To Kyoto and not beyond

To Kyoto and not beyond
Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto, Japan

A fabulous day dawned. Once I was out in it, admittedly at 10 rather than the heat of midday, it felt like a home summer’s day – gone the smack-you-in-the-face heat and the feel-free-to-swim humidity, replaced by sunshine, warmth and brightness all around. I was up well before I left, Dr Dre – no, sorry, to pack – and booking flights. I was obviously tired last night and my credit card saved me from myself, as I had been declined while trying to book a flight using a 3rd party site. This morning I went straight to the airline and booked straight away and more cheaply. Twit. I threw in a booking from that flight’s destination, Bali, to Brisbane for good measure, along with some hostels in Osaka and Hiroshima (there may be no hope for me on the no booking front now) and emerged into the sunshine.

Sandy plot in front of the large sphere and glass-fronted buildings that make up the museum
Nagoya science museum.

My mood hit that perfect nexus of weather and emotion, perhaps helped on the way by yet another bit of Japanese smiley customer service as I left my bags at the hotel. I suppose I shouldn’t have expected anything else, but thought they might have turfed me out to the quite fair lockers in the metro, given that I had picked up such a bargain rate. Daft. I took the chance to try the spotify playlist ’50 best tracks of 2013 so far’ which tended towards the ethereal easy – listening side of life but again hot the mood quite nicely.

A red three-legged abstract sculpture
Art.

Again I failed with the museums. The city science and art museums are just up the road from Ohsu plaza, but the former is reviewed as more for kids, the latter closed. Bah. Pictures in the sun and I contented myself, and with high contentment, as you might guess, wandering to Sakae and Central Park. Same sort of area as yesterday, then, but it’s not an area to tire of. The park is a pun, it being both the Central Park and providing some central parking (and the subterranean mall I’d wandered through yesterday). A small boy was transfixed by the fountain outside the science museum. Another was interested in me later at the railway station though shy when I waved – his mum took his arm and waved me off, though. It was that kind of day. I discovered that on a water fountain with a tap it is perfectly possible to shoot yourself in the face, too, which entertained me as much as the squirty toilet bum cleaners.

Temperature reading on the side of a building
Check the temperature.

A day for new trainers, too. My running shoes started the trip on 300 miles, so they’re a little long in the tooth now. ABC mart have a sale on Saucony kinvara 3s, and I managed to find some size 9s that fit. Though I am usually a 10, shh. But after a smiling torrent of Japanese the assistant made me understand there were none at this store but some down the road. I don’t think he realised I understood, though, and definitely spotted that he wouldn’t be able to give me directions, so off he ran to pick up a pair in each colour. Shiny, but probably for short sharp stuff, so my hole-in-little-toe-spot Progrids will last a little longer.

Busy four-lane highways surrounded by tall buildings
View from a bridge in Nagoya.

The Shinkansen whizzed me to Kyoto in a blink and you missed it 50 minutes and I was there. It felt cooler, though the 32degrees on the readout suggested not. Blah blahs humidity, change, etc. I explored a little in the daylight, gratified that my hostel was near the river (Kamo, or kamogawa) that I’d seen recommended as a traffic and crossing free zone on a couple of sites. The welcome here was fabulous, too. The staff member on duty shares my birthday, to her excitement, though I suspect I am winning by having had several more than her, and was most impressed I was off for a run. Are people getting lovelier through Japan? I am not sure, but certainly if theres a cumulative effect on me it is all good. At its best, in the simple things (clearly ones that matter to me), Japan is all the things Britain nearly consistently is but overall fails at – respect for others, from keeping mobile phones silent, to service staff backing out of a room, people having polite-offs moving out of each others’ way and so on. In Britain after a while I get militant, fed up of moving out of so many people’s way when it is obvious few others are going to, here it’s just the right thing to do, without arrogance taking advantage. Need I add that here if you hold a door open for someone to come through from the other way, no one walks from behind you as if perplexed why anyone would open a door and not walk through? Students in London in particular, take note.

Rocks in a stream, and a suspension bridge stretches towards the city
I never promised you a rose garden.

My great plan of saving my run till the evening, despite Meiji park in Nagoya looking like a lovely spot (but a bit short) worked well, in that I went out for a run in the evening, along the river. It was a bit dark, though, especially for a tempo run, but I coped – at least you can rely on the surface being well maintained here, and if a cyclist doesn’t spot you at first, it’s not with any attitude or invective. Exactly 45mins for a bit over 10k, including a warm up/down mile, I’ll take that. I took it indoors, in fact, for a chat with guests – one was feted as the first Chilean ever to stay here, though he’s now been joined by another. Not feted as anything, though a kindred spirit to me, having given up a job after 10 years to see something more. Last night I booked hostels. This morning I booked flights. This evening, tickets. Days 2-4 of the first Ashes test. Exciting.

Kyoto riverside, weeping willows hanging to one side
Kyoto riverside, picture taken before I ran here later.

Ran: 45:00, 10.43km “History is moving pretty quickly these days and the heroes and villains keep changing parts”.

Ian Fleming, Casino Royale. Now on to Lies Inc, Philip k Dick. I just can’t get enough D… of that particular author.

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