Day 1 – The Waiting Game
As a few droplets of rain landed on my face I made my way into Kyoto station having just finished a restless night on the night bus. Suffice to say I was operating on reserve energy, but still had roughly nine hours to wait until I could check in to my apartment. This first day due to this isn’t anything to really write about as it was simply a waiting game of colossal proportions that can be summarised as thus; pulled a suitcase needlessly up a mountain, waited at a mini-stop for 2 hours, slept on a park bench in front of small children, and then slept the rest of the day away. Hardly makes for eventful reading does it? I suppose I threw a ball back to some kids, that could almost count as a highlight..? Momentous!
Oh, thinking on it, I did discover there were bugs in the apartment that I’d be staying at. Thankfully they don’t bite, or if they do then it doesn’t leave a mark or hurt.
Meeting Maho and a surprise Mizu
This is where some of the magic began. I had wanted to meet Maho one on one. The first reason for this was because I prefer these situations because you can easily be heard and conversations have to flow along a certain type of track. The second reason was because I wanted to get to know her better – someone who organised and pushed to go to Tokyo in order to visit me; if I can’t talk one on one with somebody who wanted to meet me that badly then it would put me at a bit of a loss. Truly, that sentiment was not lost on me. The last time I was able to speak to her like that was in the UK 3 times, and once at Arashiyama, but with 20 minutes being the limit.
So, the initial plan was to go to Kokedera Temple, however we had made arrangements too late and became unable to go. This was unfortunate, however it was of no real consequence because I will both have the opportunity to go again in the future, and also because hanging out was the main objective anyway. While waiting I had developed a rather lovely sweat as the sun was high in the noon sky, not allowing many places to escape the onslaught of heat therefore causing me to be rather relieved to be entering a building soon. After a meeting place mix up we both eventually reached our first point of call: a Starbucks that was themed like a traditional Kyoto teahouse in the Kiyamachi area. When I saw her I actually involuntarily moved, almost bashing a poor small person next to me, slightly to my embarrassment. We then went inside, and after a small mix up managed to get seats in the specially themed room – which I realised was a bit of a miracle cosidering in the whole building there were only about 6 seating spots where you could do this.
So we chatted and drank. We mostly used Japanese, jumping to English on a few small occasions, the conversation started off slightly strange-feeling, but eventually I think we got a feel for one-another. She even gave me a little gift too, a tiny keychain onigiri omiyage! After around 50 minutes or perhaps more we left, we had been there for easily the longest amount of time out of everybody (there had already been 2 rotations of people). It was still boiling so Maho got out her umbrella and we went searching for the nearby Pagoda while chatting about tanning and sunburns. As it turned out on that particular day we couldn’t actually climb it, leaving both of our plans in a bit of turmoil with both my Kokedera and her pagoda plans in tatters!
It was at this time that I came up with the masterplan of going to Kiyomizudera, this was where things went from interesting to plain exciting for me. We ascended the slope and stairs, at times dashing past other people and kimono wearers as a pair of children would while playing games; we were both laughing. If fact, I think she may have actually been sweating more than me by this stage – there goes that myth! By the time we reached the shrine there was some cloud overhead, and I remember being a little bit surprised that it had come in without me noticing. We had a couple of girls take a photo of us (they couldn’t use my camera), we thought they were Japanese so Maho asked them – to which they replied in English that they didn’t know Japanese, making both of us laugh as I asked in my language instead!
Just before the temple there was a place which involved entering a dark passageway, which you navigated by holding a rope. I thoroughly enjoyed this bit as it was so dark that I really couldn’t see a thing. This may sound strange, but when you’re constantly surrounded by light (even at night) you never really get to experience complete darkness – which makes it fun. Even a pitch black room in a house typically has a single source of light somewhere which vaguely illuminates everything else. Here I was walking into Maho every time she stopped and mistook her arm for the rope at one stage to amusing results upon finding her head! We found the rock and made our wishes, I admit, my “wish” was more of a feeling than a focussed thought.
The next spot was the temple itself, I bought two tickets (I was actually prepared to buy entrance to Kokedera for the two of us before anyway) and after washing our hands we entered the main complex. It was actually under construction works – as I’d been here last year I didn’t worry quite so much about it, I wanted to go to the waterfall. Maho on the other hand was searching desperately for a rosary bead (数珠) which I actually found to her happiness. The idea is that for each temple you go to you get a bead with its name on, resulting in making your own full version – I’ll try this myself one day after returning. We then went down to the waterfall.
It was at this moment that the heavens broke. It wasn’t as if somebody had merely turned on the tap – that happens slowly, it was as if somebody had decided that the sink had offended them in some way and decided to sledgehammer the poor installation, tap, sink and wall! Rain, and a lot of it! The forecasted weather had been of sunshine and yet we were being cloudbursted. I loved every drop. And so it came to be that from this point on I found myself huddled beneath a tiny tiny umbrella with a local Japanese model – there are a lot of fanboys who would probably have killed for this moment and I must say, I did enjoy it. At the waterfall I drank for marriage/relationships, Maho drank for study. We then sang and skipped and slid down the road to the bus stop and here to a train station – our time was coming to an end.
Saying goodbye was again an odd affair, we said goodbye, and I was asked to keep her updated on my address – usually that is my line! Neither of us made any move to leave again, this moment culminated in a surprisingly long hug goodbye. I watched her go, and she looked over at me and laughed three times as I waited for her to go out of sight. It was a good afternoon out! I was glad for this chance, I guess, I’m aware of her in her professional context, but in my head she is simply Maho – the cute girl who wanted me to show her around Norwich, help with a presentation in English, and had an odd quietness back when we all met. A year and a half sure travels fast.
Then the evening came around. Where with Maho initially I felt slightly nervous due to not knowing how conversation would flow (in the end, easily), I had no such worries when it came to Mizuho. When I spotted her I again sped up with happiness, where Maho is playful, Mizuho is simply a big flipping ray of giddy sunshine. This was actually where she worked, this Okinawan themed restaurant. We sat down and chose our food and drinks – settling on the most unusual things possible. There was this strange flavoured vegetable called “Gomu” I think it was. I had a tempura version and also a drink version; it was possibly one of the most bitter things I had ever tried. We also ate sweet doughnuts, a big cheesy dish, a bamboo salad, and I’m pretty sure something else too. We also drank a lot of drinks between us, perhaps six?
As for the conversation we chatted away of mindless things, I was pretty overjoyed by this stage! I did flirt a small bit to no return, but I expected as much and wasn’t terribly surprised either – despite this I am very casual around her. Mizuho had also come up to Tokyo before to visit me and wanted to spend an extra day there to be shown around, so again I am thankful to her! Not to mention Miho museum. So again, if I have the chance to bum around with her I will. The food was great, and the company even better. I walked her back home afterwards, I’ll see her again in a week for a bit of mountain climbing.
Today was the day which I had planned seemingly minimally for in the end, I ran out of the door in a frenzy in order to catch my bus – which was an earlier bus than I had initially planned for, but in the end seemed like the best choice. I was off to Amanohashidate with Rae and Oda! We met at the train station and I prepared the godlike pass that is the Seishun 18 pass. We passed the ticket gate, found our first train and like the wind we were off, heading due north.
Amanohashidate was somewhere that is mentioned in my travel book and the more that I thought about it the more I decided that I wanted to go there. When I suggested going to this place with the girls the seemed to be up for it, despite the ticket setbacks that I was having with private railways and the JR railways not being standardised with the tickets that you are allowed to use on them; such a nuisance that I have encountered before with planning. We mostly caught up on the train, while I showed off pictures of the previous day and talked about next year a bit too. It really had been too long or so it felt – despite actually catching up more times than expected over this past year.
Upon arriving at the station (and a somewhat scenic train journey), we stepped out of the station and proceeded to… put on some suncream while I adjusted my camera’s focus. Then checked out a souvenir shop, then explored a bit, bought some lunch, and then found our way to the bottom of a chairlift. The general area was honestly pretty clean and nice, but definitely had a touristic feel. Naturally somewhere like this survives because of tourism – and later this would lead me to wonder how recently this location had been designated as a place of scenic beauty. Perhaps it was designated as such because it was its only method of survival?
After some confusion we bought our tickets and headed up the chairlift. Higher and higher we floated, with me taking pictures from behind while the other two would occasionally (and goofily) look back for some reason or another. I wanted to eat my lunch on the chairlift, but if I dropped any of it then it would simply be heartbreaking – as it’d result in my lack of anything to eat. A hungry Jamie is a sad Jamie. The top was also well equipped, fit with rides, you could pretty much call it a tiny amusement park; it wasn’t too expensive, but the rides really were more for small children than anybody else.
I will say that I thought the view from here was pretty good. More than anything the way in which from this location it was possible to see all facets of the bay. The bridge itself was certainly pretty, although possibly due to the cloudy atmosphere of the day it was slightly blurred. I liked this location more for the view of the whole area than anything else, also it was slightly cooler – which is a huge blessing for Japan at this time of year. High places let you dream of being a bird for a while, or allow you to have the illusion that you’re on a movie set with how dramatic it can be. It was at this stage that I tucked happily into my breakfast, sparing not a single grain of rice in my pursuit of satiety. Then after finding the girls we proceeded to take dozens upon dozens of photographs, mostly of ourselves with the view, being the vain, apparently narcissistic bunch that us motley trio were.
After binging on photos we took the chairlift back down. I took a video for the majority of the way down, and according to Oda I got shouted at by the man for bumping up and down – although I had actually stopped ages ago. Heck, there was even a small bug at the bottom saying goodbye to us. We then made our way to a shrine (where I picked up and subsequently discarded a mere small luck omikuji), and then bought ice cream, where we had an amusing bit of money confusion, but all was well in the end! Now, next came a rather juicy bit, or perhaps wet bit.
The bridge itself was actually very spacious once you began to walk through it. There were trees towering overhead, sand mingled with rubble shifted slightly underfoot, and there were plenty of cyclists to avoid. We walked onto the beach and waded knee-deep into the water. It was at this moment, chatting away while looking around at all of the people having fun and also looking into the horizon I remembered that I was in a foreign country on my year abroad. It was time to let loose and swim. In this fuck it all moment I took off everything except my glasses and my underwear and leapt haphazardly into the water! It was shockingly warm, shockingly dirty, but unshockingly enjoyable – like that song about glorious mud, mud “nothing quite like it for cooling the blood”. Rae came almost straight in too, while Oda took a moment to ready herself – but went with a bra which was slightly risqué but earned my respect. We played around, learned to swim once more, glanced occasionally at the two girls near us (ok, probably just me) and eventually got out once the sun was weakening due to increased cloud cover. I got out, air-dried, and within my head was laughing to myself!
Next came the drying walk, and honestly I was surprised how long it took to cross the whole sandbank, we were checked out quite a lot during this time for some reason, although I will admit we must have looked rather odd in the scheme of things. Didn’t particularly mind the attention. I will note that the calm side really did look quite picturesque with the water as serene as it was, and of course was contrast to the gentle crashing of the ocean on the opposite side.
Upon reaching the opposite side there wasn’t much that we did besides discover a rather high-tech temple. Although after consideration we ended up renting bikes (to the irritation of one annoying ‘punter’). It was a wonderful experience, cycling back while chatting and laughing to the other two. It had been so long since I had ridden a bike that the feeling of my legs moving and the wind in my face was almost alien to me. I enjoyed every moment of it!
As a final thing in the area we ended up stumbling across an abandoned house, the water was ever so clear and deserved a few photos; in fact it was practically inviting the photos – especially with a crane perched on its eastern flank! As a final exhausted thing, we went out and ate together. I had had a wonderful day, but I was certainly craving my bed by this stage. I was glad to share an adventure, going solo isn’t always for the best!
Saki, mark II
We were actually supposed to have met the previous day, but as the weather decided it was not to be we followed its suggestion and rescheduled. So it came to be that on a bright early morning we met at Kyoto station. Throwing all previous ideas of where to go to the wind we went to Uji in pursuit of ice cream; which truth be told I was glad for – both Yuzuki and Nagisa had mentioned this place to me before. We hopped onto the train and paid absolutely no heed to the outside world flying past as we began catching up, or rather talking of absolutely anything and everything may be more of a correct term.
We arrived at Uji and god-damn it was hot, so far I don’t think I have sweated more in Japan than that one moment, it was pouring from my face, even Saki’s face was sweating – that alone should be a pure testament to how warm it was. As it was too early for ice cream we checked out Byodo-in, a famous place due to its use as a setting in “The tale of Genji”, which is a story that Saki took the time to summarise for me. It was pretty much a tale of how Genji wasn’t picky in who he had sex with – this sounded like a fair representation of the era honestly once he found a rather young girl to his tastes. We binge photographed the building itself but weren’t all too fussed with entering, especially considering that the other museum, all full of old depictions of Buddhism deities were fairly cool anyway.
We eventually left in pursuit of shade, lunch and things to do. For lunch we ate green soba noodles which were most likely tea flavoured, there was also a smoked salmon in mine which I found most certainly to my taste. There was also a waiter who was quite clearly done with life – we found this of particular amusement: at the way in which she set the food down with a clatter and her sheer nonchalance. She was a badass and she knew it. From here we braved the heat once more and headed towards a temple that was supposedly full of hydrangeas when in the correct season – which it was not. On the way there there was a jump in laughter in the conversation, and we came across a cicada who was dying in the middle of the road. Cars actually took care not to run it over after seeing our fascination with it! Its bequeathed posthumous name was Peter if you wanted to know. Never forget!
Leaving our friend behind we made it to the temple. Upon the approach we wondered if there was anybody in admissions – there was, however we casually walked past, happily dodging the 400 yen admission fee, score! From here we explored, continued chatting and took photos. For the most part pictures of bugs were taken as there were very few flowers that were actually in bloom. I was surprised to hear how close some families could be, but I liked the sound of it.
While walking back I actually decided to tell her that I liked her last year – I couldn’t actually tell if she was surprised or not, but I felt nervous regardless. The conversation left this topic pretty quick which gave an indication, but I felt better for just saying it. The next stop was an ice cream place where we had to wait for an hour before we could eat. I must say, that was some good ice cream – it had a very strong flavour of tea to it, and it was also immensely creamy. I didn’t like the jelly too much though, I’m not a fan of it with my ice cream, the combination is all wrong and have thought so ever since I was a kid! Ice cream and jelly, no thank you!
Following this it was a train journey up to a 2000 year old shrine. We passed through Keihan lines and I saw Maho’s face everywhere which still makes me chuckle, even to this day! Going somewhere and having a friend’s face pop up is just plain amusing. It was at this stage of our journey that it began to rain. The first real indication of the degree of rain was seeing a lightning bolt roughly 3 kilometres away, and then about five minutes later it began once more.
My umbrella was useful, Saki’s was somewhat useless considering how small it was and also because it was suited for protecting her from the sun than it was for protecting her from the rain unfortunately. So it didn’t take long before it showed. I’m not sure she was in the best of moods from this point. On the other hand I was having the absolute time of my life, thunderstorms do not happen all too frequently in the UK, therefore having one as awesome as this right in front of me while being battered with heavy rain AND heading towards a sacred site was simply incredible. The path which we were walking was flanked on either side by trees, and later became almost like a wooded park, it was nice, what with the occasional flash from an unknown location and the quickly forming rivers around our feet/in our shoes. On the way to the temple/shrine we actually came across a rock which apparently was the origin of the Japanese national anthem. I couldn’t read the rock, and to me it looked pretty much like any other rock, but who am I to argue which rocks are considered sacred. Honestly I’m not one to argue such moot points.
At the shrine itself we actually got trapped by the rain for a bit, and then eventually ploughed through. There wasn’t anything special about the place, or so I felt. This is despite it being a 200 year old shrine oddly enough. Places like Fushimi Inari are much much younger, and despite this have much more of a refined air about them, it felt like there really was nothing there. On the way back it stopped raining and we crossed the river via stepping stones. On the way to the other side the water was traversable, however when it came to coming the same way back across the stones the water even actually appeared to increase, much to my amusement and already soaking wet shoes. After this little escapade we went our separate ways, it had been a very long day and we were both soaking wet.
Overall the day was fun and with lots of conversation (in English). Although I did kind of run out of topics from time to time, leaving a few awkward silences, and I definitely felt like I was speaking too much by the end of it – the proof of this was that my voice hurt a little bit at the end. I also felt a little bit strange saying goodbye, but that was most likely due to both of us being exhausted by the rain more than anything. The next time we meet I will use Japanese though. It will feel strange, but hopefully it’ll be good enough for complicated types of conversation.
Two and a half years. It had been a while. I seem to have this magical gift where I don’t see or talk to anybody for years on end, but then end up catching up with them after all of this time. I suppose you coud call it a useful trait, however part of me does lament about all of the time which I could have used in order to get to know those people. But honestly on the other hand there is the issue that I can only solidly communicate with so many people at once in earnest. I knew Ayaka from the first Ritsumeikan group that came to UEA, this was back when I lived with Rin on Wellington Road. Because 4 of the 6 people in our house were Japanese second years I was able to tag along on this boat, meaning I was able to talk to them and get to know them. I remember Ayaka’s sadness at having to leave. I also remember receiving a letter from her and gave her one in return.
Fast forward two years and recently from time to time we have been chatting. She’ll be going to the UK to study for her masters for a year. In Edinburgh though. This is quite far away from Norwich, but I always did want an excuse to go up there and have a proper look around! So we started the day with us both being majestically late in arriving at the station. Or rather, we managed to meet up on the train on the way there by an amusing (but slightly deliberate on my part) twist of fate. She couldn’t actually recognise me on the train despite looking at me several times down the cars. It was here that we began chatting – the chosen language: Japanese. So here began 8 hours of chatting mostly in Japanese and catching up on various things. Catching up may not be the right phrase though, more like getting to actually get to know one another. Meeting somebody briefly gives you an outline, from there the intricate details of a person begin to be fleshed out.
We got off at Kurumadera station, there was a faint covering of cloud, but otherwise it was a beautiful, if not rather hot day. We started off by wondering if there was a convenience store nearby, which proved not to be the case unfortunately. I had my water, but Ayaka definitely needed some water for the day (I actually had ice at that stage). The feel of the general area was lovely, it felt secluded. It felt different from a lot of the generic temples that are always found around the touristy areas. There was hardly anybody else around and were in the lowest part of a valley, some old styled shops and houses were nearby, but besides from that it was positively verdant. We walked up the steps and towards Kurumadera, I took photos as I went.
We walked a little faster than I wanted, not giving me much time to take mental photos, but I still have a few tucked away. There was a hand purifying fountain which was delightfully cool, there were lots of stairs, there was a lift that let you gain a significant amount of altitude. I would have preferred to walk, but thought I’d go with my companion’s apparent desire as she was quite clearly overheating. There would be no point in doing any kind of hike if one of us is fried from the very beginning. So under the trellis of trees and past hundreds of orange/red lanterns we walked. We weren’t being hit by the suns rays too viciously any more and there was a nice breeze being funneled up the valley, giving us a moment’s pleasantness in what had normally been a hellish inferno of fire and humidity. Kyoto is like being pressure cooked alive.
The end of this complex wasn’t anything too special, being an open space with two altars of sorts, but then we finally ventured into the woods. They were old, the ground was laden with roots at parts, with the stairs leading continually upwards. We spoke of Harry Potter, books and magic, also films, it felt as if I had been whisked away to another plane of existence. There was also a shrine in the woods, right next to it was a huge tree with one of those sacred ropes and what I assume were wards of some type attached. Only in Japan do you stumble onto these magical little mysteries, so many secrets, so little time. When I come back one day I will spare more attention to it. Walking downhill from here took a bit of a toll on my legs but we eventually made it, at the bottom were signs warning us of more bear sightings recently. That was lucky I guess as we saw none, or unlucky? It depends on how you view it.
Once we were onto a regular concrete road again civilisation bared its fangs at us once more in the form of mammals – bipedal mammals that are slow, loud and some much prettier than others. A fair number of people were wearing yukata while visiting our next shrine: Kifune. Kifune was much smaller than Kurama, however the aesthetics were also crammed into this small space alongside a gorgeous approach with lamps on each side of the path. Here we both had a photo and continued up. At the shrine itself there were trees with Tanabata wishes in the central courtyard, there was also a queue for praying, which we did while armed with 5 yen coins. My prayer was kind of answered in my omikuji, although it was a vague hope/desire than a solid wish with a direction. We continued exploring the area and then retreated down to the station. Downton Abbey talk ensued, and also Father Ted oddly enough. Of all things, Father flipping TED?! This one is an unusual one I remember thinking as I laughed away.
From here we made our way down to Kyoto to find food. I remember being arm and leg to leg curving into each other while reading my kanji book. I’m a little wary of being hopeful to read too much into it these days, but it was comforting! The place we chose to eat at served tantanmen, a dirty type of noodle that was quite honestly delicious. It was loaded to the brim with meat, there were lots of cooks and the air smelled of burnt pepper and spices. Suffice to say I was very pleased with her choice of food. Fast forward an hour later and my brain had begun to melt down – it had been my first meal of the day, which set me into digestion mode. I was a bit like a language confused zombie, but we eventually made our way to Kyoto station where I showed her around the place (it was built for exploring!). Following this we found some delicious ice cream and chatted of books. We traded book suggestions, had a final lovely chat and then we had to say our goodbyes. Heck, we even hugged. We’ll catch up in the UK no doubt though!
Trip to Ise- oh wait…
… I overslept. Shit. Oh well, maybe next time. Following this revelation I was prepared for it to be a wasted day, or a day of typing, or lamentations. Really just a dull day. This was until me and Mizuho decided to go out and eat dinner together! She lives close so it was simple for both of us to head down and binge on sushi. It was cheap, filling and delicious! They had a huge variety of sauces and random sushi types too, such as cheesy hamburger sushi?! I had lots of kara-age, chips and left the place feeling significantly more full. We then went to Mcdonalds so that she could write her report and I could write this diary. Only we hit a slight snag: she brought her Playstation power cable instead! I probably laughed more than I should, but it was such a ditzy thing, so silly that I could imagine myself doing the same thing exactly. I was impressed, but only served to affirm we’re friends. Why do I say this? Meeting, eating cheap, shitty sushi and then going to Mcdonalds to eat/steal Wifi; if this isn’t a happy student friendship then what is?! Two finished coffees and 1500 words later we bid each other goodbye. We were going to see each other the next day anyway.
As a final note, I helped to fix her computer that she believed was broken for 3 months but couldn’t send it in to be repaired. It was the stupid function button touchpad lock button. Why they don’t set these functions to reset on shutdown is beyond me.
The final day and meet up
The curse of oversleeping hit again, but I’m pretty glad for it this time. My initial intention was to climb Fushimi Inari Shrine at the crack of dawn and had extended the invitation to Rae and Oda. They on the other hand had gone out drinking the night before. Between us the plan fell apart. But I’m really not sure climbing up a mountain with two still-drunk humans and one extremely sleep deprived human would be a wise idea. I myself had only managed to get some sleep around 5am due to some real difficulties sleeping somehow. Mizuho later blamed the coffee that the pair of us had at Mcdonald’s because she to had difficulties sleeping that night. At any rate, the final result of the morning was me heading down to Ryukoku’s student accommodation at around 12-1pm.
It took me an hour and a half to finally make it whereupon I bought takoyaki and this delicious adzuki bean… thing. That little shop is easily the very best takoyaki shop I have come across in all of my time in Japan, 200 yen, a choice of sauces and a free adzuki-thing for 200 yen. Myself and Oda waited for Rae at the dorm (haircut), and then upon her return prepared to go out. Before going out I may have been tongue tied by a friend of the girls’. That was amusing.
We left and made our way towards the Shine, passing by a river, talking of how mosquito bites an usual and how they are just the worst. Upon reaching the shrine’s area there were actually less people than usual – it is an extraordinarily popular place for tourists to go and the sheer beauty of the place explains why. Such popularity might bring money, but it does also bring hundreds of selfie sticks and masses of people mindlessly bouncing off each other. Ok, perhaps they don’t quite bounce off each other, but for all of the irritation they bring they may as well. Perhaps with sound effects too. There was one stall vendor along the way who kept shouting “YES, YES, YES” too, he was particularly irritating.
This aside it was a nice day and also contained a bit of a breeze, Kyoto had been downgraded from pressure cooker to fan oven today. We were off the beaten track pretty quickly and following a route which I had actually begun taking once before, before turning back in fear of it not leading towards the summit. We followed this path, bumping into a few other people, but far far fewer than what would otherwise be the case. The trees rolled by on one side, and a bamboo grove on the other, and soon the sound of wind through a forest was all that graced our ears, as long as you forego including our voices in this description. Voices talking of ear infections if my memory serves me right.
Some things seen along this path: a shiny beetle, forests, a few spiders, and a lizard being ever so slowly consumed by ants. A pretty standard forest I suppose. There were small graveyards nestled in places, another section where myself and Oda pretended to be frogs and shaded areas where we would engage in a vicious battle for the ownership of our own blood (mosquitos). Rae found some cats who just ignored us, and I was shown a lovely secluded shrine which had a waterfall too. Due to the moving water the mosquitos were not as prevailent here too.
Then began the climb up the mountain. Lots of stairs, not much to look at either. We reached the top drenched in sweat. I prayed with all of my remaining 5 yen coins and then we hurried down the mountain in order to quickly shower and meet a few people at the station. By the time we had arrived there they had been waiting for the better part of 40 minutes unfortunately. I felt bad but that was the cost of hygiene and polite company.
I had this strange feeling of trepidation – I knew speaking with Mizuho would be an easy task, but I wasn’t too sure how conversations would roll with Ryoga and Aimi as I was mostly unfamiliar with them. I needn’t have worried though. I started off by chatting in Japanese to the three of them, and think that I shocked Aimi and Ryoga rather substantially; I felt like their exclamations of “Jyozu!” had some basis at the time. A flicker of arrogance, perhaps, but well deserved considering how much I’ve tried this year! While chatting a friend of Mizuho’s also walked past and recognised me as Jamie – making me wonder if I was being shown off. I can only hope!
While waiting for Chris we bought ice cream from the same place I had been shown the previous day and wandered around the station, chatting and killing some time. Another noteworthy point was the group of us being waved at by a giant mascot, we thought we were about to be chased by it, however I do not believe any door was big enough to allow it passage! After Chris’ arrival we went hunting for a particular place to eat – all you can eat yakiniku. To our sadness though it no longer existed. Three failed locations and two umeshu cartons later we found ourselves waiting for one famous restaurant while looking at Kyoto’s main river. It was ablaze with reflections and shimmering forms. A crane was also present, as was a beaver that had clearly decided it would be a marvellous time to investigate what the land humans were up to.
From here on we ate and chatted in an izakaya themed around old movies and TV shows n general, the lighting was slightly on the over side, and I quite liked it. We seemed to split ourselves into male/female groups as we could only have four people per table – a binge eating of kara-age commenced to my delight, and also an eating of frogs legs. Frogs legs tasted nothing like chicken, or perhaps a little bit, but there was a very fishy flavour to it as well. It isn’t something I will probably go out of my way to eat again but neither was it terrible. I suppose I have little specifically to say of the end of the evening, I had fun for sure and was sad to say goodbye. I remember finding it interesting how people are linked, for example Aimi seemed to have an eye for Chris, whereas I have an eye for Mizuho per-se. Through this it is interesting how people have kept in contact throughout the year. So it came to be that my time was now at an end.
Until next time Kyoto
Kyoto is always an adventure for me. I like the aesthetics and its people. I like its history and the atmosphere. It couldn’t be much more different to Tokyo in many ways. Where it lacks madness it makes up for it with adventure. If Tokyo were an insomniac madman then Kyoto would be a slightly mottled travelling monk with a straw hat. I daresay the world needs both though or else it’d be a slightly less interesting place. I’m still more inclined to coming to live here in the future instead of Tokyo though, the only issue is that Tokyo has far more job opportunities in the long run. We shall have to wait and see.
I left my creepy crawly accommodation behind and not before long had begun my long train journey. During this journey (Kyoto to Tokyo via Seishun 18) I encountered an angry Osakan man who couldn’t hear any of the announcements and was sporting a rather flamboyant orange guise, matching walking stick included. In the next train I met a GPS researcher who also played the guitar – he was interesting enough. There was one other event but that has since slipped my mind.