I know it’s been a while here on this blog *blows at cobwebs* and a good few weeks since I got back from traveling. Nevertheless, here is day 1 of my trip. There will be no climbing, but later there will be mountains.
Day 1: Landed at Haneda airport at 5:00am, and caught a train to Shinagawa, where D and I were to meet when he landed.
After trying to memorise the phrase “Can I buy a one-way train ticket to Shinagawa, please,” as my phone recharged at a public charging point, I discovered that they have ticket machines for the train. Derp.
Went strolling through the backstreets, admired a frog-shaped bubbler in a park, and found a cool Buddhist temple. Commenced melting at 8:30am. So. Hot!
From Shinagawa, we caught the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto JR, and another short train ride brought us to our hotel for the first few nights, a traditional ryokan. We went for a stroll around the neighbourhood, taking in the local sights: the Heian Shrine, a massive tori gate, and followed a meandering canal into the quieter parts of Gion. There we found a beautiful Shinto shrine with stylised bronze foxes, the messengers of Inari, and an Arabianesque horse.
After a dinner in the park of Family Mart sushi and cans of (amusingly awful) effervescent alcohol, we watched the Obon fires burning on the hills around Kyoto – the closest to us being Daimonjiyama, which rises about Ginkaku-ji and the Philosophers’ Walk, our destination for the morrow. Obon is one of the 3 main festivals, where citizens write the names of departed relatives or friends on blocks of wood, which are then carted up the mountains and arranged in the form of large characters, and burnt. The fires are to guide the spirits of the departed in their journey to the afterlife.
One final shower, some ripe figs, and we settled down for the night on our thick futons rolled out upon the pale green tatami mat floor. It smelt divinely of fresh hay.
Observations of the day: encouraging people to sit around in public by having seats around the place is not such a thing. And neither is providing bins for rubbish. Both were thin on the ground!