Kyōto, round II (Sat., 8/13)

«Fri., 8/12 | Sun., 8/14 (coming soon)

After a somewhat uncomfortable sleep at K’s House (Hana Hostel really outshines them.  There’s nothing wrong with K’s – it’s clean and adequate – but Hana just had charm.  The staff is so nice.), we trekked to Fushimi Momoyamajo, accessible from Kyōto Station via the Kintetsu line to Tambabashi Station.  Be forewarned, it’s a 20 minute walk, mostly uphill.

As you can see, it’s well worth the trip.

One of the best things about Fushimi Momoyamajo, aside from being “photogenic,” as Mike described, was that it was relatively empty.  Off the beaten path, it’s not a huge tourist attraction.  It’s actually located within a park that was hosting a baseball game while we were there.  The lack of crowds really added to the beauty, serenity, and awe of the place.  It was much easier to close your eyes and imagine years past in the quiet, much-appreciated breeze (and the not-so-quiet cicadas prevalent in Japan’s summer.)


After taking solace in the shadows of the castle and its formidable gate we – take a breath – took a taxi back to the station.  I know!  The first of three times we would utilize such a service on this trip.  The heat was simply awful.

From there we went to the historic Teradaya Inn where Sakamoto Ryōma, an important figure in Japan’s revolutions in the 1860s, was attacked on March 8, 1866.  In his own words, as published in Maruis B. Jansen’s Sakamoto Ryōma and the Meiji Restoration (Columbia University Press, 1994):

We had come up from the bath and were on the point of going to bed, when we thought we heard something strange; it sounded like the footfalls of someone sneaking around below us (we were on the second floor). Then, in the same way, we heard the clattering of six-foot staves. Just at that time [the woman he would marry], with no thought of her own safety, came running up to us and warned, ‘Look out! The enemy have invaded unexpectedly …’ At that, I jumped up, grabbed my hakama and the two swords, along with a six-shooter pistol … and crouched down towards the rear of the room …
“There were already 20 men lined up with spears; they also had two burglar lanterns, and to top it off there were fellows carrying six-foot staves everywhere…
“By the time this one spear-man was half way up the stairs and coming in my direction. He was on my left. I figured that if there was a spear on my left it could strike me from the side, and so I shifted my position to face to the left. Then I cocked my pistol, and threatened all ten of the spearmen, from right to left. They ran away. Meanwhile, others of the enemy were throwing spears, and also charcoal braziers, and fighting in all sorts of ways. We, for our part, were ducking spears, and you can imagine that it was really a noisy war inside that house. We also hit one man, but I don’t know whether we killed him or not.
“One of the enemy managed to come in from the shadow cast by the shōji and, with a short sword, he cut the base of my right thumb, chopped the knuckle of my left thumb, and cut my left index finger to the bone at the knuckle. Of course these were shallow finger wounds, and I quickly pointed my barrel at him, but he darted back into the shadow of the shōji. Since the fellow had advanced on me, I shot another bullet, but don’t know whether I got him or not. My pistol was a six-shooter, and since I had shot five rounds I was now down to one shot. I thought I ought to save it for an important target, and as a result the war became a little bit quieter. Then one fellow wearing a black handkerchief advanced along the wall holding his spear at the ready. When I saw him, I cocked my pistol again and used the left shoulder of my companion who was standing with his spear as a gun mount, so I could really aim at the man’s heart. It looked as though there were dead man all around us. Some were dying while crawling on their stomachs in front of us, and looked as thought they were about to fall asleep.
“All this time the enemy was making a terrific racket as though they were taring shōji and sliding and breaking panels, but not once did they come out into the open. [Ryōma tried and fails to reload his gun due to hand injuries.] Then I threw away the pistol and said to my companion, Miyoshi Shinzō, ‘I’ve thrown away my gun!’ …
“Next we got through the yasoi behind the building, and when we had broken through the shutters and entered, the people of the house came out half asleep. We were in a bedroom. It was too bad, but we were determined to get out through the far side of that house into the town if we had to wreck everything in it. It was a very big house, and we had to do a lot of damage. The two of us hacked away with our swords and stomped and kicked with our feet, and we made it. Then when we got through and come out into the town, there wasn’t a soul around. that was good luck, and we ran five blocks, although I was becoming ill, not to mention being out of breath. (You know, you’re never supposed to go out without a long kimono on underneath, but since I had just come out of the bath I had on a yukata and a padded robe over it, with no hakama.) My feet were in as wretched a state as my dress, and I fled the enemy looking very disreputable (p. 228-230).


The rooms where the above passage takes place:


After a brief stop back at our room, we went to Arashiyama, the rural area of Kyōto.  We gotcha matcha soft cream and I paid $28 for a parasol that I lost the next day (Got it back this time, though!).  It was hot, so we loitered in some shops for a bit.

We hadn’t eaten since breakfast and there was a frozen-food vending machine next to a restaurant.  How bad could it be?

Well, ¥380 and 90 seconds later, I was treated to lifting a hotel container of moist, flavorless French fries out the contraption. We begrudgingly ate the fries.  And, since it’s Japan and there’s never a garbage can around, I got to walk around with the soggy, salty box for a half hour before we found a place to dispose of it.  Totally gross.  But… at least I can say I tried it (and I certainly learned my lesson).

We crossed Togetsukyō Bridge before finding ourselves at a random temple.  Unsure of what it was, we walked up and came upon a tour group, took some pictures and videos, and lucked out because as the group was leaving they locked up the place.  We got a nice view of the town from the top of the hill the temple was on.

As we made our way back, I inquired about the location of Japan’s bamboo forest famous for suicides (people walk in and never come back out).  Mike was surprised and confused, since I was the one who originally told him about this, but I’ve got a terrible memory.  Turns out it’s near Mt. Fuji, so we resolved to visit Arashiyama’s bamboo forest.

And, wouldn’t ya know, we got lost? At intervals in the forest (with a clear pathway, as you can see) there are signs for a train station, so we followed the signs.  Only it was to a train station that closes at dusk on account of being a scenic train near the mountain.  Wonderful.  We were now pretty far up hill in a residential area of a rural town, and the station we needed was a long ways away.  It was starting to get dark, mosquito-feeding time, and the only vending machine we found was sold out of water.

Luckily, we had the iPad to route us back, so we weren’t truly lost, just very inconvenienced.  I felt awful walking back to the station, and it was with weary legs that I made the trek; we’d been walking all day.

We finally made it back to the city center around 7:30 and made our way to Le Bouchon, a French restaurant.  Now, if you’ve read my earlier posts, terror should strike your heart at the mention of French food in Kyoto given the ¥40,000 ($400) dining mistake.  Well, I’m proud to announce that this time dinner was a mere ¥4,000 and very delicious.

We went back to K’s, and I passed the eff out.

«Fri., 8/12 | Sun., 8/14 (coming soon)

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About Michelle

I lived in Japan for a year & a half teaching English. Now I'm blogging about learning to cook in NYC.
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