Log of Japan, Day 4

Tuesday April 14, 7:25AM. Overcast.

Today, I went to Kyoto. The commute to Shinagawa Station, the station that would allow me to board the Shinkansen to Kyoto, was without a hitch; I arrived fifteen minutes early. I reserved a window seat, which was nice. I saw some interesting things on the way there. While everyone is aware of the fact that the Shinkansen is very fast, it is something else to experience it. While you do go faster on an airplane, you never really experience it, because you do not have any reference points to see how fast you go. The Shinkansen has landmarks, so you see how fast you go. It is somewhat surreal. The Shinkansen went through various towns and villages; it reminded me of how, despite it being a technological powerhouse, Japan still had a considerable agricultural presence, at least within it’s own boundaries. Something that I thought was interesting was how there were paddies or farm-grounds embedded within residential areas, meaning that some houses would have farmland right in between each other. I don’t know if they are residentially owned or not (like a vegetable garden), but considering their size, I would doubt it (in New York, some buildings have community owned vegetable gardens on top of the apartments, that everyone can pick from; this is what I was thinking of when I said “residentially owned”).

After two and a half hours, I arrived in Kyoto. I found my way to the Inari Torii Gates. The entire place is quite sentimental. Since it was raining, the smell of the forest was intensified, which I liked. I didn’t go through the entire complex of temples and gates, but I enjoyed what I did. I was surprised to find the large amount of French people who were there.

After I was finished there, I was starving. I looked around near the station for some food, and I found some meat-on-sticks (I would be ignorant to call them kebabs) on the street. Since the last time I had a real steak was when I was outside of Japan, the food satisfied my craving for beef. On top of that, I was served by some old dude who was blasting some 80’s American pop music and wearing a pirate hat. I took a picture of him.

I also went to the Kiyomizu temple. It was a bit of a walk from the subway station, and was uphill for a decent part of the way. Since I was sweating, as well as the fact that it was raining (I did have an umbrella, but it could only do so much), I was soaking wet by the time I reached the top.  It was pretty at the base of the temple, but I didn’t feel like paying in order to access the rest.

On the way there, some Japanese man dropped a bunch of business cards whilst in the process of getting a tissue. I picked them up and rushed down to the man in order to give them back. At first, he was dismissive; he probably thought I was trying to sell him something. Or maybe he was racist (which is not as farfetched as one may be led to believe). Anyway, his wife, after a short while, recognized the cards were given to him prior, and then told her husband. They then took the cards. I think they were quite grateful, because they kept thanking me and bowing until I couldn’t see them anymore. It made quite a spectacle; I imagine it is quite an unusual sight to see people bowing to some foreign white man in Kyoto. I hope I left a good impression of foreign people on them, especially the man. While it would logically be incorrect for him to generalize foreigners based off of his experience with me, I think he would be better off doing that.

After that, I went to the inn I had booked, called the Nashinoki Inn. It is family run, and is traditional. It is really cute here; for some reason, I find the fact that I have to duck underneath doorways endearing. The room I have is a 3×3 metre single room. It has a small table, a tiny t.v. and a tatami mat bed.

After arriving and dropping my things off, I immediately set off for the Tondaya townhouse. It is a 130 year old townhouse that was owned by a kimono wholesaler. At first, I set out only with my map. Alex was kind enough to mark it up with important locations, but her mark for the townhouse off by a couple of blocks. Therefore, I spent about 45 minutes running to and from that location to the inn. I was sopping wet, and discouraged.. The inn owner was kind enough to offer drying my pants, but I didn’t have the time. Alex had also printed out a google maps guide to the house. Using that, I managed to make it on time, something that was worrying me on the way there.

The townhouse is beautiful. They gave me a tour of the house. The lady who gave me the tour was cute and kind; I have forgotten her name, as usual. In general, people in Kyoto seem to be kinder than people in Tokyo (In retrospect, this isn’t surprising). The girls here also seem to be much prettier than those from Tokyo. Anyway, I can’t really describe the townhouse, but I took a lot of pictures. After the tour, they did a tea ceremony. It was more casual than I had anticipated, but it was still very pleasant. They used their own Green tea, which was in a kind of powder. They then whisked it into hot water, which helped steep it and make it frothy. It tasted good. I would’ve bought some, but I didn’t have the money.

After that I headed back to the inn. I looked up where I could find a bank, and found it too far for it to be worth the trouble. I wasn’t hungry anyways, so I didn’t go out to eat dinner. I could’ve seen whether or not the restaurant around the corner from the inn took credit cards, but I guess after paying everything throughout the day in cash, I was under the suspicion that the restaurants weren’t going to take cards.

I am planning to check out the Gion district (the part of Kyoto with all the Geishas), as well as western Kyoto to see the Golden Pavilion and some more temples. So far, I have been enjoying Kyoto.

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