Journal 20081007 Japan

Japanese breakfast was not in our room but in a communal area, where we were joined by a Japanese family. When they left, there was a whisper among them, then the father approached us and said, in a heavy Japanese accent, “Have a nice day” (“Ha va nice-a day-a”). It was amusing for all.

Afterwards, I went down to the male spa for my morning bath. It was a large pool, and I was joined by one of the hotel managers. I have to say that this bathing ritual certainly makes you feel very clean.

We took another taxi back to the train station (2,000 yen plus 180 pick up charge). With only an hour to kill, I remained there while Madame Oui went out for a little window shopping. Before boarding, we indulged ourselves with some coffee lattes from Starbucks, which are ubiquitous here.

The local train journey was spectacular, with its views of the alps during our long descent. Our seats were on the better side, and again we were thanking ourselves for having upgraded to the Green Car (first class) service.


We arrived at Kyoto, where immediately we noticed some commotion and some young officials handing out hand-held Japanese flags for the spontaneous audience. I got my camera out of its case, preparing myself for who knows who? The prime minister? David Beckham? Disappointingly, it appeared the celebrity was a local politician, certainly no one I recognised from the new ministerial cabinet. All the same, it was interesting to observe this mass behaviour. [Subsequently learned it was the Japanese Prince Royal!]

But then I got frustrated as I couldn’t confirm which exit we should take. The map indicated one or maybe two exits, but I quickly noticed three or four. We managed to find the correct one, while it became apparent why many would meet up in this station cum shopping mall.

Our Inside Japan Tour guide book said that it was a 25-minute walk to the hotel, Hotel Sunroute Kyoto. As it was pleasant enough weather and the navigation was three straight roads, we decided it would do no harm to orientate ourselves this way, so off we went. The trouble wasn’t so much me pulling two cases with a heavy rucksack on my back, but that we walked straight past our hotel (didn’t notice the small sign with small English title). We ended up walking for about 45 minutes, which knackered me. Should have taken a taxi.


The reward was a well appointed hotel room, with a leather massage chair, which Madame Oui promptly put to use. The view of the Higashiyama-ku region from our room was also appreciated.

I asked Madame Oui to review the suggested places to eat, from our Lonely Planet guide book. She replied that she didn’t like any of them, and just wanted to head out and find one. We argued about this before we set out. Incredibly, within a ten-minute walk we came across a Mexican restaurant, just what she wanted. The meal wasn’t particularly good; tasted like Old El Paso sets you get from the grocery store, but considering the cook was the wife of the Japanese owner, I wasn’t expecting The Border Cafe, Boston. His live guitar singing while encouraging us to participate with tambourines and other Mexican instruments, was amusing, if a little surreal. What I didn’t like, though, was getting fleeced with the bill, which I calculated (too late) was at least 1,000 yen more than it should have been. Well, if it goes towards singing lessons, all the better.

This part of the city, about Kawaramachi, is very lively at night. It reminded me of some London streets. There were plenty of people out and about, having fun, whether shopping or in the noodle bars and clubs. Madame Oui halted me from going into a Sony shop, while I succumbed when she found a shop of some tasteful knickknacks. I wasn’t much interested in the offerings, so I waited at the entrance, to watch the world go by. Madame Oui was angry with me when we left, for me not
accompanying her in the shop. Regrettably, this soured the evening, and my attempts to converse with her during our walk home failed. I was happy to go to bed relatively early. Lesson: always trail your partner into shops.

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