Guitars in the Wild

Japan Tourism Tip
Higashi (East) Honganji mentioned in this post is one of two Buddhist sister temples near Kyoto Station, with the other being Nishi (West) Honganji. The eastern temple site is a very easy location to visit on foot for people who might hop off the shinkansen for lunch or one night in Kyoto, and then hop back on the train to continue along their way. However, I should tell you that most people with significant knowledge of Japan will encourage you to make Kyoto your main destination and not a secondary one if you want to maximize your Japan experience.

Smoke-Free Restaurant in Japan!
Last night I met a friend who led me to the Mikoan vegetarian restaurant somewhat hidden down a long dark alley here in Kyoto. Another friend had once led me to the same restaurant, but we arrived after closing time that visit. I was happy to have this chance to finally venture inside.

I am not vegetarian, but I can certainly enjoy vegetarian meals on occasion, especially when they are provided in a non-smoking environment, which Mikoan is. Non-smoking restaurants are no longer exceptionally rare in Japan, but they are unfortunately still in the minority.

Musical Restaurant
There were several guitars, some Japanese stringed instruments, including a very simple homemade shamisen (three-string plucked instrument), as well as an upright piano in this old restaurant near Shijo street.

When I took an interest in the guitars, the woman who owns and runs this small restaurant by herself gestured for me to play. Oh how I wanted to accept her offer, but at this point I don’t know how to play guitar… at all.

The Suzuki guitar seen in the photo above has a handwritten Buddhist prayer chant in kanji covering its front which creates a cool visual effect I think. It turns out that the owner is affiliated with the Higashi Honganji Buddhist temple just north of the main Kyoto train station.

Are You Comfortable Dining With Cats?
If you do visit Mikoan, be aware that at least one cat may join you on the bar where you eat. Apparently this does not bother too many Japanese customers, but I feel I would be out of line not to warn you. I have to admit I was a bit surprised and concerned by the cat’s permission to freely roam everywhere in the restaurant (even though I’m cool with cats in other settings).

Deep in the Alley
Mikoan’s long and narrow alley approach is right off of Teramachi Dori, a street known for its covered pedestrian shopping arcade in Kyoto. The restaurant is not too far south of Shijo Dori on Teramachi’s right hand side as you walk south.

If you visit Kyoto and are trying to find this restaurant, keep a look out for the tight narrow alley about 4 feet wide, shortly past the Family Mart convenience store on your right as you walk down Teramachi from Shijo. To help with your bearings, keep in mind that Teramachi on the south side of Shijo is not covered and is open to cars.

Someday if I return to Mikoan after learning how to play, I hope I am offered another chance with the white kanji prayer guitar.