Posted by: thewhitesintokyo | May 6, 2009


While the girls were busy playing dress up (as maiko/geisha), I decided that I’d go off and pursue my favorite traveling pastime, choosing a direction and walking in it with my camera and a few bucks in my pocket.

There’s just something about unplanned walks in a foreign place that is both relaxing and exhilarating at the same time. On one hand, you don’t have any plans or a schedule to worry about so you’re free to explore and really take in what’s around you. On the other hand, you discover incredible things that easily pass you by when you’re rushing from one temple to another or hustling to try and catch a train.

In Argentina, I used to hop on random buses just to see where they’d take me. Through this, I saw neighborhoods I never would have had the slightest reason to visit and often met new people or tried new foods that changed my perspective on the whole experience.

This time around, I walked to the nearest corner and turned left. Then, I meandered at least a mile along the same street, admiring the exteriors of beautifully simplistic and symmetrical wooden homes, peeking in hidden shops, spotting geisha ducking into ‘white lantern restaurants,’ and watching the people of Kyoto in their everyday business of life.

Soon enough, I stumbled into a serene cemetery where some young women were laying flowers and a cat was ferociously guarding a statute of a jovial laughing Buddha that was clearly trying his best to pat his head and rub his belly at the same time. Up the street, there was a shop that sold various beans, and a dessert item I’ve heard Rachael refer to as “sweet red bean paste.” Then, I saw a sign for something strange.

Since the ice cream in the photo was a speckled black, I first thought the ice cream sign was just faded, but then I realized that it was actually in full color. The ice cream pictured really was black. Because the description of the ice cream’s flavor was written in kanji (the pictorial alphabet I don’t yet know), I couldn’t decipher the flavor on my own. Ideas such as cookies and cream, licorice, and fresh dirt crossed my mind, but instead of walking away with my curiosity abuzz, I knocked and entered a very hole-in-the-wall ice cream shop. The woman kindly explained (in Japanese, woo hoo!) that it was the flavor of black sesame seeds. I love sesame seeds and order pretty much anything that has them on it, so I got a small cone, paid my $1.30 and went on my way.

The result was a fantastic new taste experience that I spent the next two days trying to repeat. However, this was the only shop in town (that we could find) that served this particular flavor. If you’re ever on an aimless walk on a Kyoto side street and see strange black-colored ice cream, don’t be afraid. It’s pure joy on a spoon. Go for it.


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