Showing posts with label Sumoto. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sumoto. Show all posts

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

6 - Sumoto Castle & Guest House Shock

(Saturday 31st March, Kyoto)

After enjoying my first full night's sleep since arriving in Japan I left the condo for my daily morning coffee ritual, looked up at Sumoto Castle on the nearby hill and thought, "Well, we're leaving in a few hours - if I'm going to see that castle up close it's now or never," so off I went.

Isn't it funny how past experiences shape our perception of the present and future? As I made my way between buildings towards the foot of the hill, I knew this would be exactly the route I would take if I felt an earthquake, or happened to look out to sea and see a huge, towering tsunami roll its way towards the shore. Up. My family were still in the first floor apartment. They could go up too. Just climb the stairs to the the roof and sit out the maelstrom. Like the chaos from which Japan was mythically formed.

We didn't really plan to come when the cherry blossom was due to bloom. Summer too hot, winter too cold; actually I'd wanted to come in autumn as after a few years in Japan I'd suddenly developed hay fever - an allergy to the ubiquitous Japanese Sugi tree, often used as the building materials for houses. But in autumn I usually have much work to catch up on, so spring just seemed the best option and after pumping my system full of anti-histamines I would hope for the best. Every day I've been taking a little yellow pill and it's been working pretty well thus far. 

So the cherry blossom being in full bloom is kind of a bonus.

But if you stop to think about the intransigence of beauty it can bring a tear to your eye. So I try not to dwell on it too much.

On the approach to Sumoto Castle
Sumoto Castle
The town of Sumoto from the castle, facing north
The journey back down the mountain 
About an hour later, we caught the bus from Sumoto to Maiko, and the train to Kyoto, where we met up with some more friends in the catacomb-like department stores underground, where wifi drips sparingly from the ceiling like drops to a thirst-quenched man.

Kyoto Tower
After our meal we got a train to Arashiyama, via Katsura. When we arrived it was getting dark and the cherry blossom was blooming in earnest. There we checked the map and hunted down our Arashiyama guest house, which apparently might 'not be that great' according to some online reviews that my wife only found after booking.

It turned out that 'not that great' was the understatement of the day.

The moon pokes through the blossom
I should have taken a pic of the room when we opened the door, but I guess I was just quite taken aback by the situation. There was no staff there to greet us as we let ourselves in via the pre-emailed door code. Basically, if I remember rightly, there were a couple of futons and sleeping bags strewn across the floor, there was a pot noodle on the counter, the windows were closed and the air was stuffy with the unmistakable scent of someone else. The doors didn't lock and who knew how long ago the mattresses and room had been aired. The expression 'complete dive' sprung to mind. I instantly regretted leaving the booking of the accommodation to my wife, and headed out to find alternative digs. First hotel - full. Second hotel - full. Business hotel - full. At least I'd re-learnt the Japanese for the word 'full' (manshitsu) The fourth one I went to the guy outside guiding the cars didn't even bother to check a book. Translating what he said into cockney : "Yer 'avin a larf incha? Cherry blossom in full bloom (mankai) and this being a Saturday night? 'Course we're bloody full you twit! Nah clear off, 'fore I kick yer dan the bleedin' apples!"

When I returned to the (in my mind) insect-infested sweat-pit, my wife had done her bit getting the woman (a non-Japanese (but what difference should that make? )) in charge to clean up the room and give us a key, and I had to admit that after a bit of a tidy up the room wasn't that bad after all. We opened the windows and went out to find a bite to eat while the place aired. After the high of the morning I'd been emotionally clotheslined, but I still intended to get exhausted and good and drunk before lying down on those suspect bedclothes. At least we had a roof over our head. Our son, bless him, must have sensed the change in our moods, as he had become quite subdued himself in his behaviour.

Musubi Cafe, Arashiyama : Great food and decent business hours 
We had a very nice meal in the Musubi Cafe, wandered around and let the alcohol and cherry blossom lift our spirits.

When we returned the room seemed fresh, the bedclothes changed, and all was good with the world.

Read Day 7.

All Photos & Text © Chris Young 2018