April in Japan – It’s been too long, Kyoto

0317 + 1029 = 0407 Kyoto

This is a blog post about our day on 7 April 2015 in Kyoto, written on 17 March 2015 and 29 October 2016 (again, better late than never… there are three more posts from this trip to come I’m warning you…). 17 March is in black. 29 October is in red italic. If you’d like to read stories from the previous days of the travel, search “April in Japan” on top of my blog.

April in Japan - It's been too long, Kyoto

Thinking about the moment I step out of Kyoto station, I will have been looking forward to coming to Kyoto for so long, I might be actually speechless. Or maybe I will be disappointed with all the rather normal looking buildings. Or maybe I will be shocked by how out-of-place Kyoto Station looks.

…Actually, I can’t remember how I felt when I stepped out of Kyoto Station. There was no trace of record even in the travel journal I kept. Under 7 April, it simply recorded: Thunderbird left Kanazawa at 9.05am and arrived Kyoto at about 11.30am. I do remember enjoying the train ride though, the spotless carriage, the humble and proud train staff, the fleeting views of Lake Biwa.

The shocking and disappointing reality was: the peak of cherry blossom was gone. Although I was aware of the possibility I couldn’t accept the fact: Kyoto was flowerless. Judging by my memory and confirmed by my journal, I was sulking most of that day…

The full bloom day of cherry blossom in Kyoto is the 2nd of April. I’m a bit worry the flowers will be fading by now. My plan includes a temple with late opening cherry blossom species. So hopefully, we will still see something. I’ve been grouping places in many different combinations for months, trying to fit in as many as the time allows. The first plan was decided according to geographic areas. The second plan was according to public transport. The third plan was to decide the night before each day, according to cherry blossom forecasting websites. The current one is a mixture of all of the above. I feel I know the geography of Kyoto better than the city I’m living in now.

Presuming we arrive at about lunch time, we’ll go to into the mountains on the east side of the city first. There is a well-known path called Philosopher’s Walk linking a few temples up. The Philosopher’s Walk is popular in cherry blossom season. However, I decided to give it up in the end and only sample two of the temples: Nanzen-ji and Eikando. I’m ashamed to say that I know nothing about the historical and political value of these temples and shrines. I’m sure there are a lot of fascinating stories. I thought about learning all relevant historical events and people. But in the end, I decide to enjoy them just as old and nice places, appreciating the architecture and gardens by respectable human wisdom and craftsmanship.

Keage Incline
Keage Incline

Eikando
Eikando

There is a dam in the south of Kyoto, which ranks in the top 10 cherry blossom viewing places in Japan. I had to give up on it as well because it’s just too far away. But I did manage to find something similar (I imagine), which is one of the river side walk in the north of Kyoto. Temples in the east and river bank in the north sound quite far away from each other, but there is a cross shaped metro line linking them all up. So after seeing Nanzenji and Eikando, we’ll take a metro a few stops north.

Kamogawa river is a Y shape. We’ll walk along the top left branch, towards south, to the meeting point of the top two branches, cross over to the right hand side (east), and walk along the top right branch, towards north.

We followed the plan and took a subway to Kamogawa river. The riverside path is called Nakaragi-no-michi. I leapt with excitement like a bunny, dragging my husband along: the flowers were blooming here! The species of cherry blossom here was different to the type we saw this morning and was obviously flowering a few days later. It was freezing cold but I was finally happier.

Nakaragi-no-michi.
Nakaragi-no-michi. What a lovely place to jog in the morning, have lunch with friends and stroll along after dinner.

Nakaragi-no-michi.

Nakaragi-no-michi

Hopefully we’ll find the lovely bookshop Keibunsha Ichijoji. Keibunsha Ichijoji is selected as one of the World’s Top 10 Book Stores by the Guardian. I love books, even ones that I can’t understand. But I’m hoping I might be able to find a Japanese recipe book with enough pictures that I can follow.

Tell you what happened. I walked into a metal pole on a train platform and made an earthshaking bang. I wasn’t in a mood for browsing books after that, top 10 or no top 10.

I was hungry, freezing, couldn’t find a subway station or a bus stop. The streets were dark, foreign and empty… We rushed into Tokichi tea shop in Kyoto Station just before its last order. We tried proper matcha, i.e. “finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea” – it was extremely bitter and… green. 

Kyoto ryokan
Our ryokan room – the ultimate all-in-one.

The day didn’t finish in a high spirit. I went to bed with a sulk and a headache…

That will be our first day in Kyoto. Goodnight.

 

 

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