|Chris and I - last day in Japan, in Nara - more photos here|
Tues 1 Sept: Sydney – Kyoto
It seemed for several days last week that we might be unable to travel. The shock of Chris’s recurring cancer was overlaid with weariness at the idea of having to cancel everything. But at last the surgeon approved scheduling the operation following our return, so at 4am this morning, off we went.
4.15am – The taxi arrived promptly at S&M’s where we stayed overnight, and we arrived at the airport with time to spare.
9am – arrived in Cairns and had to retrieve our bags to transfer to the Osaka flight. Waited for 30 minutes in a queue at Departures only to find that there is a separate International terminal for our departure – poor signage! A few moments of panic before finding that we still had time to check-in for the flight.
11am – 5pm – Flight to Osaka. Reading, crosswords and sudoku (we didn’t purchase the entertainment pack!).
8.30pm – Kyoto at night is bright, warm and crowded. I think that we can walk to the guesthouse so we set off. The streets become progressively less crowded and no-one recognises the address … We admit that we are lost and find a taxi that seems to have arrived from the 1960s and after some head-scratching and GPS wrangling we find ‘Fujitaya’.
9.15pm – Fujitaya is tiny, in a neighbourhood of tiny wooden cottages. Koho welcomes us and we find our tiny room next to the tiny bathrooms ($104). Check-in, then head out to local (tiny) restaurant – Okonomiyaki Miki - which does traditional vegetable pancakes and other BBQ dishes (we have scallops with spinach), washed down with cold beer as we sit at the counter and watch the cooks do their stuff – aaaah …
10.30pm - Tiny room has futons, aircon and no sheets, but is comfortable enough. A long day …
Wed 2 Sept – Kyoto II
The first thing that happened today, when I finally got online, was finding out that our AirBnb apartment was cancelled - all apologies but no reason given. Damn! We are supposed to check in today! The guesthouse we are staying in has no vacancy, so I trawl AirBnb and find an apartment near the river in South Higashiyama, a few km south of the previous booking ($140/night). OK! It’s booked!
|Maiko makeovers - and selfie stick|
|Tenryu-ji garden with umbrellas|
Thu Sept 3 – Kyoto III
|Bamboo grove tourists|
|Kyoto tower from the station|
Fri 4 Sept – Kyoto IVOur last day in Kyoto and time to bite the bullet for some temple visits. The south Higashiyama route:
- Sanjusangen-do, just around the corner. It’s early when we get there so not crowded. The garden is somewhat unkempt, but the drawcard is the enormous hall with 1001 statues of the Buddhist goddess of mercy. Like many other locations – no photos!
View from Kyomizura-dera
- Kiyomizura-dera – the tourist shops lining the pathway up to the temple warn of its popularity. It is crawling, teeming, with visitors of all and every kind. We look briefly around and check out the view, but are not enticed inside.
- The quaint laneways of Sannen-zaka and Ninen-zaka are pretty but likewise infested, lined with ice cream shops, teahouses and gift shops. We stop for a green tea ice, then into the less populated detour of Ishibei-koji. From there to Kodai-ji temple – surprisingly quiet and with a lovely garden and bamboo grove.
- Chion-in is apparently the temple that attracts more pilgrims than any other, and certainly the ranked tour buses don’t inspire. The complex is dominated by what looks like a giant warehouse or hangar – turns out that it houses the main hall in the process of reconstruction. The gateway is certainly grand. We have a look around, but don’t pay to enter the temple buildings.
- Just a few minutes north is Shoren-in. It is a modest temple with a gorgeous garden, and just a handful of visitors. We love this place and spend quite a while exploring.
|Shoren-in temple garden|
After 2 hours there is a third interval, and we feel we have had enough, and head out to find Kisui bar, recommended in LP. After walking in circles for some time we find a handwritten note pinned to a door to say that it closed earlier in the year.
Sat 5 Sept – Kyoto – HiroshimaChris is anxious about his cancer and wants to go home. We try to call the hospital, but it is Saturday. I try to check flight availability but the website isn’t working. We decide to leave it for the weekend and try again on Monday.
|Exhibit at the Peace museum, Hiroshima|
After checking in at K’s House hostel (tiny room + ensuite, $90), we take the tram to the Peace park and Peace museum. The museum is old-fashioned in presentation, but it is an effective mix of factual history, science and human stories. Harrowing. And a reminder that such experiences (albeit non-nuclear) continue in the world today. There are several other memorials, notable the A-Bomb Dome, the dramatic remains of an early C20th industrial building that is now the icon of the city and its history.
|Peace dome, Hiroshima|
Sunday 6 Sept – NaoshimaMiyajima on a Sunday – surely it would be packed with tourists? So changed the plan to Naoshima- the ‘art island’, of interest to the artistically inclined rather than the regular herd. Also quite a bit harder to get to: train to Okayama, two local trains, then ferry. It takes half the day, but we are there in the early afternoon, after eating our sushi ‘bento’ boxes on the ferry.
|The Yayoi Kusama Pumpkin at Naoshima|
We hit the museums – Chichu, Lee Ufan and Benesse House, all designed by architect Tadao Ando. The buildings are certainly amazing, much more than bland art houses – they are the art and the artistic contents are their complement. The art itself is of high quality although spread somewhat thin (when compared to European museums). But the buildings themselves - in combination with nature, weather and art – are the point. The tour of the museums is certainly interesting, as is the price tag – around $100 for the two of us to visit 3 museums over 3 hours. Feeling rather like poor rellos come to take a glimpse of how the cultural elite live. Unfortunately, the other face of art in Naoshima – the Art House Project – we are not able to visit (time, weather, closed Mondays). That project sounds more accessible to mere mortals.
|Our beachfront cottage at Tsutsuji-so Lodge|
Mon 7 September: Naoshima – Nara
|Me! at Guesthouse Sakuraya, Nara|
|Chris in Nara, with the essentials - vidcam and umbrella!|
|Nara pagoda and lake by night|
|Deer and tourists at Todai-ji temple|
Tuesday 8 Sept – Nara
|Best. breakfast. ever.|
|Giant Buddha at Todai-ji|
|Forest of lanterns at Kasuga|
|Chris in the Yoshikien Garden|
|Yum! plastic food in Nara shopping mall|
The trip to the airport and checking in all goes smoothly – we have plenty of time. It’s a long overnight flight (we get the entertainment pack this time!), and a five hour wait in Cairns for the Sydney flight. Then, at last we are home – one week ahead of schedule, and with a gruelling period of surgery and recovery ahead of us. I so hope that we can return another time.
|View from RPA hospital at dawn - before Chris's surgery|