J-Hoppers hostel in Kyoto is situated centrally, yet near nothing in particular. It inhabits a cultural wasteland of convenience stores and car repair shops, and from this vantage point it would be easy to be disappointed with Kyoto. However, today I cycled to the Eastern outskirts of the city, and discovered a mountainside covered in ancient temples, streets lined with elegant wooden houses, and intricate gardens teeming with wildlife.
The trip to Kyoto was intriguing. I took the Shinkansen, which is probably still the world’s fastest train, at around 300Km/H. Within half an hour of leaving Tokyo, we shot into a mountainside, and when we emerged a few seconds later it was into a gorgeous valley, with the sparkling ocean on one side and looming forested mountains on the other. The rest of the trip repeated this pattern, thundering through mountains and admiring the ever-changing scenery when we emerged. Most of the journey was through semi-rural or built-up areas, as between Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka is an almost uninterrupted strip of civilisation.
The trip to Kyoto from Tokyo took about 3 hours. That was on the Hikari. The Nozomi super-express shaves a further half-hour or so from the trip. To compare, a bus takes between 9 and 12 hours depending on who you talk to.
Last night I went looking for food with Royce (NZ) and Asha (UK), two guys I met at the J-Hoppers. We wandered for an hour before buying some microwaveable crap from the 7-11 around the corner. I need a menu with pictures, or I’m lost.
Late at night, we all sat down to watch The Ring (unfortunately, it was the American version, but it still frightened the sushi out of me).
As I mentioned before, today I cycled to the Eastern outskirts and spent most of the day climbing up the steep mountainside, exploring the temples. At one point I came across an enormous graveyard which stretched up the mountain. It seems that the bereaved visit and offer water and light candles on the graves of their loved ones. How they do so without having a cardiac arrest I have no idea. I climbed to the top and almost died myself – I can’t imagine doing it with a bucket of water. Damn these weak Western legs!
Afterwards, I treated myself to a movie to escape the heat. Reign of Fire – it’s actually really good for an action film. I recommend it. Dragons awake and take humanity to the brink of destruction. Alas they are let down by a cataclysmic evolutionary flaw. Stupid dragons.