Kami Watch Over Me (Japan Day 17 – Kyoto)

Monday, Nov 07 2022 (Day 17)

Table of Contents

ට  Day 0 – Thursday, Oct 20 2022 to Friday Oct 21 2022 – Flight from Edmonton to Tokyo
ට  Day 1 – Saturday, Oct 22 2022 – Tokyo, Saitama, Ikebukuro
ට  Day 2 – Sunday, Oct 23 2022 – Autumn Reitaisai 9, Shinjuku
ට  Day 3 – Monday, Oct 24 2022 – Akihabara
ට  Day 4 – Tuesday, Oct 25 2022 – Hakone
ට  Day 5 – Wednesday, Oct 26 2022 – Kamakura, Enoshima Island
ට  Day 6 – Thursday, Oct 27 2022 – Hanno
ට  Day 7 – Friday, Oct 28 2022 – Shinkoiwa
ට  Day 8 – Saturday, Oct 29 2022 – Akihabara, Matsudo City
ට  Day 9 – Sunday, Oct 30 2022 – M3-2022秋, Moto-Yawata
ට  Day 10 – Monday, Oct 31 2022 – Akasaka, Shimokitazawa, Shibuya Halloween
ට  Day 11 – Tuesday, Nov 01 2022 – Shinjuku, Sophia University
ට  Day 12 – Wednesday, Nov 02 2022Sophia University, Kabukicho
ට  Day 13 – Thursday, Nov 03 2022 – Shinjuku Loft
ට  Day 14 – Friday, Nov 04 2022 – Shinjuku, Hanazono/Asakusa Tori no Ichi, Sensō-ji
ට  Day 15 – Saturday, Nov 05 2022 – Nagano, Zenkōji
ට  Day 16 – Sunday, Nov 06 2022 – Ueda Sanada Matsuri, Ueda City, Nagano
ට  Day 17 – Monday, Nov 07 2022 – Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward (You are here)

The first point of order is that I eventually realized that I didn’t show the other side (what I consider the front) of my goshuinchō, my book of seals, in the previous blog post. The “front” looks like this:

It’s no swirling mass of sakura petals or anything but I do like it, it’s eye-catching with the mix of red and white set against the darker background, and samurai stuff brings to mind fond memories of Legend of the Five Rings.

The second point of order is that I also tried to take a picture of what the little bamboo side room in my Hotel Unicorn room looked like from my bed with the paper sliding doors open and its illuminating lights on. It was awkward but looked something like this:

What a weird thing to have next to a bed.

I had mentioned at the end of yesterday’s blog post that I tried to return to Zenkōji Temple at the end of the day to pick up their temple seal, but I was too late and it had closed for the night. Even though I was leaving Nagano today, I figured that I’d first pick up the seal in the morning, since the temple shop opened at 6:00 am and checkout wasn’t until 10:00 am. I got up and left the hotel at 8:00, went over to pick up a seal, and came home before 9:00, with plenty of time to spare. Mission accomplished!

Not so fast. Although I did reach the temple in good time, I was confused by the goshuin options here, because there was a shiny piece of paper for 1500 and then two stamps for 200 and 300, and the lady at the desk seemed to say that I could cut the shiny one and then paste it into my book… great, so I bought one of those and went back to the hotel, only to realize that not only did I not have anything to cut and paste it with, I didn’t actually want to cut it up anyway since that felt like it would be breaking something sacred/beautiful, so I decided to keep it as a separate sheet.

Which is great, except that that meant I still didn’t have a stamp for Zenkōji Temple after all that. So after checking out, I returned to the temple for a fourth and final time, lugging all my luggage with me, to finally get a proper, 300 yen stamp on the book.

I had also not donated to the temple up till that point because I figured that the stamp itself involved a donation, but apparently one is supposed to donate at the main altar and then go request/buy the goshuin, so I finally did things in the right order on this visit, my 4th trip to the temple. It felt like home at that point. Not that everything went right still, I took a picture of the person while she was putting the calligraphy into the book only to read later on that I wasn’t supposed to, but at least I won’t upload that picture here. This was their book on sale, which was quite nice too:

Was I supposed to not take a picture of that too? Who knows. I didn’t get it, but I might consider getting a second one at some point anyway, if I see a pretty one I cannot resist. Or I might get one just for Kyoto-area shrines or something.

All the first few traffic pedestrian lights turned green as I walked away from the temple from the final time, I’m not sure if that was the Amida Buddha (the resident enshrined deity of Zenkōji) wishing me a safe journey or wanting to get rid of me as soon as possible. I was feeling stingy and penitent and was still very early for my shinkansen out of there at 11:45 am, so I decided to walk there and carry all my luggage with me, a process that hurt quite a bit.

I still reached Nagano Station with plenty of time to spare, and this of course meant another ekiben.

I wanted to try one at Kanazawa Station too, as I’d have a 30 minute transfer window there, so I made sure to finish this one before my train arrived. It didn’t really have a formal name beside “Shinshu mountain rice, Aburi pork, soba miso” though. i also bought a couple omiyage, or gifts, from Nagano Station, two boxes of Raicho no Sato — one for the landlord in the next house I was going to, and another one for the person that would be accompanying my friend that I would apparently be meeting in Osaka next week. Raicho no Sato are wafer cookies, and they’re pretty darn delicious.

I took the Kagayaki 1509 from Nagano to Kanazawa and it was pretty uneventful, except that this train only had reserved seats, there were no train cars for the choose-your-own-seat crowd.

Kanazawa Station was very packed, but I still had time to wander out, grab an ekiben from the huge pile that this 7-11 offshoot shop called Omiyage-sho had, and get back to the platform in time for the train.

This train was the Thunderbird 24, and although this was a 2.5 hour ride from Kanazawa to Kyoto, the train didn’t offer power outlets like the Asama and Hakutaka and even the Kagayaki did.

Whatever. There was no one in the seat beside me anyway so I stretched out a bit and whiled the time away typing on my laptop. I also had my ekiben, which was thematically called the Story of Echizen Asakura Clan and came with explanations for what was in each portion.

The train passed through many stations along the way, including at least two onsen ones. Similar to the other bullet trains, the glare from the opposite windows made it hard to take any good pictures.

Kyoto

My train soon arrived at Kyoto Station. Kyoto Station was way too vast, but thankfully I had help.

No, not that computer. Though I’d never seen a coin-operated computer until then.

For the Kyoto leg of my tour, I was going to stay in an Airbnb house owned by someone with really, really good reviews. Like 4.97/5.00 score over 69 reviews and multiple people saying that this was the best Airbnb they’ve ever stayed in, period. And cheap to boot. I hoped that it would live up to that sort of hype! Anyway, the house was a little bit outside of the main city, sort of, and apparently not accessible by public transit or by reasonable foot, so he drove people back and forth from the city to the house on request, and had offered to meet me at Kyoto Station when I arrived, on the second floor lobby of an attached hotel. I met him there, four bags (including the Raicho no Sato cookies) in tow, and we greeted each other as he led me to his car.

Akira, the owner of the house, was very pleasant from the start, and although his English wasn’t perfect and he sometimes struggled to understand what I was saying, he would usually eventually get it after I explained what I meant in an alternate manner. Definitely better than the average Japanese, as he had spent several years in Saudi Arabia and America too, but not quite native level. Still, our interactions were almost always in English (except when I decided to toss out the odd Japanese phrase or word here and there), and I had little to no problem understanding him as we did extended introductions en route to his house, which literally was a narrow left turn road off of a highway. That left turn led to a small row of houses, maybe five or so, before joining up again with the highway. It was peculiar.

After dropping my bags off in my room, I let my phone charge for a bit as he took me around the house, explaining how all his various devices worked. The bidet in this house is by far and away the best one I’ve seen on the trip yet, it has a motion sensor that opens the lid when someone gets close, soft classical music that plays automatically when its active, water and wind jets that work well, etc.

My room itself had two large balconies leading out of the house, one pointing toward the highway maybe fifty feet away on the other side of a slope and a bunch of trees and undergrowth, and the other pointing toward a small side garden. In the evenings, he would step out of the house and close and lock some metal shutters from the outside to help deaden the noise of the cars, and to dissuade any bad people by blocking the light and making it next to impossible to break in through those balconies. I tried to tell him I loved car noises at night and it helped me sleep better but I don’t think he really believed me. I could still hear some of it though, especially since I took the bed next to the highway balcony door, so that was great.

He lives alone, but has occasional phone calls with someone else that he’s obviously related to or close to. He did mention that there were some stray cats in the area, and he put out food for them daily in return for them keeping the place free of pests. I’ve yet to see these cats as of time of writing though. The house is quite cozy, both in a temperature sense (thanks to multiple heating/cooling units) and a space usage sense. I haven’t taken any pictures yet but likely will at some point.

Anyway, I gave him one of the Raicho no Sato cookie boxes and he was very happy with that. He said it was delicious (and let me try some too… they’re wafer cookies, fairly normal, slightly sweet ones to me!) He constantly tries to foist tea and cookies on me and is super nice and funny in general, and everytime I try to wash up he shoos me away saying to leave it and let him wash instead because my time as a guest is valuable. Even though I’m stuck here in his house anyway without a chauffeur!

Evening

After an hour or so, he brought me out to a lookout point that he called Shogun’s Park, or something like that, though that doesn’t really appear on any map. It’s accessed via an offshoot road from the highway with a memorable (to me) sign pointing toward a Higashiyama Unstained Court, so even though I have no idea what that is, in my headcanon they’re one and the same place. Anyway, that place had a nice view of most of Kyoto stretched out in front of us, and I took a couple sunset pictures from there:

GPS data location embedded in those pictures would probably pinpoint exactly where this Shogun’s Park is. He’s also quite informative, pointing out roads, rivers (he’s proud about the two rivers that run through Kyoto, Kamogawa River and Katsura River), some landmarks, and where things are in general in relation to each other.

He then took me to the Downtown Kyoto area, specifically around Nakagyo Ward, and dropped me off at a designated pick-up point, suggesting a couple places nearby that I could venture down to seek dinner and to explore Kyoto’s downtown in general. I went down several side streets, but I don’t really know the area so a gallery blob follows. There were also several shopping streets adjoining the Nishiki Market area, which itself was mostly closed, and crisscrossing each other, Sanjo Meitengai and Shinkyogoku Shopping Street among others — these shopping streets were open though, and they were quite glorious. Definitely the largest network of them that I’ve been to!

Dinner was at a ramen bar named Ichiran, the first actual ramen bar that I’ve been to on this trip. It had a food ticket machine out front:

And a queue to get in, that led past a couple of rooms with booths that people were eating at:

There was a sheet of paper for one to select options from (I eventually decided to bump the spice level up to 10 — this apparently just meant more chilli in a pile on the broth when it finally arrived):

Once at the table, there were little tablets that one could use for communication (I flipped a couple of them around for photo purposes):

And a button I could press to summon the staff when I was ready to order or had any special request:

The eating booth was separated from the staff area by wooden blinds which they’d then lift up and process whatever paper or wooden slab was given to them or whatever question I might otherwise have:

But mostly it was closed and I was left to eat in peace.

So that was neat to experience once. I had their Ichiran Ramen with a side of extra kikurage mushrooms. And that’s a level 10 pile of chilli on that soup — it packed a moderate punch for once.

After dinner, I had a little bit more time before my ride home would arrive, so I walked around a bit more. Some of the pictures from that walk are merged into the gallery above, however I also did a walk along the Kamogawa riverside that was particularly memorable. It wasn’t really possible to take a proper picture of it that captures how bright the moon shining from above was, and how good the wind felt, and how couples and friend groups were sitting along the riverbank and cuddling or talking to each other, but it was a series of really nice moments as I walked along the shallow path of sand and grass on my way to the pickup location.

It was very nice, very romantic, and that bright moon was glorious. I can tell why the Heian aristocrats located in Kyoto wrote so many poems about it.

Shinkansen Running Total

I have a 21-day JR Pass that kicked in on Nov 05 and should last until the end of my trip on Nov 25. It cost $568 CAD, which cost around 61,769.08 yen, as per Google as of the first writing of this section. So I was curious and wanted to keep a running total — was this thing actually worth it?

That’s what I hope to find out with this section. For the full explanation blurb on this, check this corresponding section of the Day 15 blog post.

Trips

ට  Nov 05 2022 – Asama 611 (Tokyo to Nagano) – U: 7810, R: 8340
ට  Nov 06 2022 – Hakutaka 556 (Nagano to Ueda) – U: 1470, R: 2790
ට  Nov 06 2022 – Asama 615 (Ueda to Nagano) – U: 1470, R: 2790
ට  Nov 07 2022 – Kagayaki 509 (Nagano to Kanazawa) – 8920 (reserved seats only)
ට  Nov 07 2022 – Thunderbird 24 (Kanazawa to Kyoto) – U: 6490, R: 6820

Running Total

Unreserved: 26,160 yen
Reserved: 29,660 yen

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