We’d gone from sweating all night, to sleeping with a blanket. Amazing what one day (and a huge storm) can do. Driving into town this morning, the temperature signs were in the low 20s. I think it was the first time since we left Hokkaido that it has been so cold, and I’m grateful that it’s finally a hospitable temperature.
Risa didn’t want to make the long ‘cub journey again, so we packed up at Kameoka and drove into Kyoto, parking at an internet café megaplex car park. A little dodgy, but we’re poor. Any saving is a saving, especially with the parking that they charge in tourist areas, which is where we were heading. Arashiyama.
The crowds were filling the streets before we got to the start of the Arashiyama area, as were the souvenir shops. We rode around the area for a while on the ‘cub, unsure what there was here to see. I’d read about a bamboo forest and a bridge (as well as the usual temples/shrines/gardens). Trying to ride around backstreets slowly, enjoying the sights is made stressful/unpleasant by the arse-clown taxi drivers. They tailgate, pull out in front of you, and stop in front of you. They are just generally unpleasant to be anywhere near.
Anyway, we parked near the start of the walking trail around Kame-yama, and within minutes of starting on the trail, we were surrounded by giant shoots of bamboo. The bamboo was big/tall and dense, blocking most of the (already dim) light. What we didn’t realise was that this nice calm road, was actually a road. And, along came the taxis… At least there weren’t too many that came through. Taxis aside, it was a beautiful/serene place. There were other people, but it never felt like a swarm.
We walked to the top of the mountain, where we caught a glimpse of the river travelling upstream. There is a popular boat-ride (¥3900) that starts near where we started in Kamegawa and finishes here in Arashiyama. It’s a traditional style boat that flows through (according to the advertising) beautiful gorges. Anyway, it was too expensive for us.
We came back down the mountain, saw the bridge that was considered an attraction (it’s not, I didn’t even want to take a photo of it) then walked around town towards the bike. It was around 2PM, so we stopped for lunch. Risa wanted to have a special meal in Kyoto, so she was looking a the restaurants to see what they had to offer. We found a nice buffet-style restaurant, specialising in Kyoto cuisine, so we gave it a try. I usually have quite a substantial breakfast, so I don’t really need much for lunch, but I thought I wouldn’t need dinner. Before we committed, Risa asked one of the customers that was leaving if it was any good. They said it was, so we paid our money (¥1890) and headed upstairs to get our feast on. I didn’t really know what was Kyoto cuisine, but had heard that tofu was a speciality. The restaurant had several styles of tofu, as well as lots of Japanese style salads and various fried (tenpura) food. There was also plenty of deserts to try as well. It was good food, and it was nice being able to sample such a wide range of tastes. I just always feel with buffet restaurants though that I would enjoy a single, equally priced meal more. But, it’s usually in retrospect.
It was now close to 3PM and it was getting quite dark. The other main place we wanted to see today was Fushimi-Inari-Taisha. It’s something that is frequently photographed (like Kinkaku-ji), and to me is a Kyoto landmark. I forget the numbers, but I thought there were more than 10,000 torii (red gate) lining the trail up the mountain. Each torii was donated by a person/company (the back had their details enscribed). I thought that since it was getting quite dark (4PM and overcast), we would have the area almost to ourselves. Nup. But, it wasn’t too bad. It was till somewhat of a challenge to photograph the giant rows of torii without people walking through them. It was quite amazing walking through this tunnel of torii, I’ve seen plenty of photographs before, so I knew what to expect, but actually walking through them is another story. They were packed to densely that light barely penetrated through them, plus the sheer number of them couldn’t fail to impress. We’d read on the information board prior to walking up that it takes about 2 hours to walk the circuit, so we didn’t go all the way to the top (though, I really, really wanted to). We stopped about half-way, and headed back down a separate trail (which I later realised was just a normal path, sans torii. But, at least it did allow us to see the brilliant (and surprise) sunset (which we couldn’t get a clear view of due to trees/houses/powerlines etc, so I didn’t photograph).
I’d have to say this was my favourite sight in Kyoto (though, to be fair, I didn’t see that many others).
Back at the car and exhausted (from trying to process all the food that we’d gorged on at lunch), we couldn’t decide what to do. Stay another night in Kyoto, or head off. I’d seen all that I needed to see, as had Risa, so we decided to leave. Sure, there was heaps that we didn’t see, but constant entrance fees for temples/parks/castles quickly add up. Added to the stress/inconvenience of not having a place to stay centrally (and therefore commuting everyday) it wasn’t that hard a choice to make. But, before we left, we went to see Risa’s friend’s new café that he’s renovating. He’s just taken contract of the space, and is still deciding how to furnish the area. Wasn’t really sure why there was a giant rabbit there…
Since his café was an empty space, we went somewhere so that we could sit down and chat. Risa saw a café that took her interest (and had a good rating on taberogu), so off we went. The place was called Gospel, and it looked like 19th century western house. It was quite unusual for Japan (but, not so strange for me). My biggest surprise was how expensive it was (and that they required everyone to order a drink). The food looked great, but I was still quite full from our late-lunch feast. The drinks, less so. Anyway, we grabbed a piece of cheesecake to share (as well as some tea/juice, since it was mandatory). Added to the parking fee (at a nearby car park), made for quite an expensive snack. Oh well.
Still unsure of where to head (but thinking Nara, again), we headed towards the nearest michi-no-eki, which wasn’t that near… nor in the direction that we wanted to head tomorrow. But, it was late, I was tired, and I didn’t want to drive for hours (or hope that we randomly find a place to park with a toilet en-route), so we took the path of least resistance.