Flown the coop

We both awoke quite early today, evidently still feeling a bit of jet lag despite being quite exhausted and crashing early last night. I think I was falling asleep before 10pm, but strangely I stirred at 5am. I forced myself to rest until 7am, but then got up. Our hostel was pleasant but lacked breakfast options, and I headed out to get a bite. A nearby cafe offered little pita (or similar) parcels with scrambled eggs, ham and lettuce, which was a nice start to the day alongside an orange juice.

We headed into Tokyo Station, which felt a little like the final boss battle after months of training in overseas subways. I was impressed with how easily I navigated it, and the JR pass we bought that offers unlimited train transport has already paid for itself twice over. We boarded a bullet train to Kyoto and rode for three hours through some lovely scenery.

When we disembarked it was still a rather rotten thirty one degrees celsius and very humid. We sweated our way to the hostel, which is a nicely spacious place fitted out with a kitchen and lounge area. I headed back out to get some lunch and wandered into a mall. I found, of all things, a sandwich cafe, which was a packed with locals seeking exoticism as sushi restaurants are back in Australia. Now, I had a teriyaki chicken sandwich with egg and horseradish, so it wasn't exactly like having a ham and cheese roll, and you can keep your judgments to yourself, thank you very much.

I kept an eye on the shops as I exited, and couldn't see any menswear. I asked at the counter and they pointed out the two stores in the centre. Two. The entirety of the mall, bar two shops, was women's fashion. That explained why there were so few men around. Those tied to their spouse's arm shared the same dazed look as those do back home. Good to know some things are universal.

After doing some washing, I headed out for the evening. On the notice board downstairs the hostel had listed the final day of a yearly fishing demonstration called 'ukai'. This is a traditional method of angling, in which flames are lit off the boat to attract fish to the surface, and then leashed cormorants dive in and catch them for the fishermen. It sounded awesome, and was meant to be quite the spectacle in the twilight.

I caught the train out to the west of town and made my way down to the river. I thought there'd be a stream of people to follow, but it was surprisingly quiet. I couldn't even see the boats. An American couple were also looking puzzled, and I found out they were also looking for the show. We teamed up to check with a local shop owner: cancelled, because of the winds and possibility of storms. The distant crack of lightning still didn't seem too close or threatening, but apparently it was enough to call it all off. Such is life. I'll catch it next time. I went back to a restaurant I'd passed and had a Japanese curry. Oka? Uba? Either way, it was nice, and I didn't regret the trip. The view and atmosphere over the river and in the shadows of the mountain and approaching storm was special.

I'm really growing fond of Japan, even in such a short time. Wandering through the back streets, beneath huge swathes of power cables and between traditional wooden houses, you really feel you're somewhere different. In many respects Europe is very similar to Australia, and Canada was even more so. But Japan is so intrinsically different, from the alphabet to the architecture, that I couldn't help but smile broadly as I explored Kyoto. Tomorrow, hopefully with a little less heat, I'll get to see some of the sights now that we're settled.