Saturday: My hotel provided a very elaborate breakfast – it is a small hotel, but they put a lot of effort in details, such as breakfast. Not too big, but prepared with quite some inspiration. A good start into the day. I had booked a guided bicycle tour for today. I went to the main station and had some trouble to find the meeting point, but I arrived on time. There was only another couple from Singapore, Seung and Rosalind. Our guide was Ryo, a young student from Kyoto who does these tours frequently. Her English was very good as she had spent 6 months in Canada.
On the program were to visit to a Buddist and a Shinto temple plus the ‘Philisopher’s path’. In fact she showed as a little more. Her explanations were very good and we learned a lot. Seung and Ros were also travelling in Japan for two weeks and it turned out that they were also adventure bikers! Seung was even planning to do his first Ironbutt ride in Malaysia.
A bicycle is the perfect vehicle to get around in Kyoto and there are lots of them. We went also to an aqueduct, built some 100 years ago in “European” style. It is something exotic in Kyoto.
Our guide Ryo told us many things about the city and some details that were very interesting. For example, she suddenly stopped at a vending machine like you see one at every corner in Japan, they are everywhere. But this one was different. It contained booze. That’s new! One of only two in the city. Very interesting for teenagers.
Luckily it was cloudy, but the humidity and going uphill let the sweat flow again. After the Philopher’s path (where an ancient philosopher used to walk to his faculty), we stopped for some tea and local sweets.
We passed by another temple as we got closer to the touristic area. I asked Ryo if the ladies dressed in Kimonos in the streets were locals or just tourists who rented a kimono. She said “100 % tourist!”
We went back through small roads to the place of the bicycle rent. This was really a nice and very informative trip in good company! Seung, Rosalind and I decided to have lunch together. Thanks to Ryo for the good guided tour!
We three went to the station and found the restaurant recommended by Ryo closed. But there are restaurants in abundance, so soon we were sitting in a cooooooool place and ordered good food. We chatted for more than two yours about motorbikes and our trips.It was great fun. And of course they both ride Honda! They had been already to the Honda museum in Motegi that I deliberately had left out. Well, you can’t have it all. We exchanged our social media locations and said farewell.
I bought some souvenirs and was impressed by all the different fancy shops. Well, I’m easy to impress, I’m just a hillbilly, haha! I walked back to the hotel and had a well needed shower. I planned my last real dinner in Japan. All the good places were north of the station, but I was not in the mood to walk a lot again. But then I discovered a place very close to the hotel. A family-run business with classic Japanese Kaiseki cuisine and excellent reviews. Let’s go there!
It was really classic, taking off shoes, a small place and I got a place at the counter, directly opposite of the the chef, a young lady and her father who were preparing the dishes in front of me. The place was full and the lady seemed stressed and tired, but both prepared the dishes with great routine and dedication. I ordered the big Japanese dinner, after all it was my last Japanese dinner of the trip. It was really great food and great fun to watch its preparation.
Next to me there was a man at the counter and I started a conversation with him. It turned out he was an ophthalmologist and professor who gave a talk at a conference in Kyoto. He presented some work on drug delivery using drug-releasing contact lenses. Very interesting. I told him that I also had worked once on novel drug delivery systems and we had a good conversation topic.
As I had ordered the large dinner, I was the last guest in the restaurant. I had a conversation with the chef and it seemed she finally could relax, having a funny talk with me. I told her that I was impressed by her good English, having in mind that she never had left Kyoto. She told me that she was not the boss here. Her boss was her father. And her father’s boss was her mother! I praised her good food and she was very thankful, this honours the cook. It was a classic farewell in the street, with waving and bows. An excellent choice.
Sunday: I had another good breakfast and checked out. I walked to the station and left my two bags in a locker. I took the metro and visited the Nijo-jo castle. It is an UNESCO world heritage and played an important role in the history of Japan. The centuries under the Shogun power and the samurais started and ended in this castle.
In the old palace rooms, no pictures could be taken. Inside the palace are several masterpieces of Japanese art, most notably the painted screens of the main chamber. In this room the shoguns met the daimyo (high-ranking warlord-administrators) who sought an audience. The screens were painted by artists of the Kano school and employ rich colors and large amounts of gilt to depict flowers, trees, birds and tigers. They were meant to impress. Also in the palace are the famous “nightingale floors,” which were designed to squeak when steped on and thus alert guards to any intruders.
I walked around in the garden started to melt again. In a ‘rest area’ I bought a green tea ice cream, so I could enjoy the freshness of the air condition.
I took the metro and went back to the station. I entered a place where they make Otonomiyaki, Kyoto style, different from Hiroshima’s. But tasty as well. I got my bags and embarked the Shinkansen. It was Sunday, so the train was pretty full ( I had no reserved seat). I was sent to the correct wagon by the conductor. By the way: when the conductor enters or leaves the wagon, he/she bows first. I have met quite some different conductors in my life…
In Nagoya, I had to change trains, the stations are even separated. Finally I arrived at the Nagoya airport again and walked to the same hotel I was three nights before. In the restaurant, they had only American food….not bad, but what a contrast to the last two weeks!
Tomorrow morning, I will fly back to Europe and a fantastic trip will come to its end. As I will spend a lot of hours in the seat during the flight, I plan to write a bit of a summary of the trip.