This story begins almost 20 years ago. My then writing partner and still best pal in LA and I were query lettering for Hollywood representation. But a blind letter to some agency seemed less likely than having at least a name of somebody to send the query listing our myriad spec TV shows and feature scripts we were peddling. I struck upon an idea based on my idiotic temp agency gig working for a PR firm. They had me calling media outlets to generate an up-to-date contact database for various markets… then a few weeks later I called THE EXACT SAME MARKETS to generate a “new” database for a new client they had taken onboard. We couldn’t just import the old Access database file I had literally put together two weeks prior; there had to be a “Chinese Wall” (**) separating clients and billing purposes and thus they needed me to call the same people and ask the same questions about who to send PR materials to.
(**) I’ve often wondered if the term “Chinese Wall” was offensive. I suppose all terms are offensive in some manner or other. But given that this legal/business term that supposedly affords internal groups isolation protection from conflicts of interest due to information barriers akin to the Great Wall of China, I’m going to err on the side of using it as a thing to aspire to… even though I think the notion of an information barrier within an organization *feels* dubious… albeit I’m sure some businesses do a better job than others of avoiding conflicts of interest.
In any case, bored out of my mind redoing the same task that already had been mind-numbingly foolish, I decided Brent and I needed to gather a contact list for various literary agencies and to do so we’d call on behalf of a fictitious production company looking for new talent. We figured this could get us a list of hungry agents looking to peddle new talent and thereby give us the right person to send a query letter to. We settled on calling our fake production company “Rickshaw Entertainment” because I liked the idea that we were pulling entertainment into the next century and beyond. Like I said, this story is almost 20 years old.
All that is irrelevant backstory to tell you that I’ve always liked the idea of a rickshaw. So when the famed bamboo forest of Arashiyama prominently features a rickshaw ride in the proverbial brochure, you can bet your sweet wheeled chariot I wanted to do that. And riding in a rickshaw Mom and I did.
Our driver… runner?… rickshaw operator?… he was amazing. The rickshaw company has a monopoly on all the rickshaws in the area — all the drivers work for this one company, and thus they all support each other. On a slow season day like today, there’s about 40 drivers running people all over the place; on a busy day like in autumn when the 70% Maple Trees on the mountainside are in fall foliage colors or in April when the Cherry Blossoms are blooming, there’s easily 70 to 80 rickshaws going at any one time.
Our guy has been doing this for 8 years and typically does about 9 trips around and about. You pay by the time and we opted for a 30 minute tour to see the bamboo forest and a bit of the seaside area. It was money well spent.
On top of all that, as part of the rickshaw program, we were given a discount voucher “good for three years” on our next rides… and if we rode in all four seasons, we’d get a free t-shirt. Challenge… considered?
But before our rickshaw ride, earlier in the morning we wandered the local Buddhist shrine at Higashi Honganji. We had passed by it on our way to Kyoto Station the day before for our city tour and I really wanted to check it out. I’m glad we wandered inside because it really was something to behold. I have to admit I’m a bit of a Philistine when it comes to museums and religious structures (churches, shrines, temples, cathedrals, etc). My attention span is shorter than I’d like and after seeing one or two churches, shrines, temples, cathedrals, etc., it’s hard for me to appreciate the “subtle nuances” of multiple iterations and I become a bit inured to the awe that a structure might evoke. Not to be too reductive, but if you’ve seen one cathedral you kinda have seen them all… unless of course they are truly spectacular. Higashi Honganji is pretty spectacular.
It’s one of the largest wooden structures in the world; though it’s been burned down four or five times since it’s founding in the early 1600s, the latest iteration has been around since 1895. The Founder’s Hall Gate added in 1911 has over 175,000 roof tiles.
Post Buddhist retreat, we ventured on the Kyoto bus system to the marathon expo. From serenity to swarming cacophony of chaos… and that was just the bus! ZING!
The packet pickup was relatively easy and smooth… just a series of queues and a fair bit of shoving afterwards. The exhibitors and vendors were not surprisingly all speaking Japanese and those that had “English Speaker” nametag designations weren’t great at speaking my native tongue… but they were INFINITELY better than my pathetically small Japanese vocabulary. Still, it was overwhelming navigating our way out of the expo after grabbing my bib and packet. The closest analogy I can give is that we walked into an Ikea and then had to just keep going… and going… and going through their Scandanavian maze of merchandise, past incomprehensible names, in the hopes of finding a way out. But we did escape before too long… and with a few hilarious freebie photo ops to boot!
As I head out to a carbo-loading dinner of dumplings and diet soda, I’ll leave this entry with a series of photos that I couldn’t quite figure out where to put into this cuisinarted timeline corkscrew of a post. But they were too good to just leave on the cutting room floor (albeit there are still quite a few worthy ones that didn’t make it even into this last minute free-for-all).
My early morning stroll — I loved the name of this pub but, let me tell ya, I worked in the UK for nigh on 10 years. There’s no such thing as “great British food.”
Lunch by the sea.
The Togetsu-kyo Bridge offers a great view of the mountain and waterway… plus the rickshaw shirt one can get by riding in all four seasons!
The bridge also leads to the path to the famed Kyoto monkeys. Iwatayama Monkey Park is on Mt Arashiyama, and is inhabited by a troop of over 170 Japanese macaque monkeys. We didn’t go there but I wanted Mom to get the feel for it anyway…
Some merchandise along the way — a great sign, a Green Tea cone that was better than yesterday, and a sub USD$15 samurai umbrella I really wanted but couldn’t figure out how to pack to get through customs.
And one last thing — despite buying a tourist transit pass for the next two days, apparently this is only for buses and subways and NOT the rail line that I forced march Mom to take because I *thought* it’d be easier. When we bought the tickets, we were confronted with this off choice — the Express Limited or the Semi-Express. Mom pointed out the weirdness of this and after a little investigation, it turns out the Limited is better and faster than the Semi.
Tomorrow: Gojira Kev rampages through the streets of Kyoto! And apparently it might snow!