Monday, April 21, 2008

A day in Kyoto

I have to say that the whole enterprise of purchasing tickets in Japan doesn’t make very much more sense even when you have Austin with you. We decided to buy unreserved seats on the shinkansen to Kyoto because it’s not a huge distance and there didn’t seem to be huge numbers of people around and it’s quite a bit cheaper than a reserved seat. Trying to figure out the machine’s instructions, even when it was talking in English was something of a mystery! And it wouldn’t take my credit card which meant that I had to pay in cash - which is irritating because it costs me less to use the card to buy things than to get cash, which is quite expensive.

But once you get on the train of your choice, it’s a dream. The train took us smoothly and speedily to Kyoto, and decanted us 30 minutes later.

Lindsey had bought a copy of the Lonely Planet City Guide to Kyoto which we had brought with us. She and Ian are heading this way in a couple of weeks time, so we’ll leave it with Austin when we go. It had suggested that if you only had a day in town, to do one of two guided walks. We selected the first one and decided to walk to it. Off we went and were heading towards the bus stop where the walk starts, when we noticed a park. We popped in to see what was in it. And found a temple complex. At first we thought it was Kiyomizu-dera which is the temple complex mentioned in the guide book. It was certainly quite busy. And rather beautiful. It was only when we were heading out and saw signs to Kiyomizu that we realised that this temple, which wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the guidebook, was somewhere different. I noted the name on sign at the time but didn’t write it down. It’s taken me quite a lot of serious searching this morning to find its name. And I can’t think why. It was lovely. (For those who are interested, it was the Higashi Honganji temple)

Out we came and tried to find the guided walk. We did find it, but weren’t actually where we thought we were. Nevertheless, we found our way to Kiyomizu which is huge and amazing. And very, very crowded. It was full of both Japanese and foreign visitors. Not that that is surprising. It is a significant Buddhist temple complex, it’s a World Heritage Site and it was a sunny Sunday afternoon. We had a leisurely wander about. Austin and The Builder went down to the Tainai-meguri, which is the figurative womb of some “goddess” who has the power to grant every human wish. You have to pay your ¥100, remove your shoes, go down into the pitch black darkness, make your way along a winding tunnel to a wishing stone which has daylight shining on it. You turn the wishing stone and make your wish then go back into the pitch black darkness and make your winding way out.

I did not engage in this activity!!!!!!!!!!! There is nothing at all that I wish for strongly enough to undergo that sort of activity voluntarily. Or at all!!!

Didn’t take them long, though. They ere only gone a few minutes.

There were children dressed up as geishas. And lots of the women were wearing kimonos. And some of the men were also wearing traditional dress. Mostly, of course, people don't.

We decided not to pay our ¥300 to go into the main temple complex. The afternoon was getting on a bit and it would have taken most of the rest of it to explore it properly. We wanted to see more of Kyoto.

We came out and went back down the hill - and eventually found a map of he city on a wall which had a nice red “You are here” arrow on it. At last we could orientate ourselves with where we actually were. We made our way back to where we should have been on the walking tour. For the first time, I think!!!

There are laneways filled with shops selling pottery, food, knickknacks, things, and lots and lots of people milling about. There are little shrine along the way. We missed the turn off to what is supposed to be Kyoto’s most beautiful street but found a beautiful verdigris covered building with a huge verdigris crane poised above the top. That’s a bird, not a mechanical crane! We ended up in a lovely park, where we sat and followed the fortunes of the Bulldogs in their footie match against, I think, Richmond. The Bullies were down. Then they came back. It was all very fraught. At the siren ------ it was a TIE! A bit of a relief, for after a good start it had looked as though Footscray was going to be pipped at the post. It was Ian, I think, who was keeping Austin informed by Text Message.

We abandoned the guided walk at this point and made our way in a leisurely and roundabout-ish sort of a way back to the station and thence back to Nagoya and Hozumi, Austin’s local station. I oh-so wish I had been wearing a pedometer. I would love to know how many steps I took on that walk. It was a fantastic day. I’m so glad we went. It was a bit tempting this morning to abandon the plan and hang around here!

Oh - and we have found a thible for The Builder's mother's thimble collection. We had despaired of ever finidng one and bought a small turtle incense holder that wold fit in the thimble holder. Then, in a pottery shop in Sannen-zaka, there they were. Lots of handmade thimbles costing a pretty penny. We bought one anyway. They are hand cast and hand pained and no two were the same. I do hope she likes it

Back in Motosu we went to Apita for a few bits and pieces and then back to Austin’s for another serving of steak and chips. Kaori was supposed to be with us. She was supposed to have been with us all day, but was still not well enough to come. She was especially supposed to be with us this evening, though. She’s never had home made chips before :-( I think we are supposed to be meeting her this evening in Nagoya for dinner.

It’s our last day here. We have to make our way back to Tokyo tomorrow, ready for our flight back home on Wednesday. Hardly seems any time since we were leaving ready for our big adventure!
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