The journey from New York to Kyoto via Tokyo was taxing and crossing thirteen time zones reduced me to an infant lost in a supermarket looking for mummy. Only we are forty infants and have four mums – the industrious tour organisers.
Kyoto is the historical highlight of the trip and the various temples, shrines and gardens were serene and soothing. Centuries of power struggles and warring factions demanded the security system at Nijo Castle to be strict. An intruder alert system of ultra squeaky floorboards in the shogun’s residence lasts four hundred years later.
At the zenith of my jet lag we found ourselves at a shabu shabu dinner complete with three trainee geishas. Their caressing song and doll like movements lulled me down a path of total mental absence which lasted several hours. The labyrinthine Pontocho district beckoned and teased with alleys and small bars until my glass of icebergs and Yamazaki single malt rested spent. A friendly local barfly exclaimed Columbia to be one of the best universities in the world and deduced us all to be geniuses. Clearly Columbia’s name travels better than I do.
– Robert Habib –