May 17, 2003
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On Friday we did more stuff with the group. We went to a museum and a temple, two tombs, and an ear mound. The ear mound was put up after some emperor told his troops that they would be promoted depending on how many ears they cut off from their enemies and brought back to Japan. He actually changed the order to noses, and eventually they had to put them all somewhere, so they buried them in this big mound. They call it an ear mound anyway, I guess.

For much of the day, Patrick was trying to play Jan Ken (Rock Paper Scissors) with strangers. There were a lot of school kids at the temple, so it was easy to find people who would do it. We didn't keep track of his record, but I think he lost more than he won. One girl beat him, and was asking us for something. She held out her hand and was saying things, but we couldn't understand. Patrick thought she was saying that he owed her a hundred yen coin, because he lost. She was talking too fast, though, for us to understand, and we likely might not have understood anyway. Not wanting to disappoint, Patrick thought he should give her one, and so he did. Two notes, though: a hundred yen is worth about a dollar, not ten cents, as he thought, and also, it was my coin.

That evening, Shuhei and Mai took us looking for bikes. Everyone locks their bikes, but only the wheels. They are never locked to poles or anything fixed, just locked so no one can ride them. So we walked around looking for bikes that had no locks on them. The way I understood it, if there is no lock, then it is a given that the bike is abandoned. We didn't mess with bikes that had locks which were not locked, only bikes with no lock at all. We found one without a seat, sitting beside a sign that said "Bicycles beyond left beyond this point will be taken" and we found a broken bike, with a seat, in a drainage river (or something like that). Between the two, we ended up with one working bicycle. Not bad, and much more affordable than the seven thousand yen to buy a used one.

On the way back, we passed a house where a group of people were playing traditional Japanese music. We stopped and listened for a minute, and stared in their windows. Shuhei even slid their door open a few inches and peeked in. We did not know these people at all. Afterwards, I asked him (in Japanese, and only half joking), "Always, can anyone come look in windows?" He chuckled and said (in English) "Of course not, very rude."

Anyway, this morning, less than twelve hours later, Patrick wakes up, looks out our window, and sees someone getting on our newly gotten bike and riding it away! Our room is on the second floor, and from the top of their hat, he thought it looked like one of the people in the dorm. We figured that they had borrowed it to go to the store, and would be back shortly. Two hours later, though, the girl he thought he saw ride off had just woken up and knew nothing about the bike. It seemed that we were not the only ones looking for free transportation.

For dinner, we decided to head into town and try one of the vegan restaurants Patrick found on the internet. We studied the map provided on their web site, and headed over to the train station. Like good Japanese students, we rode the train, walked our way through some of Kyoto, found the restaurant and ordered our meals on our very own.

The restaurant was called Cafe Peace (, and was centrally vegan. Patrick was fairly impressed even before we got there, as they had animal rights information on their web site, and apparently animal right activism is a fairly rare thing in America, and seemingly less so in Japan. The food was very good and the people were very nice. The owner came out and said hello, and there was quite a conversation. Patrick and I, however, were a little outside of it. We had left a note at our room for Mai and Shuhei to meet us at the restaurant, and so they had. And so they talked with the owner, but too rapidly for us to keep up.

Of what we could catch, and what they told us afterwards, it was a very interesting talk. The cafe is on the third floor of a building, the first floor of which was a Japanese chain restaurant and the second floor some other eatery, which we only understood as "cow-eat place." She, the owner of Cafe Peace, had picked the location partly to compete with, and offer alternative to, these meat restaurants. They talked for a while, but, really, we missed most of it.

Again, Patrick was even more excited about all this than I was. He has had some trouble finding food here, mostly because of subtle things. Soups that would otherwise be vegan are cooked in fish broth, or almost-vegan snacks contain trace seafood extracts, or things along those lines. The meal at this place was the third actual meal he had eaten since arriving four days ago. And, on top of being a vegan restaurant, it was vegan with compassionate goals and friendly people.

He plans to go back quite a lot. I, of course, will be returning as well.