Zen and the art of Takoyaki

Osaka’s specialty food is takoyaki. Octopus Balls. They’re everywhere. Street vendors have these special frying pans with .5 of a sphere depressions in a grid pattern, which the mixture is put into. When it is cooked they roll the spheroid over with a pointy stick to cook the other half. It’s a skillful art, and they are quite tasty. At the subway station near the youth hostel each night, there’s been this bloke selling them from the back of his van. Very cheap, very tasty. Anyway, I went up to buy some (this was the second night I had done this,) and I saw he had just started to cook them, so I asked if they’d be 10 minutes. His response was “So, desu ne.” Which mean, “It is so, isn’t it.”

That day I had been to Kyoto to see a really good zen rock garden.

It has 14 rocks.

It depends on how you look at it. I looked at it for about an hour. They also had a really, really good garden around the temple which I wandered around in, for about 1000 years … it’s all time, and time is relative.

Or 15.

I met this American family at the bus stop going to the rock garden. I saw them inside when the father asked his daughter wanted a drink of water at the fountain. Outside shrines and temples they have a fountain with running water, a ladle and a pool of water. It is for a ritual purification before entering the grounds. You ladle water out and wash one hand, then the other. Finally you sip some water and spit it out onto the ground. Anyway, I corrected the Father (probably a bit too tersely.)

I didn’t see them again after that. I wondered if they really existed.

Or 12.

As a result of the trip the day before to Minoshima, and all this zen rock watching, I was very blank.

In Kyoto there are 500yen day passes for the bus. When I went to buy one from the driver, I gave him 1000yen note, and he handed me the day pass, and a 500yen coin as change. When I got out of the bus, I had the ticket, but not the coin.

Sometimes 10.

I wondered if the coin ever existed.

When I left the youth hostel I took an umbrella with me. Umbrellas are like the bikes here. Everywhere you go there are stacks of umbrellas exactly the same. Towards the end of the day I noticed I didn’t have it with me any more.

I wondered if the umbrella ever existed.

I went back to the Osamu Tezuka Shop at Kyoto station to do the last of my big spending. There were these really, really cool Astro Boy/Mighty Atom mugs where the handle was a rocket ship. But they didn’t have them anymore, as I think it was old stock.

I really hope they did exist, otherwise I’ve sent home an empty box and have a visa bill for a non-existing object.

I think I lost my mind.

I wondered if it ever really existed.

I also did the Kinkaku-ji again, which was really full of people being May 1st, the first day of Golden Week Holiday. I also rushed to get to another zen garden, but got there too late. It made me wonder if the garden really existed, because I didn’t get to see it. Maybe it never did exist. Garden, what garden? There was also a May Day march in Kyoto, the celebration of workers rights, solidarity and all that. So to celebrate returning to the cultural centre of Japan, on May Day, May the 1st, the day of Workers Solidarity I had KFC again.

After two days of zen rock gardens and long train trips to the middle of nowhere I was very blank. By asking if the takoyaki would take 10 minutes, it was like my question defined the answer, and the answer was the question. It’s not the game show Jeopardy, but perhaps it was.

Maybe I should have asked if it would take 5 minutes to cook.

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