My second visit to Kyoto was, I’m pleased to report, a smashing success. I held onto my wallet, I missed not a single train or bus, I did not injure or overly humiliate myself, I lost no organs to the black market, I caused no international diplomatic incidents, I neither married nor impregnated anyone, I made no grown men cry (although one embittered convenience store clerk may have cursed me), and I broke nothing that I had to pay for. In my wake lies a minimum of trauma, anguish and bereavement. I made no audible jokes at the expense of nearby old persons, I kicked no living animals, I swallowed nearly every item of food I placed in my mouth, and to the woman two tables over whose legs I ogled during the course of 20 minutes in the Gion Starbucks I have already apologized profusely.

Of coasters, matchbooks, lacquered chopsticks, saké cups, tiny vintage photographs of geisha in tranquil repose, matching salt-and-pepper shaker sets, and small pieces of Chionin Temple, I stole only the minimum required by posterity and the grievous demands of the Holiday Season. All but one bathroom break occurred indoors, the initials I carved into a 2,000-year-old cherry tree in Inari-taisha Shrine are, I believe, completely untraceable, and it’s likely that the taxi driver who nearly sent me into oblivion as I jaywalked across Shinbashi-dori believed afterward that I was only pointing at the sky in his direction. I also feel sure the Chawan-zaka gallery owner who wished me to hand over ¥100 after I took a candid photo of him will think twice before wrestling over ¥100 in a ceramic pottery shop again.

At no time did I spit upon another person’s bare skin, none of the Japanese coins I used were obvious forgeries, and if I made one too many rude jokes to that shoe store clerk in Kyoto Station about the size of my feet, c’mon, it was all in good fun, she’ll live.

The “present” I left under the Christmas Tree in Maruyama Park will surely amuse the lucky city employee who finds it, providing he’s seven years old, has a strong stomach, and is easily amused. Contrary to what a certain passenger in car 3 of the Kyoto-Osaka Keihan line thinks, a small, neat pile of toenail clippings is not cause to summon the conductor, for Christ’s sake. It’s not the Spanish Inquisition, you know. Anyway, toenails biodegrade, which is more than I can say for a certain someone’s tits. Also, here’s a memo for all employees of the Osaka Aquarium: if you think everyone who walks through the door somehow knows that flash photography will permanently blind the fish, you have another think coming. Throw a community sushi dinner and call it a fund-raiser, problem solved.

My host’s hair will grow back eventually, her landlord is unlikely to notice the missing ductwork until at least spring, and if she didn’t tell me she was afraid of heights, how could I possibly know not to rock the Ferris wheel cab while we were at the top? Finally, I don’t know what world her neighbors live in, but in the real one, if any part of a newspaper is lying in your driveway, it’s yours. Finders keepers, man.

New Bride at Heian Jengu Shrine Garden

Shakkei and Japanese Tourists at Heian Jengu Shrine Garden

Texting Woman on Teramachi-dori Corner

Yours Truly