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Heading South in the Archipielago

Off to Kyoto!

sunny 30 °C

We take the night bus from Tokyo to Kyoto. Its just a normal, no reclining comfy seats but surprisingly we still manage to sleep a few hours, albeit with aching muscles in the morning. When you think Kyoto, you imagine a town with beautiful old buildings and blossoming cherry trees everywhere, and geishas running down the streets.
But Kyoto is a big town with lots of new, not so attractive buildings - you have to go look for the beauty of it.
We are really lucky with our hostel, its tiny (in every way, you almost cannot walk upright inside) and the owner is super friendly. His name is Komeo and he speaks brilliant Spanish after travelling around South America on a motorbike for two years. One of his favourite countries there was Colombia and needless to say he and Nico hit it off from the start. We call him Che but he laughs and says he is not worthy of that comparison although he shares similar ideals. Because the hostel is so small and friendly its our favourite place we have stayed so far, every night we come home to a little lounge full of chattering friendly guests eager to share experiences. They are all teachers from South Korea, but from all corners of the world taking advantage of uni reading week off.

Everyone is cycling in Kyoto - the usually super polite Japanese become reckless on the bicycle. Cycling on the pavement, mowing everyone down that is in their way.
We decide to cycle around and see the sights instead of sitting on a bus all day long. We quickly adopt the Japanese way of cycling. Although all these people almost running us over on the pavement annoyed us like mad when we were walking, we are now ringing our bell asking these slow walkers to move out of our way. And its great.
We spend two days cycling around Kyoto, in heat and rain, we see some beautiful temples and the odd geisha rushing past us on the street. We see tourists dressed as geisha. We discover Okonomi Yaki food to Nico’s delight. We see the house of the shogunate. The alarm system in those days consisted of putting hinges under the floorboards so that they squeaked. Pretty clever.
The shogun was based in Tokyo and stayed there when he came to Kyoto. He also had the top geisha wait on him during his stay. Even though his wife was back in Tokyo.
Some temples are overrun with tourists, making the experience slightly less pleasant. Others we get to earlier in the morning, when there are less people around. We see the Zen rock garden at Ryoan-Ji temple. Its a gravel square with 15 rocks of various sizes in it. You can interpret it any way you like, but my favourite thing about the Ryoan-Ji temple is the inscription in the Tsukubai stone wash basin that reads 'I learn only to be contented'.

Posted by RuizJosef 08.10.2010 07:11 Archived in Japan

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