• Nick

Weekend in Kyoto, and other random musings.

It's been quite a few weeks since I last posted and a fair bit has happened. The apartment is 99% set up, I went for my first local surf, had a haircut, and we rode the Shinkansen (Bullet train) down for a long weekend in Kyoto, and oh yeah, I've finally bought a bike. More about that later.

Cruising Speed on the Shinkansen

Kyoto was great. The crowds seemed to be more confined to the touristy type areas so although busy and bustling, it didn't feel nearly as congested. Plenty of amazing temples and parks to view, and the river trails are a great way escape the crowds. The city doesn't have the skyscrapers like you see in Tokyo, and buildings seem a lot more dated, so I guess with the height restrictions in place there isn't the incentive to knock down old and replace with new. As such people are more spread out. I didn't see the massive network of trains like you see here either so I would guess that a higher percentage of people rely on their own transport. We hired pushbikes to get around and for two days these were our only transport. Kyoto, at least what we saw of it, is predominantly flat. There are hills but we managed on our hire, non electric assisted bikes just fine. Having said that, I think I would like to try electric assist bikes next time, since we barely scratched the surface of what's on offer to see and do.

The food was fantastic and there are no end of options to choose from. We like to try the little back ally restaurants, or the marginal places, where people are sitting on beer crates eating off pallets converted into makeshift tables. The two best meals we had in Kyoto were real eye openers, and both times we went in with the intention of having a snack and a quick drink, and ended having a feast and getting plastered on Saki. Both very different Restaurant/Cafes but lots of fun and great food. And the locals seemed to really enjoy engaging with us. I've found the benefit of the Rugby World Cup has really paid off for New Zealanders living here. Although the All Blacks campaign was unsuccessful, it's been a triumph for anyone from NZ. Locals love the ABs and really seem to warm to Kiwis.

The temples were amazing, although we did pick peak tourist season so the crowds did become a little frustrating. The autumn leaves were doing their thing, and this is when the tourist season ramps up. Certain groups don't really care if they walk clumsily through where you are trying to get that perfect shot, or will stand and block the path knowing full well you are trying to get through. Fortunately I have a black belt in open hostility and the same growly voice I used on my kids when their table manners were sub par, works a treat regardless of your native tongue. Now before you get all judgy, I saw a Canadian loose his temper with a Chineese group and everybody knows the Canadians are the nicest people in the world.

Had a great morning out going for a surf with some new Japanese friends I've met. The 4:30am start was a shock to the system though. And it was bloody cold. First thing I did when we got back was order a new wetsuit. Definitely wearing booties next time as well. Lesson learned. I've also bought roofracks for my new friends car. With our three boards taking the whole left side interior the smallest person had to do the 1.5hr trip to the coast in the boot. Poor bastard. Was a great day out though and I'm really looking forward to next Tuesday. Hopefully my new wetsuit will be here before then.

Another cool development. Tokyo's Rainbow Bridge is a platform for fireworks every Saturday evening at the moment. We are lucky enough to have a birds eye from our living room but I think we may try to get a little closer if its a clear night this coming Saturday.

Last but not least, the new bike. A 2011 Honda CB1300 Super Four Tourer. 1300cc of beautiful, black, two wheeled touring goodness. Picking her up Saturday morning. Mid range weather forecast looks good so it will actually be the first time in a long time my maiden voyage on a new bike has actually been dry. Hooray for me. Have ordered new gloves and boots though. The riding season here does tend to be a little more precipitous than NZ, although I usually ride all year round. Stay tuned for the first ride report.

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