Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Osaka - Kyoto

I woke at around 2.30am and snoozed on and off until around 5.30am, when I was pretty sure I couldn’t sleep any more. The first thing I did on getting up was to try to get the phone going. I was sure I'd tried pressing all the different buttons the night before, but just to make sure I tried pressing them again. Suddenly the phone sprang to life. I then remembered you had to press a particular button and keep it pressed down to turn the phone on. I felt like an idiot, although I would have felt like more of an idiot if I'd taken the phone into a shop and asked them if they could "fix" it, which was what I was originally planning to do later that day. Anyway, to have the phone going was a huge relief.

I showered, etc. and watched TV until 7.15am when I went out for breakfast. The area around the station was already quite busy, and I was shocked to see so many people wearing facemasks. I swear as many as eight in ten people were masked up. I found a coffee shop inside the station building and ordered a typical Japanese coffee shop breakfast set of toast, boiled egg, salad, and coffee. No other shops were open yet, so I went back to my hotel room and topped up the phone and sent a few emails.

At 10am I went out to buy some provisions (bottled water, sachets of washing powder for washing my clothes along the way) and to check out some bookshops. I then went to the Mont Bell flagship store and bought a belt. I checked out of my hotel at 11.45am and went to have lunch at an Italian restaurant not far from the hotel where I usually eat when I'm in Osaka. While I was eating I looked around me and felt something was wrong. After a while I realized that it was because none of the patrons were wearing facemasks. I'd already gotten so used to seeing everyone around me wearing a mask that the absence of masks seemed strange. You'd think that if you were going to use a mask to prevent catching swine flu then a crowded restaurant would be one of the first places you'd use it, but of course you can’t eat with a facemask on.

After walking around for a bit I picked up my pack from the hotel and wandered over to the Hankyu Railway station to catch a train to Kyoto, arriving at Kawaramachi at around 2.30pm. It was too early to check in to my hotel, so I had an iced coffee and some cake at a nearby coffee shop. I noticed that far fewer people were wearing masks in Kyoto, even though it was only half an hour by train from Osaka.

I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the Pontocho area on the west bank of the Kamo River. It's an area of Kyoto I'd never really explored before, and doing so left me with a new-found respect for the city, which apart from the temples has always left me feeling underwhelmed in the past. I went as far north as Sanjo-Ohashi, the bridge that marks the beginning (or end if you're walking from Tokyo) of both the Nakasendo and the Tokaido, taking quite a few photos along the way, including several of the bridge itself.

For dinner I went to Cappriciosa, a popular local Italian restaurant chain, where I couldn't resist ordering a glass of a beer to wash down my salmon spaghetti and garlic bread. I'd decided as a rule to stay off alcohol during my Tokaido walk, but I figured I wasn't actually walking yet. Plus, regardless of the time of year, I always feel like drinking beer when I'm in Japan, which is odd since it's a beverage I rarely drink in New Zealand.

Despite all the walking I'd done, the toe felt pretty good. But the next day would be the real test. I was due to start walking the Tokaido.

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