After more than a comfortable night bus I got to Kyoto. There was nothing special with the bus, although I must say that those caps on top of the seats were great help. But somehow, I managed to fall sleep and I actually got 6 hours of sleep without interruption! The first time I woke up and looked at my watch I couldn’t believe it. Then I got one more hour and next around 20 more minutes, more broken this time. So I got there fresh and happy.
My first mission was to find Wi-Fi to check a pending confirmation for a couch in couchsurfing. And there we go, he said he could host me for a couple of days! Happy days. As it was early and didn’t know what to do, where to go, didn’t have contact with my host, had my luggage with me and was hungry, I looked for a convenience store where I could get a coffee, maybe sneak some porridge of my own and steal Wi-Fi t organise myself and wait for this guy to be available. It took a few hours, but just when I was ready to go for a walk he contacted me and I asked him where I could leave my bag, As he was busy with some college stuff (he is a professor here) and couldn’t meet me until later.
We agreed to meet up at his office in college between 4 and 5 pm as he had to pass by before going to a conference but in the meantime I was still stuck with my backpack. So I gathered all my energies and went towards college taking a detour to some interesting temples. The first thing I did was to follow some people wearing kimonos. I felt the urge to know where they were heading. When I realised, after a while of being creeping the hell ou of them that they were just walking around, shopping, enjoying their Sunday and visiting temples with no other special interest, I stopped being creepy and made my way somewhere I wanted to go instead of following people. Lucky enough, when I got there I needed to cover another human need (change to shorts) and found out that there were free lockers at some museum where I could leave my bag for a while, explore the area and come back because the museum closes early and I still would be having the same problem so I preferred to get to meet this guy and leave my stuff with him.
So I made my way back to the museum, grab my bag and went to the McDonald’s next to the university, where we would meet each other. I was tired and would have to wait for an unspecified amount of time so I decided to just sit at the door as I stole Wi-Fi from them. Not even 10 minutes after I had someone coming to me to tell me something in Japanese that could only be interpreted as no, you cannot stay here. So I grabbed my bag again and moved on to the next door because I found a 24h laundry place with a bench. All that I need. I crashed for a while there until Marco came to meet me and then we went together to his office where we were chatting for a good while until he had to go to a conference.
Then, I started wandering around but I was tired and only arrived to one place of the two I was going to check out. Also, it was getting dark so there was no point. I made my way back to the laundry place to crash there until he had finished his dinner with his colleagues. By the time he did, he gave me the access code of Kyoto university and I met him in his office again to make our way to his place. The day finished with a lot of talking between us where I got to find out a lot of the culture. Also things I wish I didn’t know about but we were laughing at and he finally recommended me a documentary where I could see a lot of weird stuff but that I shouldn’t watch until I leave the country, he said.
I slept in his couch comfortably and nicely until the next morning. And I only woke up because I wanted to assist to some festival that consisted on a parade around the city. Otherwise I would have kept sleeping. But yeah, I woke up, made breakfast and got to see this parade which consisted on a bunch of people walking slow from the Imperial Palace to some temple. That was it. No music, no impressive stuff but a couple of carriages and a few horses that impressed people by just their horse noises. The highlight of the parade was the woman behind trying to get nice pictures and taking pictures of absolutely everything and getting visibly annoyed by the fact she couldn’t when I was taking a picture because I was in front of her, in the second row. And it was only a hilarious situation because she was doing this with one of those shell type of phone.
After that, I went back to wander around and checked a couple of temples very important that some French guy had told me not to check after 7am as they get very busy. People is crazy, 7am! No man, no… I actually arrived to the last one right before it closes. But everything was fine. After that, only my way back to college was left to be done and I met Marco at his office to go for dinner: takoyaki, or fried octopus balls quite nice with a beer and a lovely chat we enjoyed afterwards. We laughed at all the weird Japanese stuff and compared the situation with what people in Spain would do.
On my third day, Marco had to wake me up as we had to go for work and I had to pack to look for a hostel. He would be spending the next night somewhere else and therefore, I had to leave. We said goodbye, maybe to see each other again here or in Spain or…who knows! And I made my way to a hostel and then to another because the first one was full, to check in and head to the bamboo forest just outside the city. It was beautiful but nothing special. I had seen lots of bamboo before. And here it was full of people so again, nothing special. But I did enjoy the beautiful surroundings, the river, the green tones…
Back to my hostel, I had lots to get done: buses, routes, accommodation, dates… I needed to get ahead at least two or three days because otherwise everything would be out of control and I had a visa to apply for and a friend to meet in Japan! I needed everything to work out! And laundry. There is always laundry to be done….
The very next morning I check out from the hostel as I would be coming back to Marco’s place and went to spend the day hiking and enjoying between the nature. I had the day for myself (in a special way, I always have the day for myself. This time it was just about enjoying and treating me). So I took a train towards Kurama and got off in the middle of nowhere and started hiking around and enjoying the more than beautiful views with no one around because I went in the opposite direction. Somehow, I ended up in this tiny town where everyone was and checked the hike towards Kurama to find out that I had to pay for that because in the middle was whatever temple. No way. I am not paying to hike 15 minutes and see a temple. Especially because I am in that stage where I don’t really want to see more temples, even if free of charge. So I turned around and find a trail in my map that looked like a good idea. I tried that . After 15 minutes I found myself between the woods, with no views to anything else, no marked track and difficulties to know where the track was continuing because it got unclear. Suddenly, in my head, I only could think of snakes because I had seen notices for vipers when I was coming down the trail in Miyajima and also in bears because I had seen notices with pictures of bears with evil eyes that, I guessed, were warning of wild bears in the area. With these threats in my head and being aware that absolutely nobody was in the area, nobody knew where I was today and I was completely alone, I abandoned the idea and went back to the road. I need a hiking buddy. One that knows what to do in the even of spoting a bear would be nice.
But the day went on, the contact with the nature kept me happy and I had a treat waiting for me: an onsen or typical Japanese bath. I made my way to this place and during the walk I kept wondering if I needed a bikini or I would have to go naked. I had done no research on this and didn’t know anything about it. My bet was going naked but somehow I was expecting the bikini option because I had it in my bag along with a pair of flip flops and a towel.
When I got to the onsen, it was obvious. They separate men from women and then you go naked to the shower. You take a shower seated and in frontera of a mirror, which I thought it was incredibly uncomfortable because you kind of feel vulnerable and it is an intimate moment but this is the Japanese way and guess what? I am in Japan, so you go with the flow and get yourself through the uncomfortable to learn new stuff and have different experiences. And then, after that, you walk to the “pool” of hot water where you just soak and relax. The views of the trees around moving with the breeze made me feel relaxed and forget about how possibly violent the situation could feel for those not very confident with their body.
When I left the place I felt like I was floating instead of walking on the way back. Amazing feeling of relaxation where I gave my thoughts a break. I went back to the hostel and hung around as Marco was busy with some dinner but I would meet him after at his office in college, as it was the usual by then, to go to his place. Back there, we started talking about the Spanish society and all the characters of this and how some series in TV reflect the reality so well…. And as he was a huge fan of “La que se avecina” and we started sharing some sentences and brilliant moments, he ended up showing me one of the episodes in the last season, which I had not seen yet. After seen the highlights of the episode and cry to them, we watched the whole thing. And by then it was late enough and we had to go to sleep because we had an “early morning” next day (9.30am is very early at Marco’s place).
And as promised, the next day we woke up early and he went to do his stuff in college and I took a train to go to Nara and enjoy the sunshine between deer. It was a lovely day.
When I felt tired enough, I got the train back to Marco’s place because we were having dinner together for the last time. And as a good Italian he is, he prepared some good pasta. After a delicious dinner with a lively chat, it was time to say goodbye and I have to say I left with a heavy heart because he is one of those wonderful persons that made my journey simply much better. I also left expecting to meet him again somewhere else. Bye bye Kyoto, I have some sleep to catch on my way to Tokyo!