Kyoto on a national holiday

Saturday, 21 July 2012

After a lovely breakfast with Ian and his family, we headed to Osaka station to leave my bag in a locker and catch a train to Kyoto. We didn’t factor in the fact that it was a national holiday and every single locker in both of the parts of the biggest station in Osaka was full. We finally took it to Kyoto and left it in the luggage room at the station there. We also didn’t factor in the national holiday when looking for accommodation and discovered that there was not a hostel bed to be had in Kyoto. As it’s only 40 minutes from Osaka we decided to go back there for the night after spending the day in the former capital of Japan.

Spent the morning walking around the Imperial Palace in the blazing sunshine but weren’t able to get in to tour it because the office was closed for that national holiday thing. Shame.

So we headed to Arashiyama and walked through the bamboo grove. It was cool and green, dotted with small temples, and felt like a world away from downtown Kyoto. Although there were a lot of people, and rickshaws (with guys running with the cart, not cycling – pretty hard core), it was really quiet and peaceful. So quiet you could hear the mosquitos buzzing. It was a really nice way to finish the day before heading back to the mania of Osaka.

Japan 2012 164

Japan 2012 166

Japan 2012 167

We had a small disaster when we got back to Namba to collect Barry’s bag. The locker wouldn’t open.

Our original plan had been to spend the next day in Kyoto, get a night bus from there to Hiroshima, two days there, and a night bus back to Osaka. But we thought it would be a better to stick around to get our stuff from a locker security man in the next day or so.

We went to Kyoto in the morning for the Gion Matsuri, a festival held every year, which culminates in a massive parade of very impressive floats, made up in various neighbourhoods of Gion and Kyoto.



We went through early doors for the parade and watched them move (very very slowly) through the streets. The large ones weighted something like seven tons and were pulled by 20 or 30 men. As there are no steering rudders on the floats when they got to a corner everyone had to stop, put down rods of split bamboo, wet it and then heave the cart around the corner. It took about 3 big shoves to get the float pointing in the new direction and away they were again. Powerful.


It was especially impressive as it was so hot. It was only 9am but you could see the ice sculpture of a float steaming and melting before your eyes. I doubt it lasted until the end of the parade.

We watched the parade for an hour or so then walked on to Nijo-jo (castle), the castle of the Kyoto prefecture shogun of the 16the century. It was a really interesting building. Only one level, wooden, with lots of paper screen doors, tatami mats, painted screens and walls.

Some of the flooring is what’s called nightingale floors which squeak when you walk on them in a high pitched bird-like sound so that people can’t surprise you and lop off your head with a samurai sword I guess. Apparently a proper ninja can get across the floors without making a sound.

Barry and I are not ninjas.

The gardens were also beautiful, even if you couldn’t walk on them and sit under an inviting tree. I guess it was fair enough as it was a pretty ancient garden of rock pools and very old bonsai.

Then it was time to go back to Osaka to hang out at a train station and luggage lockers again.

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