Yesterday was a travellers’ day. By which I mean, I let myself off a lack of movement because I am travelling and sometimes I just need to do some washing and sit still. So the fact that I didn’t get up till 10.30, then did some intervals – 7x800m, managed to convince myself they were all under 3, maybe 2.50, actually only two were under 3, bah – and was back with my washing on after midday seemed okay. If a bit slow. But with my washing done and in the dryer, in walks Bruce. The day before I’d got back from my run around 1, no one around, voluble keen girl on reception said “Cleaning! Done! …Relax” (there were hand gestures, too) and I did. Today, I had Bruce. He wandered in, we swapped notes, but soon I realised he was set to transmit. A nice man, a brain damaged man, and someone for whom I cannot muster antipathy now he is not here. But at the time, crikey Bruce, stop talking. Just stop talking.
A bit like talking to a computer guy – of which he was one, once – I ended up determined that this would be the last topic, then found I was still there minutes later, talking. With the dryer going, and with me having fed it 2×100 yen pieces it was going for a while, I didn’t have the excuse of saying ‘just going out’, because I wasn’t. Though I was more and more hungry, after breakfast of pineapple and banana, which was excellent but NOT ENOUGH. I was also concerned that if I phrased an exit wrongly, he might invite himself along.
Of course, all this makes for an unexciting story, and it is now over in any case. But I will say that an hour and a half slowed and slowed. Eventually I escaped, determined not to stroll and search for a restaurant, even the McDonalds over the road might do me. Next to it, though, a Japanese 24 hour place, and a Japanese man went in right ahead. I watched for a mo to see if he ordered from a machine; spotting that he didn’t, I followed.
This was a meal for a runner. The fairly standard several-bowl trayful, a main dish, some rice, some extras (and some tofu), but the rice – go to the corner, get some more. Oh, I did. Initially I thought it a little plain, but under the courtesy screen I could see the bloke opposite me pouring on seeds. Mmm, toasted sesame seeds, as it turned out, and what a difference they made. The day before’s lunch was enough for a normal lunch but its rising ‘full’ sensation came and went as the rice did its thing. After my third bowl here, the full sensation came and grew and with my only having eaten at 3ish I didn’t really need to eat again (other than in exploring the ice creams available from the convenience stores – a ‘Giant’ cornet to style thing today).
After lunch I explored Kyoto a little. The Kyoto app I’d downloaded mentioned mainly temples, and I wasn’t really up for more of those, especially as the route I’d taken to the hostel took me wrongly past the Kosho-Ji temple and when I retraced I found the right one, Higashi-Hongannji, but as I wandered the streets North of the hostel and east of my running river there were signs for temples and it seemed rude not to. As a result I ended up at Chion-Ji, and surrounded by people sight-seeing. This area had a very different feel – a lot of Kyoto is perfectly nice but just another city, but here were large areas set aside for temples, giving a much better idea of how it all used to look. I was short on time before dark, but wandered, looked, snoozed and felt I’d found some of the spiritual heart of Kyoto.
As darkness set in I made my way back South by the river, stopped for the ice cream I mentioned and felt completely at home. There seemed much more space in Kyoto than Tokyo though that may be an accident of picking a nice hostel. This morning I got up and packed, answering Bruce’s friendly ‘what are you doing today?’ with a conversation-closing (to a man who came from Kyoto the day before) “I think I’ll head for Kyoto”. That made the decision for me so I made a repeat visit to yesterday’s restaurant – the only time so far I’ve eaten in the same place twice, for what it’s worth (and it is something of an accident – I had every intention of returning to the first place I ate in Tokyo, though with the slight worry that his ‘no English menu’ had meant ‘F off’ and I’d pushed past it once but would not be allowed to do so again). Kyoto is near enough that you can get a local train, 540 yen, 850 to where I wanted to be and I was there by 1.30.
Having left my bags, I explored. The streets round the hostel are noticeably poorer than anywhere I’ve been in a city so far. Not the buildings, but the fact that there are more people selling things on the street, and the few homeless people don’t even have their blue tarpaulin homes, at least not here. The vending machines are cheaper (they and convenience stores (7-11, Family Mart or Sunken) are ubiquitous, too, and more of them sell booze. I even saw a Japanese man drop litter earlier. South being unproductive, I headed North, thinking to go to Tennoji park, which I’d seen marked on the map. It turns out that it is a zoo, and not reviewed well on Trip Advisor, so all the greenery seemed to be behind fences, though apparently you can go in the park itself without paying. I could hear the Oktoberfest festivities before I saw them, though they may be a bit expensive to visit – 1100 was the cheapest beer according to the website, and that’s probably only the cheapest because it’s Spaten.
I soon found myself in the shopping district, and was entertained by a 5 floor computer shop. I could browse the gadgets for days. From there I walked back towards the hostel via a tower I’d seen earlier, and it turned out that this area is one of the attractions, Shinsekai, the old town and ‘typically Japanese’, it says here. Essentially a market and shops, with hawkers trying to pull you in to their restaurants, and a shabby chic feel to it.
Later, having checked with Trip Advisor, I saw that this was their no. 30, but North, near Namba station, were the areas of Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori, so I headed there with an hour and a half of daylight left. There was also the Video Game Bar Space Station, but that proved shut – no.1 attraction by review, possibly showing their unreliability, but I’ll try again. Both districts, loosely gathered around the river, were a bit crazy, with people heading every which way, Japanese women dressed in cosplay style and more hawkers, though here it was all much more glitzy. I also found a great sport shop, over several floors, which have the Wave Rider 17. Barely even mentioned on the internet, model 17 comes in a rainbow style which is quite loud – er, lovely. But to tempt the bargain seeker, particularly one who refused to be spontaneous and went across the road to price compare, only to find that US 10 is their maximum, they have a Wave Rider 15 special edition, right size, under £50. My new training shoe awaits; one more in the Sauconys and they’re dead, Jim.
Reading: Jane Smiley, the Greenlanders