We took Sunday at a slightly slower pace. We’d only booked to stay two nights in the AirBnB before relocating to Hotel Mume closer to Gion. When I’d booked it all I wasn’t sure how we’d go sleeping on the floor so opted for something that was more familiar for the second half of our stay.
We woke up at 7, lounged, got up and made breakfast. Had a shower. Packed. Then I proofread Glen’s research paper, thinking I had oodles of time but Glen hadn’t changed the time on his laptop so it was a bit of a rush towards the end. Our host arrived at 9:30 and her husband gave us a lift to our other hotel.
We checked into Hotel Mume with its big red door. It’s close to/in the Gion district and is warm and comfortable. We couldn’t get into our room as it was still only 10am but we checked in, had a tea and some biscuits and then got some recommendations from the lady at the desk.
We decided to go to Nishiki Markets again, buying prawns on a stick and ambling along through the crowds. And then we bumped into Ravinder!
She was meant to be at Imperial Palace but decided against it and was going wandering so she came with us. I bought some different flavoured coated peanuts. We settled on lunch at a curry ramen place that was tucked out of the way. Usual issues over food but I said I was absolutely fine with the choice and would have the chicken, which was fine. It was wonderful to sit down.
The start of spring
The 3 February was the start of spring which is celebrating with a lantern festival, one of which was happening out at Nara, which was the first capital of Japan. After lunch we took the slow JR train to Nara where we got some info at the tourist centre about sites to see and the lantern festival, then walked through part of the city, stopping for a hot chocolate, before seeing the five-storey pagoda and then deer.
Lots of deer.
Deer you could feed.
There were only a few at the first park we were at but as we got close to the temple housing a giant buddha, they were at plague proportions, commensurate with the number of tourists feeding them biscuits. We joined in and the deers got aggressive. They were biting my jacket! And those teeth looked sharp.
But it was nice to see wildlife, even if it’s become totally habituated and they probably have to put a few down…
Lots of baby deer though.
We went through to see the giant buddha in the giant building. Wandered around. By that stage (how long had it been? Two days?) I was over temples. Afterwards we stopped for crepes and tea/coffee and a rest until it got dark.
We wandered along the lantern-lit path to the temple where the festivities were taking place. When we reached it, the crowd thickened. We joined a queue. The lanterns weren’t as impressive as we thought they’d be, and after meandering along in the throng for a while, we jumped out of the queue and left. I do not regret this decision in the slightest.
A 2.5km walk back to the train station and an hour train ride, we finally arrived back in Kyoto. We dropped Ravinder off, said our farewells, and returned to our hotel for a sleep.
The red gates of Fushimi Inari-taishi
We woke at 7:30 on Sunday and decided to take things a bit easier today. Nevertheless, we were out of the hotel by 10ish. We caught the subway down to Fushimi Inari-taishi, otherwise known as the Red Gates, otherwise knows as Hell is Other People.
The combination of it being a Sunday and a popular tourist destination made for a horde of people. We joined the throng, going along a vendor-lined street. Glen bought wagyu on a stick and I laughed at the photos I took of him eating it.
We entered the temple complex then joined the line of people marching beneath the gates, everyone trying to get a photo but unable to get one (rarely) without other people in it. Interestingly, if you look back the way you came, you see black writing on the columns which isn’t visible from the other way. With no interpretation around, I wasn’t sure what it all meant.
The crowd thinned a little the more you get to the top. We didn’t do the full loop but probably got a third of the way up, then turned around and came back. We got some photos and I contemplated writing a book about how god awful travel.
Back down the hill we went and caught the train back to Sanjo in the city. We walked to the handkerchief place so Glen could buy some for his mum, then we went for lunch on the seventh floor of a department store (sushi, soba and tempura – I liked it and it didn’t come with the stress of figuring out what to eat). Next stop was a 7-Eleven to get more cash and then to Aritsuga, the knife shop in Nishiki Market, and bought a wonderfully sharp kitchen knife.
After that, Glen saw a massage parlour so went for a 30-minute massage while I went back to the hotel to do various odds and ends. My feet hurt, I didn’t want to buy anything else, and I didn’t want to see another temple.
In the evening Glen wanted steak so we went for steak. Luckily they had chicken. The staff at the hotel had explained to the restaurant when they rang that I didn’t eat red meat or pork so for the little amuse bouche they gave me smoke salmon. Really considerate of them. We ate our food, had dessert, had some drinks, and then wandered home.
Such was our last evening in Kyoto. Not that I’ve got a need to go again, but I’d probably opt for more experiences next time, such as a tea ceremony or origami class. Then again, I can probably do that elsewhere and somewhere new.
Osaka and home
The next day we’d decided we’d just go to the hotel at the Osaka airport and chill. We caught the train, arrived sometime around one, had lunch and checked in. There were a couple of things in Osaka we thought might be interesting – the noodle museum and Universal Studios – but the airport was over an hour on the train from each, we were running out of time, it was cold, and unfortunately I had just received some work from my publisher that I needed to get on to. So Monday was very much a chill day.
The next morning we packed up, went to the airport, checked in, fast-tracked past the horror security queue, and then sat in the lounge until our flight. We’d managed to get business seats from Osaka to Hong Kong. Then in Hong Kong we used the lounge (The Pier, very nice) before our Premium Economy seats into Perth, landing about 10:30.
We were home and while I was glad for some of it, I actually really wanted to go skiing again. Whoever would have thought I’d find it addictive?