Japan, May 2014: Day Seventeen

So 5:30am came around quick. Time to rise and shrine as we were off to Inari, a town south east of Kyoto.Inari is famous for one thing, the Shinto shrine to the god of rice. The pathway to the shine atop of Mt. Inari is lined with thousands of torii gates (donated by Japanese businesses) along the 4km route. It’s the #1 attraction when visiting Kyoto according to the guidebooks – so we thought we’d see what the fuss is all about.We arrived nice and early, beating the crowds of tourists that flock here every day. It was already warm, but with literally a mountain to climb, we pushed on. The base camp as we’ll call it, consisted of a number of structures used for worship. Once we’d purified ourselves with the water and ladle that you’ll find at all entrances to Shinto shrines, we proceeded to pass through onto the incline.

We weren’t the only foreign tourists there that early. An American trio had arrived to generally move people out the way so they could take photos with their expensive camera and tripod. Feeling this was slightly disrespectful to the actual worshipers, we photo-bombed their shots at every opportunity.

Tired of making other people’s photos look awesome, we set about taking our own. It’s a unique setting and it would be quite hard to take a bad photograph here.. even with Emma and I waving in the background.

As we moved further up the mountain, the sheer number of gates (although impressive) becomes quite repetitive. By the second set of shrines, my legs were on fire from bug bites. Realising that we didn’t need to go to the top and with temperatures soaring, we made our way back down and back to the train.

Once at Kyoto station, we found our holy grail! A tunnel that appeared to link both sides of the station! We headed to the south exit in the direction of yesterday’s malls in search of a pharmacy for bite treatment.

Unfortunately it was only 9:00am and nowhere was open. In search of caffeine to keep morale up, we discovered Cafe Nakayama. Presumably owned by Mr. Nakayama, this was the equivalent of a local coffee shop for local people. We ordered some toast and coffee and were grateful to finally sit down. The toast was amazing and the coffee superb. Nakayama-san brewed the coffee in what can only be described as a bong (apparently, as I’ve never seen or heard of one before). The ground beans were placed in a jar with the water in a separate glass sphere below. The two were connected by a tube and placed over Bunsen Burner and heated. As the water boiled it transferred to the top container mixing with the coffee before cooling and draining down to the bottom one again.

We were transfixed on the witchcraft performed before our eyes; all whilst Nakayama-san was sat watching a video on his laptop. I don’t think I could ever get bored of making coffee this way!

We stayed for two coffees whilst listening to jazz as others smoked around us – which doesn’t seem weird now. Hitting the pharmacy as soon as it opened, we deciphered what we needed by the pictures of Mosquitos on boxes with unhappy faces of cartoon people. Treatment applied, we decided to head back to the Shijo part of town we visited yesterday. Apparently there is a market street that’s also quite a big deal in the guidebooks, so we thought we should tick that off the list too.

Coincidentally, the market street adjoined the street we visited the day before – everything is such a sensory overload here, it’s easy to miss the obvious landmarks. As we arrived, itchy and sweaty (not saying who’s who) we dived into the first noodle bar we could find. It was buffet style and not one we’d encountered. The menu was in Japanese, which usually wouldn’t matter – but we’d have to ask for food, rather than just point! A split second before we turned and walked out, we were handed menus by the chef. The noodle curry was awesome and I’m glad we stayed.

Onto the market and it was an alley of the weird and wonderful – who could resist a bag of fish faces for dinner? Mostly tourists pointing at bits of fish, I’m glad we’d already eaten. Tired and in bits, we grabbed an Oreo milkshake at Harry’s Cafe – a small second floor (2F) cafe overlooking the indoor shopping street – before heading back to Kyoto station.

Once at Kyoto, we found ourselves standing in front of a girl asleep in bed outside of the main building. We think it was promoting some kind of linen bed wear – she was sleeping in the midday sun to show how cooling it was – but if you google her (and spell her name wrong by one letter, like Emma did) it brings up some very varied links – not safe for work. I’m still confused by it now, so I’ll do some more research before elaborating.

We had planned to go out later, but we were so exhausted we just wanted to get back to the hotel and sleep. Instead, we opted for a massage in Yodobashi Camera, courtesy of the FMC-N230… our new fave massage chair. Refreshed and revitalised, we continued to hunt for rare toys before getting frustrated and eventually heading home.

Another early start is planned for tomorrow – off to see some bamboo!