It took us a little while, but eventually we got swept up in a tide of canes and walkers and found ourselves on a long, flat, bustling street adorned with tissue paper flags, shops selling lucky red granny panties and the latest in old lady fashion. There were also tons of pastry bars.
We stopped at the busiest pastry bar, right on the corner across from a temple. Having spent lots of time both at Good Mong Kok Bakery in San Francisco and at what is supposed to be the most popular egg custard spot in Beijing, I feel quite at ease in a crowd of old ladies speaking a different language, throwing elbows and jostling at counters. This particular jostling crowd, though, turned out to be a very polite Japanese jostling crowd; I sidled in, dukes up, ready to fight, and the crowd just sort of organically melted away. My turn came before I'd even checked out the goods!
Eugene eyed a skewer of 4 glutinous-looking balls covered in viscous-looking brown liquid, and as he did so, a lady behind the counter, through gestures, asked what seemed to be akin to 'What are you going to do with this? Are you going to eat it?'
A strange implication, but one that didn't deter him. He bought the skewer. I bought an egg sesame bun.
We stepped back from the counter to try them out. His skewer oozed mystery syrup onto the napkin it sat on and from there onto the pavement below, rolling and undulating at a glacial speed.
It looked incredibly unappetizing, and his face after he tried it confirmed this - but I still wanted a ball for the sake of holding to my eating-everything-itude.
He held the still-oozing napkin up to my mouth as I gingerly lifted the skewer and turned my head sideways to try and bite off a piece without smearing myself in goo.
It tasted like a lukewarm rice ball covered in a cross between maple syrup and teriyaki sauce.
My lips sticking confusedly to my tongue and teeth, I raised my eyes from the skewer and saw that there were two old ladies standing next to me and peering into my face. They looked delighted - and very amused. "Oiishi desu ka?!" they chirped, grinning widely at each other and at me.
I smiled back at them even though syrup was probably dripping grotesquely from my face.
We continued along our way to a statue with a roped queue leading to it: it was surrounded by older people, who were dipping saucers in a bubbling faucet at its feet, wetting one of a stack of washcloths that sat at the faucet's base, and vigorously and thoroughly scrubbing the statue clean before making quick bows and departing.
There were other statues around.
They had offerings at their feet.
Guess what their offering boxes were full of?