Thursday, July 16, 2015
Our first full day in Kyoto was the Day of (Too) Much Walking
Yes indeed, later in the day some bikes would have been wonderful.
From where we were staying, we saw it was quite easy to walk into town. That was very pleasant. We spent a little time in the cat cafe, while Mum went for a walk instead.
Japan is a land of very many vending machines. Everywhere you look. Not just cold drinks but often beer, very often machines with a multitude of canned coffees, though we were disappointed never to find the famed coffee can that heats up the coffee for you. Plenty of cigarette machines too. So are the kids just too well-behaved to take advantage? I don't get it.
We stumbled on a very nice vegetarian cafe for lunch. (Vegetarian! Such a surprise) Their burger was fantastic, one of the best I've ever had. Vegetarian burgers are often so disappointing. Also, see those boxes on the floor near the chairs? Lots of cafes and restaurants have those - they are for putting your bags in. How civilised.
We continued to admire lots of greenery.
A few more blocks of walking finally got us to Nijo Castle, latish in the afternoon. We were only there just in time to get into the Ninomaru Palace before they stopped allowing people in (once you are in you have to walk a whole circuit inside the building, which takes a decent amount of time). Sadly no photos were allowed inside - below is a little taste, from outside. It was very well preserved and being immersed for a time, you could get a bit of a feeling of what it might have been like there in the Edo period. It has the nightingale floors that squeak to warn of someone sneaking in.
Then we enjoyed wandering the gardens
Crossing moats and admiring the angled stone walls
I can't get enough of those stone walls
Climbing up to high ground
for a view, before we were herded out as closing time approached.
Having been walking almost all day thus far, we decided to jump on a bus across the city to get closer to the Gion district where we were staying. It was a nice bonus to be able to use our Tokyo Pasmo cards from the metro, on the Kyoto buses. But we probably should have chosen the bus more carefully. Where we got off was still a long walk from home.
At first this was ok, we were walking in the right direction and still seeing interesting sights. These ridiculously cute rabbit traffic barriers are actually nothing very special in Japan - totally standard roadworks furniture. It really is impossible to imagine anything like this being used seriously in Australia. Unthinkable.
Actually there wasn't the overwhelming amount of cute stuff I sort of feared in Japan. But there was evidence everywhere of attention given to the design of things, making utilitarian things look pleasant and harmonious. Drain/sewer covers are an obvious and quite well-known example. The Kyoto one below is actually very plain compared to some.
As we walked and walked, there was some doubting of the direction, much consulting of maps, some grumpiness...it turned out we were never lost exactly, it was just a very long wander.... and maybe we should have packed a spare boiled egg or two.
Finally we knew we were back in our neighbourhood and could look for somewhere to have dinner. We were all a little bit hangry by this point.
And the evening was redeemed when we stumbled upon another, quite different, yet amazing, Kyoto dining experience. A tiny bistro with just a counter to sit at, with six? maybe eight? seats. Just the one man running the place and doing all the cooking, serving, cleaning, taking our orders with little/no English but impressive efficiency and calm. The food was fantastic and this tempura, well, I think actually it was as good, just about, as the expensive one the night before.