It was back to duck weather today, our first rain in Kyoto. We wondered if a wet Monday would lessen the crowds, but there were still hoardes of people in every direction. This place is incredibly popular with the Japanese, who still well and truly outnumber foreign tourists.
Sachiyo, Nao and the kids were due to arrive in Kyoto mid-morning by Shinkansen. Sachiyo had kindly offered to bring the kids to the house. We heard them well before they arrived – wheelie suitcases make a distinct noise in quiet back lanes. The kids had a wonderful time with the Sasakis and were spoilt rotten. The plan is for the kids to write some sort of blog of their adventure – watch this space. It was great to see the kids again and also lovely to have a bonus day with Sachiyo and Nao. Sadly Jo was at school and Tetsu at work so we didn’t get to see them again.
The six of us headed up to the gorgeous cobbled streets nearby for a wander in the shops. The shops here are filled with an amazing array of handicrafts, ceramics and other traditional Japanese goodies. We didn’t buy too much, but it was great fun just looking. The Japanese love colour so shops are never dreary. To start with we found the bright colours were a bit of a sensory overload, but we’re quite used to it now. Nao and our kids were very excited to find a “Totoro” store – Totoro is a popular Japanese kids cartoon that appears to have made its way to NZ as well.
We hunted for somewhere to have lunch that suited everyone’s taste and settled on another Italian restaurant for a round of pizzas. We have been amazed how common pizza is Japan, and they do it really well. They are mostly Italian wood fired style with quite simple toppings and we haven’t had a bad one yet. The kids had what looked like Hawaiian, except the pineapple looking stuff was potato – it got the big tick from them. Andy branched out with duck and welsh leek (spring onion!) – delicious.
We were keen to visit a famous shrine in the afternoon and Sachiyo and Nao were happy to come with us. We could have taken the bus, but taxis were almost as cheap. Sachiyo booked a couple of taxis and we were there in no time. Being dropped close to the shrine was a bonus as it was still tipping with rain. We have learnt a new game in Kyoto – umbrella dodgems. After negotiating the Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo without umbrellas, we have joined the locals. Our house came with four umbrellas and they have been well used. It’s fun squeezing down crowded streets where every person has an umbrella. The Japanese just don’t worry about the rain, it is so normal for them.
Fushimi Inari Shrine is an important Shinto Shrine built on a mountainside in Southern Kyoto. It’s famous for the 10,000 Torii gates that line the trails up the mountainside. Even in the rain, this place was spectacular. It was really interesting having Sachiyo explain more about the shrine and learning about it from a Japanese perspective. She did amazingly well answering all of our questions. The kids loved the shrine too, it’s not often you can combine a cultural sight with a hike up a mountain.
We all caught the train back to Kyoto and then said our farewells as Sachiyo and Nao headed back to Himeji on the Shinkansen. It was sad saying goodbye after the wonderful times with the Sasakis, but I am sure we will meet again one day. The kids were pretty tired after their huge weekend, so we grabbed some department store food, ate at the house and had a relaxing evening for once.