Sunday, November 12, 2017

Kyoto Day 4- part 5- Leaving Kyoto

As happens with all good things, my time in Kyoto came to a wrap shortly after lunch. Once again I found myself seated inside a bullet train, gliding through the countryside with the smooth and lethal grace of it's namesake. Given the speed with which we traveled, I shortly found the sunshine of a cool winter's day in Kyoto replaced by grey skies and rain, then gentle snow followed by a dense white haze... then it cleared up once more and we were well on our way back to Tokyo. 

What is a train trek in Japan without the eponymous eki-ben, so named because it's literally a train station bento box. Small stores selling them proliferate both inside of and near any train station you may happen across in Japan, though their fillings will vary immensely depending on the price of the box and the region it's purchased in. Attention to detail is high, and while the quality of the ingredients can fluctuate a tad based on the price, you can trust that the majority of times you'll find a reasonably well-balanced meal to enjoy regardless where it's from. 

Traveling on the shinkansen was, for me, extremely comfortable. I was able to stretch my legs out with ample room in front of me, and the easily accessible outlets to charge my devices allowed me the freedom to entertain myself with any electronic without fear of the battery depleting on me prior to our arrival some hours later. Personally, I found it a bit difficult to actually go so far as to sleep but some of my fellow passengers had little to no difficulty in doing so. Given the ready availability of alcoholic beverages at the station and stores surrounding the train stations, it may play some role in that. In a lot of ways it feels very similar to flying, from the fold-out tables on the chairs in front to the seat designs... that being said, it should be noted that bullet train travel is not cheap. If you're looking to save money, you can always opt to take an overnight bus (as I've done when traveling to L.A. from Vegas several times) or fly. Personally, it was worth the expense because it gave me the opportunity to see the country in a way that was special to me. We certainly don't have any bullet trains in my part of the world yet, though the Hyperloop might hold promise...but I digress. It was a lovely trip and though I was sad to be leaving my new friends behind for the routine of work, work and more work, I was so very glad to have had the adventure and met those lovely people. 


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Kyoto day 4- part 4- lunch and Arashiyama station

As tends to happen rather predictably, hunger eventually found it's way into my awareness and the rumbling of my tummy signaled the time for fueling. I had passed several opportunities for eating along the way, including a small hut that claimed to offer tamagokake gohan, a simple but utterly comforting dish of steaming hot rice topped with a lightly beaten raw egg... while that would have been quite affordable and homey, the hut was seemingly untended when I happened by so I walked until I found this lovely restaurant. For about $20US I had a delicious and well-rounded meal consisting of steamed white rice, thinly sliced raw sea bream in sesame sauce, locally grown Kyoto vegetables, house made pickles, hot tea and even dessert! A truly delicious and wholesome meal to replenish from the morning's sojourn. 

After filling my tank, I resumed walking for a little longer before retreating to the train station. My time in Kyoto was rapidly drawing to a close and I needed to start making my way back to Kyoto station proper to catch my bullet train back to Tokyo. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Kyoto day 4- part 3- Arashiyama sanpo

For my last day in Kyoto, I spent the majority of my time wandering without any real direction through the various paths I encountered in Arashiyama/Arasiyama. The area was serene and beautiful in it's rural tone, with friendly rickshaw drivers (and riders) smiling and waving when they noticed me snapping photos. While I did have a train to catch, eventually, I felt no need to rush or hurry while I wound my way through the rural setting. 

I hope you enjoy my photos and can perhaps catch a sense of that calm, happy stroll.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Kyoto Day 4- Bamboo forest

While a leisurely stroll among nature is long known to be relaxing, the Japanese have gone so far as to not only give the practice a name (shinrin-yoku) but studied it extensively. From the shinrin-yoku forest medicine website:

"Shinrin-yoku is a term that means "taking in the forest atmosphere" or "forest bathing." It was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. Researchers primarily in Japan and South Korea have established a robust body of scientific literature on the health benefits of spending time under the canopy of a living forest. Now their research is helping to establish shinrin-yoku and forest therapy throughout the world. 

The idea is simple: if a person simply visits a natural area and walks in a relaxed way there are calming, rejuvenating and restorative benefits to be achieved. "

However much stock you put into such claims,  the bamboo forest in Kyoto is one exceptionally lovely (albeit smaller than I had anticipated) locale to partake in some soothing plant-gazing and walking. Depending when you visit, there may be crowds of people milling around, dispelling the illusion of solitude quickly. I happened to visit during a relatively quiet time, and managed to snap these. When a van rolled through the narrow lane it really helped to illuminate just how tall these bamboo shoots are... bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants, is it not? 

If your visit finds you here on a slow day, you'll be able to enjoy the sound of the wind rippling among the towering flora.  If it's summer, the cicada will join in to bolster the chorus. 

Who knows, maybe, just maybe, you'll feel rejuvenated, too.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Kyoto day 3- part 5- dinner in town

After hiking Fushimi Inari, I was quite tuckered out for the day and ready to retire. However, my stomach was quite vocal about the need to replenish after expending so much I made my way back into town, or at least the area I was staying in. It took a little while to find any places open and enticing at the late hour and I got turned away from one place (which was behind the artistic elevator door shown below)... Eventually I found a place that was open and serving, so I found myself a seat and ordered up a dish of yudofu, or tofu hot pot. The yudofu is pictured above, a simple dish of tofu and vegetables in a light broth, a quintessential Kyoto classic of sorts. There's no need to overcomplicate things, instead the natural flavors of the composite ingredients are allowed to meld and mingle in the gentle broth. It's really a lot more delicious and lot less bland than it may sound, believe me. 

The dish came with a couple of sides, pictured above. Potato salad, simmered items (ube, burdock root and lotus root) and fruit. 

After refueling I stopped in at Pan & Circus for a drink and to say hi to my new friends at the guest house before returning to 9Hours for the evening to crash. Since it was late I managed to snag a few photos of the more private areas, like the bathroom pictured below.


Check back soon for the next post.