My birthday yesterday turned out to be pretty great for unanticipated reasons. An elementary school teacher I'd met a few days earlier invited me to join him, his daughter, and his friend for lunch. We ended up in the Imai area of Kashihara which dates back to the 1500s.
My new friend introduced me to the proprietors of shops where sake, soy sauce, and pickled vegetables are made (I bought a bottle of soy sauce). Here's an ancient sake brewing counter:
Outside the shop, plants are hung to advertise the age of the current batch of sake.
If this plant had been green, it would have meant the sake was very new.
We stopped at a Shinto shrine where they taught me the proper way to enter and exit through the torii gate and how to ring the bell and bow.
Afterwards, we stopped at an incongruously chic smoothie bar and had "art smoothies".
I said the place seemed very much like L.A.
Before going to the Imai area, we stopped at a curry restaurant and a pizza restaurant. The pizza place had a great atmosphere and an enormous brick oven. The pizza crust was fantastic. We also had some great steamed bamboo.
The owner of the restaurant invited us to pick our own herbs from his garden. My friend and his daughter chose some sansho leaves:
All in all, a pretty good birthday for me--and I didn't even tell them it was my birthday until the end of it. Sometimes you just get lucky.