The roads are constantly packed with scooters, and most crosswalks don’t have any pedestrian traffic lights. Even if they do, here’s something that’s fun: there’s no countdown clock or flashing light to tell you when a pedestrian signal is about to turn red. It just randomly switches over with no grace period, and if you’re in the middle of the road? Too bad, here comes some cars.
And if there are no lights at a crosswalk and the road is a non-stop stream of scooters (and a lot of roads here are non-stop streams of scooters), then you basically just have to walk out into the fray and let the scooters weave around you.
It’s tremendously off-putting at first, though clearly all of the drivers here know what’s what — as long as you’re paying attention as you cross, it never feels particularly dangerous. There’s something oddly satisfying about timing your crossing just right and watching as an army of scooters criss-crosses around you.
I wasn’t quite able to capture it, but I took a video of me crossing a fairly busy road. It’s extremely shaky and the framing is quite off — I had the camera to my side and wasn’t looking at the screen, because I didn’t particularly feel like getting walloped by a scooter — but it gives you a basic idea of what crossing the road is like here.
So there are posters of this guy all over Kyoto — I’m assuming he’s a politician of some sort — and in almost all of them, he’s doing a totally normal pose. But in this one, which I only saw a couple of times, he’s doing… whatever it is that he’s doing.
Seriously, what is he doing? This must be some kind of specifically Japanese cultural thing, because as far as I’m aware, there are only two reasons to do that pose:
He’s about to shoot lightning out of his fingers like Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi.
He’s about to strangle somebody.
Neither of those things seems like something a politician would want to do, so… I’m stumped.
You’re probably familiar with Japanese cat cafes — they’re popular enough that we’ve even got a couple in Toronto.
Well, Kyoto has a pug cafe, and yeah — it’s just as amazing as you’d hope. Whoever came up with this is a genius, because being surrounded by about a dozen snorting, wheezing pugs is flat-out delightful.
It costs 1200 yen for an hour of pug time. It’s the best 1200 yen I’ve ever spent. That includes a small bowl of dog treats that you can dole out to the pugs as you desire, as well as some human snacks.
This is Purin, one of the oldest of the dogs (the owner referred to her as grandma, and based on the pug family tree they gave me, that’s literally true). She was the wheeziest of the bunch, and the most laid back. She relaxed next to me for most of the time I was there.
And I mean, look at that face. How can you not fall in love with that face?
This is Roko, my second favourite. He was sleeping on my lap for pretty much the entirety of my visit.
But let’s face it, they were all great.
This isn’t necessarily the most solo-friendly activity, as there really isn’t all that much to do here other than be surrounded by pugs. But for me? That was enough. That was more than enough.
Many of the toilets in this part of the world, particularly in China — even the ones in touristy places like museums or the airport — are of the squat variety. If you’ve never encountered one of these things, it’s basically a porcelain hole in the ground.
Proponents will tell you that squatting is actually a more natural position than sitting to do your business, and maybe that’s right, but I just can’t do it. There are so many ways it could go wrong.
I actually came close to being desperate enough to use one at one point– but then I had a grim, Dead Zone-esque premonition in which I lost my balance mid-squat and fell over, and that was that.