Golden Pavilion

We have decided to stay today as well in Kyoto before moving on to Kagoshima in the afternoon. Anders’ Achilles tendon is still acting up so he is staying at the hostel to rest a bit while Hasse and I are going to look at the Golden Pavilion.Golden Pavilion To get there we need to take the bus and while finding the right one isn’t that hard with enthusiastic Japanese to help us out, the payment system is another story. We go up to the driver and each plop a 1000 jpy bill into the machine that looks like a payment thing and out pours a bunch of change. Satisfied with figuring it out we move back and take our seats when the chauffeur calls us back, turns out that Hasse had left his Travel Pass up front! No biggie, that’s only about 4 ksek…

The bus ride is rather long, but I always find it fun to ride public transport abroad since you get another sense of day to day activities that you otherwise miss when just catching a taxi. Speaking about that; after observing the other passengers for a while we realize that we haven’t at all paid for the ride! The system works as follows: When you get on you grab a little note from a machine that tells you the number of the stop where you got on, then you have a meter in the ceiling that advances for every stop and tells you the current fare from the start of the trip. Then when you get off you go to the front and pay the difference from when you got on and where you hop off, easy!

Money BowlThe Golden Pavilion is nice, but maybe not as impressive as we’d hoped, most fun is taking pictures of Japanese taking pictures. They love to pose and take every chance they get. The park surrounding the Pavilion is really nice too and we spend some time exploring it, we come across a bunch of people throwing coins at some kind of bowl. They’re really enthusiastic and every time someone hits the mark there is widespread cheering, I guess it’s more interesting than throwing coins in a fountain at least. We meet up with Anders back at the train station and set out to get something to eat before going on to Kagoshima. By asking around we find a Yakiniku place close by that treats us to a really excellent meal with high quality marbled meat, really fun to introduce the guys to some proper Japanese Yakiniku!

Creepy Cat ManAnders had found a palace/fort in the central parts and had been walking around there before meeting up with us, no wonder really, Kyoto (and most other Japanese cities I guess, are littered with temples and such). Talking to the the ticket lady we find out you can’t actually go to Kagoshima (which is at the very southwestern point of Japan) because the area has been flooded! Ooops, that means that we have to come up with a new plan. We decide to take the stop at Hiroshima now instead of the way back, which is no biggie really. Hiroshima isn’t that far so we arrive in mid-afternoon. On a hunch we go and talk to the people at the information desk and ask if there are any updates on the flooding. They act confused and say that there is no problem going to Kagoshima, apparently the flooding was rather minor and the tracks are once again open.

So we hop on the train again and arrive in Kagoshima in the evening. We grab a taxi to get to the capsule hotel we found and then head out to explore the town. There isn’t a whole lot to explore though and very few restaurants that are open. We do happen across an oddity though; a guy with a wagon full of cats, where you can pay in order to pet them. Veeery strange and a bit creepy for sure. We end up dining at the Japanese burger chain Mo’s and flirt shamelessly with the flustered Japanese girls at the next table.

Torii Race

We leave Tokyo for Kyoto the next morning. The Shinkansen trains are really something else, with the JR pass you don’t get to go on the absolutely most modern ones, but the ones you get to go on are plenty!Tenryū-ji Temple They are incredibly efficient in everything they do, when the train stops at the station, the cleaning crew sometimes has as little time as four minutes to clean the entire train set before it goes out again. This is not on every station though, where we board, in Shinagawa, they only stop for one minute. Plenty of time to unload people and let a new batch on.

Anders and I discuss how they can be so incredibly efficient and theorize that it has a lot to do with the fact that the train comes in to the platform with the door exactly level to the platform. This means that exiting is very easy, even if you’re handicapped or you have bulky luggage. There is also plenty of legroom for all seats, which means that there is no problem to have your luggage at your seat, leading to further time savings when exiting. Another thing that probably helps is that the train stops at exactly the same spot every time, so you can figure out beforehand where you’re supposed to be queuing up. Which is another thing; there is none of that trying to enter the train before everyone’s exited bullshit, everyone politely waits at the designated line until everyone has gotten out.

Awesome desserts!Arriving in Kyoto we make our way to the hostel we’ve booked and find that the trains in this town leave something to be desired, leaving us to walk a couple of kilometers. Being late afternoon already, we dump our bags at the room and catch a taxi to the only temple that’s still open; Tenryū-ji temple. It’s rather nice though and we stroll around until closing time. Next to the temple is the Arashiyama bamboo garden – something I was quite looking forward to seeing. We find it rather disappointing though, it’s not very large and consists of a few paved walkways and a couple of fenced in bamboo groves. Nothing special at all actually, my tip is to go to Kita-Kamakura to see the same thing. Feeling that we’re about done with this place we head back, problem is that the hitherto light drizzle now turns into full on canine and feline proportions. Not that that’s uncommon in Japan, it has island climate after all, but none of us have picked up umbrellas yet. So we decide to seek shelter in a nearby café.

Inari ToriisThis turns into a lucky break, since for a ridiculous amount, something like 700 jpy, we get access to a dessert of our choice and access to a cookie, coffee and tea buffét. And the desserts are something else! We are able to watch as actual chefs are lovingly preparing them in the back. The interior is really nice too, it feels like you’re at a really fancy hotel and we feel a bit out of place in our comfy travelling clothes. We have one thing left on our list before bedtime though, and that is the Inari Torii gates. A fair amount of walking (Kyoto is annoyingly hard to get around, you more or less have to take a taxi or invest some time into understanding the bus system, because the trains are scarce. We do however make it there and seeing as it’s still raining quite heavily we invest in the classic Japanese see-through umbrellas before heading up to the temple area. There are a bunch of temples to navigate before you reach the Toriis, unfortunately some kind of unsightly, very modern-looking, paper lanterns have been set up together with electrical wiring throughout the path. That’s kindof a bummer, which means you have to get creative with picture angles and so on, but it is nonetheless undoubtedly the highlight of the day. The Toriis all bear the names of the donors who paid for them and are really tightly spaced, it’s a magnificent sight to behold! The entire trail is supposedly 2-3 hours if you trek all the way up to the shrine on the hill, but after a while you realize that there isn’t much variation to be had and one place is as good as the next for photos. It’s also starting to get rather late and dark, so after an hour or so we head back to the hostel. Our room there is actually really nice in traditional Japanese style with roll out beds on the floor, a low table, sliding door closets and rice mats on the floor. The excellent ending with the awesome Torii gates has put me in a good mood and I go to bed with a smile on my lips.