” so you effectively sat on a chair or bench at floor level. On the other side of the bar where three people serving drinks and snacks in a very leisurely manner (not meant in a pejorative sense – they participated fully in the conversation with the customers as part of the “experience”). The floor on which they were stood was also sunk down so they were on the same level as us when we sat at the bar.
Three of the four of us moved from sake to the bottle of Japanese whisky (very smooth and equal to Scotland’s finest – Stephen loved it!) which Satoru had “behind the bar” (complete with beautifully drawn picture of a bike on the label). The conversations about our experiences in Japan continued along with those of the young man behind the bar who visited London, Manchester and Edinburgh recently.
Asa and Satoru took us back to our hotel where we “crashed” in a very happy state. It was a truly wonderful evening which we both enjoyed enormously!