Friday, March 14, 2008



Walking into the shop Kiteya in Soho was an unexpected exercise in becoming mesmerized too early in the day. Suddenly I was in a most prismatic, Kyoto-like environment, with dangling handmade goldfish, fluttering pinwheels, kimono-cloth hair ornaments and the musical voices of Kyoto saleswomen encouraging me to enter. I pretty readily fell into a trance, and was overcome with deep, deep nostalgia which, when you get down to it, is one of the things that Kyoto is all about.

This is dangerous territory for me. I don't really need anything from a store like this--and certainly don't need to buy these items in New York. But shopping is so much fun in Kyoto, and I immediately had a Pavlovian response to the stimuli.

Before I knew it, I was wearing a scarf, handmade from old kimono fabric and told to admire myself in front of a mirror. In the back, Japanese ladies were drinking tea and discussing sales strategies. The saleswoman assisting me very gently but insistently--in that Kyoto way--told me how few people were capable of wearing such an unusual scarf. Honestly, it was like listening to some kind of Siren encouraging me to just "stay a while" and spend all my money.

I was with Isao when this happened and he very quickly assessed the situation. Abruptly, he switched from his regular Japanese accent to Kyoto-speak. The saleswomen caught on. They asked where in Kyoto he was from and he told them--no one is more aristocratic or Kyoto than Isao. Then one of the women confessed that she was from Osaka. All her "blah blah blah haru" was a put on. Someone else really was from Kyoto but, as Isao made clear from his disapproving, "Hmm," she was from the wrong part. And then, Isao pointed out that $100 for a scarf really was too much and I was capable of making one on my own. The scarf came off my neck, the spell was broken and we escaped.

But it's a gorgeous store and worth visiting. Ditto for the website, whose background displays falling cherry petals. If that isn't subtlely mesmerizing, I don't know what is.

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