Nijo Castle, Bamboo path, Bike ride, shopping and a temple with a mean view
24.10.2012 - 25.10.2012 -18 °C
Today we decided to hire bikes for our 'Tokyo Mop up Tour', to see any of the remaining sights we had not been to yet. Bikes are THE method of transport in Japan and there seems to be a flurry of them heading towards you at any one time.
The most bizarre thing about hiring bikes today was that we had to give them a copy of our ID. We've not had to use our ID once in Japan, even when buying alcohol. Maybe bikes are considered more dangerous, or maybe we are? We were also warned that you can receive up to 5 years in prison for cycling under the influence of alcohol- best put the hip flask full of sake to one side today!
Our first stop was a quick morning coffee in a cafe with a sort of dragon/bird creature as its main centre piece. We didn't think anything of it at first, which is when we realised we've become quite accustomed to the oddities you see everywhere here.
Our first major stop on the 'Mop up Tour' was Nijo castle, the old Shogun residence. We wandered around the castle and across the nightingale floors, deliberately designed to squeak in case of intruders. As far as we could tell, there were a dozen rooms for waiting before you could be shown into 1 of the for 4 main rooms. There was one room designed specifically for the Shogun to receive messages and another for just greetings and gifts. Not a particularly economic use of space but grand, pretty and spacious, yes.
We have become particularly partial to a Japanese garden, so we enjoyed having a poke around the castle grounds. Delightfully, they always offer a variety of trees and at least 1 water feature. Everyone loves a water feature.
There were 100 school trips descending on Nijo castle at the same time we were visiting. We have come to realise that we will hear a non stop chatter of 'hello, hello, hello' as they ALL try and engage us in conversation on the way round. To ensure a uninterrupted viewing of the garden, Emma came up with the rather ingenious idea of pretending we were German. If there were any Germans in the garden they would have been highly confused hearing sentences like 'buch kuchen gerberstag, guten tag', which roughly translates to 'book cake birthday hello'. In fact, if you were any nationality you probably would have questioned our sanity, Emma was simply rambling random noises in a German accent. Oddest of all is that this seemed to work, so school trips in Tokyo will probably hear us doing a similar thing.
A quick 500 Yen lunch in a dingy diner and we made a longer trip to Arashiyama to see the Bamboo Path. You'd assume a forest of bamboo would be easy to find but it took us a good hour. It was a beautiful walk though, so it all felt worthwhile.
The day had already been quite tiring and there was a real nip in the air by the time we left. To inspire Emma for the return journey, Ashton surprised her with some bright white riding gloves (not really sure what they were for, they had weird bobbly bits on the bottom). Please see Emma burning rubber on the way home whilst modelling the mentioned divine garment:
For our last day in Kyoto, we also went to visit Kiyomizu Temple. It has a wooden verandah across a cliff face so offers brilliant views of Kyoto and the temple itself if quite an amazing thing to see too.
We finished off the day with a shopping marathon in the Teramachi arcade and a lunch in Nishiki Market. Udon noodles with rice cakes and green tea!
Tonight we are preparing for a 9 hour bus trip to Tokyo. First on the agenda is sewing Emma's rucksack up. We have broken two sewing needles already in the process, so it's going to be a bit of a botched job.
Also, we will be nursing Emma's eye as this has happened: