Japan Trip Report - Day 2 - To Kyoto!
I crashed out at 11pm and didn’t do too bad for sleep. Woke up at 2am, 3am, 4am, back to sleep at 4:20, awake at 5am…you get the picture.
The hotel is storing our bike boxes and extra luggage which is pretty cool of them. We catch a train to downtown Tokyo where we pick up our rail passes that we will use for getting around for the week. We can take our bikes on the trains here but we have to play fair and shrink them down as much as possible, and then wrap them in a giant plastic bag.
In my case that means removing both wheels and pedals, then toe-strapping my wheels to the frame, putting it all into a giant sandwich bag, and tying it down with rope. I expect we will be pro at packing/unpacking withing a day or two!
Our Japanese distributor Rie meets us on the train in Nagoya. She brings along a red bean paste and rice treat that the area is famous for. I’m used to the taste of red bean stuff as Koreans love it too, but the texture leaves something to be desired for Jason.
When we arrive in Kyoto, it is only a short walk to KCTP - Kyoto Cycling Transporation Project, a local dealer. KCTP is a really cool shop space located above a bike rental shop. The rental business booms here because of its proximity to the train station. At the shop we meet up with Takeya-san, an ex-messenger, all-around good guy, and promoter of the Kyoto Loco messenger jamboree. Takeya has volunteered to be our guide for a whirlwind half day tour of Kyoto. We also meet Muga, the mechanic at KCTP. He is acclaimed as the best wrench in Kyoto.
Both of these guys are super fun genuine people. It always amazes me the quality of the people that share the love of bicycles. It is a truly uniting and unifying spirit at times.
After hanging at the shop for a bit we hit the town. It’s mine and Jason’s first time riding in Japan. Here they drive on the “wrong” side of the road which only adds to the adventure. Takeya-san keeps a nice steady pace and we follow behind him, occaisionally getting pinched by a bus or car. The drivers here are very courteous though. I’m amazed that horns aren’t blaring at us and that they hold back before accelerating when times are tight.
Eventually we slip off the main streets and ride back alleys on a long gradual rise.
We arrive at Ryoanji Temple, perhaps the most famous Zen garden in the world. It is a beautiful place, but very crowded. Tourism and the spirit of Zen are not always reconcileable I fear. The temple’s most recognizeable feature is a rock garden of stone and white sand. Within the garden are 15 rocks, but from any one vantage point you cannot see them all. Rie tells us, “You can only see them all if you look within yourself”. It would be a nice place to sit, relax, and contemplate but the crowds drive us on.
Takeya-san takes us to a smaller lesser known garden. It is truly beautiful. A bamboo forest slowly waves and makes knocking noises in the breeze. The mossy ground shows no footprint. We remove our shoes and walk through the tatami floored rooms in the old home that graces this land. Donning slippers we walk the stone foot steps lying in the garden. Then we sit and relax for a few precious moments in this lovely place.
We have a train to catch and can’t enjoy this place long enough, so we pedal back to the shop stopping on the way for some beer and snacks. At the shop we toast the Kyoto messenger toast “Fortuna!”, the god of risk takers and gamblers. We then repack our bikes and bags and walk to catch the train to Kurashiki.
Two trains later we arrive in Kurashiki. There we are met by Oda-san, owner of Farm Bicycle Shop. Oda-san is kind enough to pick us up at the train depot with his shop vehicle. His wife and he take us to the Japanese style inn we will stay at and after dropping off our baggage we head to dinner with them, down a maze of alleyways.
It is a traditional style Japanese barbeque. For lack of a better description, it is a feast of assorted shishkabobs. Oh so tasty, especially considering our lunch of beer in Kyoto. Everything at the meal is fantastic, except I am not entirely excited about the cartiledge kabob. No lie…cartiledge. It wasn’t that the flavor was bad, just that the texture was…let’s say crunchy. Crunchy like a somewhat maleable bone. I’ve had enough knee cartiledge taken out of me that I thought I could put a little back in, so I ate one of my four cartilege pieces. Just one though.
A nice evening walk through Kurashiki took us back to our hotel at 11am.
JASON, PETER, AND MIKE HIT THE BATH HOUSE
Thankfully, there are no photos to go with this section of the story, but we did head downstairs to make use of the inn’s traditional Japanese bath. Wash well in a seperate room and then soak in a large, very hot, stone tub. All jokes aside, it was a great way to end our first, very long day in Japan.
Back in the room our futons had been laid out by the staff and we all hit the sack.
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