Day One Hundred and Eighty Five (Arashiyama)
In the morning we got ourselves on Kyoto's last remaining tram and headed to an area called Arashiyama. One thing we've grown to appreciate whilst travelling is how nice it can be to just look out the window. Even on a journey where you pass mostly through residential areas you get to see another side to somewhere you thought you already knew.
When we arrived we got a free map and tried to find our way around. Once we got to the main river we were taken aback by the nice river and mountainous backdrop. Forest was everywhere, people were rowing boats along the clearest waters we've seen in months and everyone seemed to be enjoying the hottest day yet.
As we headed to find the bamboo path, we went wrong somewhere, ending up a hill with nothing but a graveyard. We headed back down and ended up going round the long way to reach Arashiyama's famed bamboo path. When we got there it was a little underwhelming (then again we were visiting a bamboo tree lined-path and we had already seen pictures. Besides it being exactly as we expected, and therefore
not particularly remarkable, it was interesting to see how far the lines of trees actually stretched.
On the way back to the river Naomi had what is referred to as a 'Vegan fail'. She'd been doing so well in joining me on going vegan, but gave in when she saw Green Tea Ice Cream advertised. She claims it was delicious, but she was clearly disappointed with herself.
As we had saved some money by getting to the bamboo path by not passing through a nearby temple, we decided to see how much a row boat was. Unfortunately it turned out to be three times more than we would have been willing to spend (around £12 for an hour - too many pennies).
Instead we sat and admired the views and made a list of our Top 20 places we had visited. It turns out that there has been, on average, at least one incredible thing every ten days which, despite occasionally complaining we've grown bored, is obviously an achievement when you think of how often outstanding things happen during 'a regular month'.
Day One Hundred and Eighty Six (Rest/ill)
We managed to make it through malaria-infested areas, through encefalitis-heavy villages...but when it gets to the last two weeks, then we get ill. Today had already been set aside as a rest day , so we sorted out our bags, threw away some old, smelly clothes and did very little all day besides a little film work. A much needed day of rest.
(Oh, and Naomi managed to accumulate a total of nine bites on her legs throughout the day. We have no idea where they came from)
Day One Hundred and Eighty Seven (It Can't End Like This)
Pretty much another rest day as the weather was abysmal and I was feeling really worse for wear. We did venture our once to have a look at nearby markets and do our food shop, but that was a bit of a struggle. Hopefully things brighten up on both fronts so we can make the most of the last ten days or so.
Day One Hundred and Eighty Eight (Down by the River)
During the night we experienced our first earthquake. Not the most pleasant thing to wake up to. We both felt seasick as a result (it was only 3.3 magnitude but being continuous for five minutes or so was quite disconcerting). We had been struggling to get to sleep anyway, and it happened just as we had managed to doze off. Needless to say we got near enough no sleep, and were pretty zombified for most of the day (I was anyway).
Added to the fatigue was our stupid decision to walk the furthest of all of Japan to visit 'Philosophers Walk'. As the weather looked set to be terrible, it was the only day we would get a chance to do the walk so we took advantage. I wasn't feeling much better from getting ill so that made the walk drag even further.
When we arrived (it claims to be a canal, but when I think canal I think long boats, giant water gates, etc - I basically think York) it turned out to be really peaceful though, which was obviously a welcomed surprise. As we sat and ate our lunch it was overwhelmingly silent, except for the occasional person walking by. The cherry blossoms weren't in bloom, which is one of the main reasons to visit, but it was a nice stroll anyway.
What wasn't so much a nice stroll was the hour and a half walk back. Our legs were achey when we left, and grew only worse as we made our way back. About an hour in we had to stop, and picked a spot by the river. In the distance Naomi spotted something which looked quite interesting. We had accidentally stumbled upon one of the best things in Kyoto yet - stepping stones across the massive river (some shaped like turtles) We hopped back and forth for a while (no longer tired of course), dipping in the river here and there. It's refreshing to know that someone thought of a way to liven up people's days by giving them an alternative way to cross the river. It certainly livened up ours.
Day One Hundred and Eighty Nine (Slip)
It shouldn't have been raining but it was in the morning, meaning we had two options - get soaked, or stay indoors. We decided to get soaked. There was only one place left we hadn't properly visted which we wanted to, and that was the area of Gion. When we looked at the guide book to see the way we discovered that it was actually a lot bigger than we thought.
When we set off I realized I had instantly made a mistake. I was wearing flip-flips with no grip whatsoever. I spend the next two hours gripping onto Naomi and moving like a handicapped ice-skater, sliding my way around the streets of kyoto. It would have been easier if it weren't for the umbrella I was holding.
After a lengthy slip and slide adventure we made our way inside Yasaka shrine and were met with schoolkids wanting to learn English (again - see Hiroshima). If I'd been walking abley then it wouldn't have been such a problem, but alas I was walking 'a bit spazzy'. I assume they wanted to take a photo with us for another reason than that.
Shortly after we gave up, did our food shop and headed back. We feel like we've been here weeks. Which isn't to say that we can't wait to leave, it's just we're so used to being here that it'll be strange to move on...to our final city of the trip.
Day One Hundred and Ninety (95% Gone | 5% left)
We had made no plans for today as the weather looked set to be terrible so when we woke to find it dry and sunny we set off on an imprompt visit to the South of Kyoto, as it was the only direction we hadn't explored fully. Walking was a fair bit easier today as I made the tremendous effort to put on socks and trainers instead of flip-flops, therefore avoiding 'going spazzy' again.
We headed to the station via the river, which took a fair bit longer than we expected but was a nice little stroll nonetheless. Exploring the station area made us a little nostalgic. Even though it's only been eleven days, thinking of when we sat there on our first day of Kyoto feels like ages ago, in fact like another city. Time is passing far too swiftly.
We explored the station's vertiginous walkway (brilliant views) and surrounding area. It's strange to think that Kyoto tower (arguably lengthy in comparison to the rest of Kyoto) won't be that large when we compare it to the landscapes we'll be surrounded by in Tokyo.
After a swift lunch, we headed to see how easy it is to purchase a ticket for the bullet train - it turns out to be rather complicated. You have three options for the same train. Obviously we would normally go for the cheapest but it doesn't seem that simple (we'll need to do some researching) We then headed to a park and saw around a hundred fashion students (meaning they were dreseed odd) leaving Kyoto Aquarium - clearly the place to be. Not long after all our strolling we began to grow both weary and thirsty (a bad combination).
We had run out of water and there were no fountains in sight, so instead we bought a litre of tea. It turns out to be cheaper than buying water, tastes good too. Acquired quite the taste for cold tea. After buying the teas we had a short leg break before slowly making our way back to the hostel.
In the evening, during dinner we found a competitor for the New Zealand chap for the most boring tone of voice ever. This time it was an American woman, speaking about how wonderful and 'ethereal' a temple she had visited was. It's not what they say, it's how they say it.
We can't believe how little there is left of the trip to go. Japan has flown by even faster than we imagined it could. We're trying our best to hold onto every last second that remains. Hopefully the bad weather holds off so we can make the most of it.
Day One Hundred and Ninety One (No Real Geishas)
After Lunch we decided to investigate the Gion area further despite the rain, this time wearing proper shoes that don't make me walk like Pingu. We made our way round various side streets, a lot of which looked like Hoi An, Vietnam, though not quite capturing that special magic. We sought out a nearby park, behind Yasaka shrine which looked huge on all the maps but actually turned out to be quite small and apparently 'under construction', with several areas of scaffolding (we're pretty sure we weren't in someone's back garden). The whole park had clearly been left for quite some time as it looked quite feral, but it still had some nice parts to it, particularly the central pond with twin swans sat pefectly symmetrical, and seeing the rain hit the water all around us was something different too.
Gion is well know for being the 'Geisha area' but we unfortunately haven't had a chance to catch a glimpse (not quite the same as accidentally stumbling upon the whale in Australia). We've seen a fair few women in traditional dress, but they're most likely tourists dressed up as geishas.
On the way back to the hostel after our little jaunt (we decided to take it fairly slow given how manic Tokyo will probably be), we stumbled upon a 'Lost in Translation' location, which was a nice surprise. It's always interesting to see how somewhere really looks having only seen it in films (Woody Allen's infamous riverside 'Manhattan' shot was a favourite) but it's most rewarding when it's a film you love.
In the afternoon Naomi's cold broke (yes, she has it now). It's no wonder it seems to be doing the rounds, as we saw one of the hostel employees literally coughing into the fridge at dinnertime (nice). We spent the rest of the day preparing ourselves for the final week, and for the madness of Tokyo. Time seems to have lost its meaning whilst travelling (especially now I've lost my watch - forgot to mention that). We think of the past six months or so and it's like a strange half-remembered dream...a good one though.Tweet