Showing posts with label Arashiyama. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arashiyama. Show all posts

Friday, 6 April 2018

8 - Return to the Golden Temple

(Monday 2nd April, Kyoto)

Another beautiful cherry blossom-filled day. 

In much the same way Awajishima is blessed with so much sunlight it can't use it all, Arashiyama is blessed with an abundance of sakura, so much so that you sadly reach a kind of plateau of happiness after about 36 hours. This is how it must have played out. A hundred years ago a guy decided to himself to plant a row of cherry trees along the river. "This is gonna look great, trust me," he told the other town planners who listened with polite but unconvinced expressions. "And it'll be great for the local economy too. People will come from miles around just to see this effusion of pink against the blue/green backdrop of the river."  They all sat doubtfully around the table for a moment, unsure. "For just one weekend a year?" They pause in hesitation. Then anther guy chimes in, "Yeah, but that weekend we'll all be able to knock off at six!" Thus the deal is sealed.

We retraced our steps across the bridge to an old traditional train station only to find that most of the tickets for the day had already been sold; we'd need to wait hours before being able to ride it.  
The unmistakable but very literal glass ceiling of Kyoto Station
Instead we moved on to Plan B: Kinkakuji (The Golden Temple). We got a train to Kyoto and found this nice kaiten zushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurant in the catacombs, where you order in English by iPad, once again negating the need for uncomfortable human interaction.

Order via Ipad to avoid pesky human contact 
This left me in a strange predicament. I knew the name of my favourite sushi but only in spoken Japanese, not written. So I had no choice but to blurt out, "Sumimasen, shime saba arimusa ka?" to the chef for which I was rewarded for my efforts, like a seal, with some delicious vinegared mackerel.
Maguro, or raw tuna. The price of the dish is indicated by the colour of the plate

Job done!
An eye-popping variety of popcorn flavours 
From Kyoto station we took a bus to Kinkaku Ji (The Golden Temple - not to be confused with Ginkaku Ji, the Silver Temple) which I'd seen a few times before. We thought it would be an important part of our son's Japanese heritage and cultural education to show him it this holiday.
Kinkakuji - The Golden Temple

There were a lot of other tourists but we did our best to enjoy the garden for the beautiful spot it was meant to be. I imagined coming across the place by accident hundreds of years ago and the sense of awe that must have instilled. (I'd been stumbling through the undergrowth for days - my face, arms and legs gnawed to the bone by insects - when suddenly I fell into a clearing and rubbed my eyes. Hey, is that a golden temple?)
Shop til you drop : A mall stretches off to infinity
We took the bus back to Kyoto station and after searching for miles for a place to eat finally found an almost deserted Okonomiya san. I couldn't help wondering why it was so empty, but by then we were so exhausted and our feet so tired we threw caution to the wind, sat ourselves down and ordered a delicious meal.

Okonomiyaki is a kind of fried seafood omelet with fish flakes, sauce and mayonnaise

When we got back to Arashiyama we headed straight for the onsen, where I, feeling like the old hand professional and wanting to show off to my wife said, "Leave this to me, dear," and deftly purchased the tickets from the machine for 'weekday adult' times two plus a 'weekday child', only to be told that we had to use the more expensive weekend tickets. "Eh?" I said, "Isn't this a weekday?" but the guy insisted (without eye contact) that today we were to use the more expensive button. We looked back at the machine and sure enough there was a large hand-drawn arrow pointing at the 'Weekend ticket' button. Whether this was good or bad business sense only time will tell, but nonetheless, a good hot bath was had by all.

Read Day 9.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

7 - Cherry Blossom & Onsen

(Sunday 1st April, Arashiyama)

Woke up early with no sign of rash or bug bites so it's looking like my concerns about the bedding was thankfully unfounded. Beginning to appreciate the guest house for its location as it opens up right onto one of the main streets and is a can of Asahi's throw from the main cherry blossom part of the river.

Today was the day my wife was to meet her friends so I was on son duty, and decided to take him to the onsen (hot spring) which wasn't due to open until midday, so we spent the day wandering around and playing his Beyblade arena in a small park. 

We had a healthy and delicious breakfast in Musubi again - including two huge onigiri (rice balls), which kept us full for most of the day.

The hot spring was great, and since this was our son's second visit to one he was now an old hand at it. There were four baths and they were all quite quiet as most people I assumed were out enjoying the cherry blossom and would come in for a bath later. Inside was the regular bath plus a kind of white milky one. There were sakura petals floating on both, which bathers had brought inside with them from the two baths outside - again a normal one with natural stone decoration, and the obligatory freezing cold bath that I never have the guts to go into after the 60 degree heat of the others.

We had a nice coffee and chat with two of my wife's friends in the cafe near Arashiyama station from about 3pm until 5:30pm and then after saying goodbye set off across the river to find a place to chow down, only to discover that most restaurants seemed to have their minds set on closing at 6pm. Surely it would make more business sense to stay open until 8pm at least if you're a restaurant in a tourist district at high season? I just couldn't fathom the logic, and after walking half a mile on nothing but the two large onigiri we'd had for breakfast, I was fathoming it less and less. 

Bladerunneresque steam erupts periodically from this chestnut stall
Finally we came back to our side of the river and found a place that was still serving food outside. We were next in line and the guy said, "Just a moment, please," while hustling around bringing food to customers. I had my eye on a big steaming bowl of Nishin Soba, when the guy came back and without looking us in the eye, announced, "Sorry, we're closed!" I stared on in hungry disbelief, my mouth hanging open. Closed? But you just said wait a moment? How can wait a moment lead to closed? Those are not two naturally progressive steps in any known logical sequence ever. I knew I should have been angry, but the truth was, I wasn't. I was too content to be angry. I wasn't even disappointed. I wasn't exactly overjoyed about it either - just pleasantly dumbfounded. Closed? It's 6:45 on a Sunday night and the place is heaving with tourists. Do you not have a kitchen? Do you not have tables? Do you not have food? Do you not have hungry tired customers who have nowhere else to go? Staying open an extra hour would be a killer move over the competition, dude, stay open! 

People concerned they might not be using the toilet the right way can rest assured instructions are provided in most locales.

Or perhaps it was because the sakura was earlier than expected and they just hadn't prepared for the rush. Maybe that was why. Not enough staff or food. Who knows.

Anyway, to cut a short story long we ended up eating dinner outside Mini Stop, the convenience store near the station. I had fried chicken on a stick, a can of beer, and something called an American Dog which is the only thing that hits the spot when you get the cravings for a hot dog wrapped in a donut. 

This is now the half way mark of our trip.

Read Day 8.

(Text & Photos © Chris Young 2018)