2006-04-09, Day 9

Woke up at 7 after what was perhaps not our most restful night in Japan. Turns out that the walls of our ryokan literally are paper-thin. Also, we had run out of time doing laundry last night, and had hung up our clothes in the bathroom. Of course, none of them were dry. Jer set out in search of the drier on the second floor. Of course, this drier turned out to be an open room with nice drying racks. If only we had known last night. Chagrinned, Jer hung up the laundry. Meanwhile, Jess was showering and getting ready to start the day. Her pre-breakfast was disappointing — the baumkuchen was utterly bland, and the waffle wasn't as good as her usual brand. Jer then got ready, ate his salad and we headed out.

We walked up to Kita-oji Bus Station, nearly stopping at McDonalds for breakfast, before noticing a Starbuck's. Jer got a broccoli and cheese ciabatta "pizza" (tasty!), Jess got another sausage and cheese muffin, and we split a chai. Thus fortified, we got one-day bus passes caught the bus to Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Temple). Right before we got off the bus, a nice Eastern European or Russian man asked us (in excellent English) where he could change money. Jess, being super-smart, knew, and we showed him where the central post office was. We got off the bus at the same stop as him and his party, and we all headed off in the wrong direction. Eventually the gents asked for directions, and we followed them to Photo we took Kinkaku-ji. The Golden Temple is amazing. The building is Photo we took coated in gold leaf, and Photo we took shimmers in the sun. (Jess was extremely excited that the sun came out while we were there.) It was built as the retirement home of a shogun, and turned into a temple after his death. Definitely the coolest old folks' home ever! The grounds were lovely, as well, especially the cherry trees and the Photo we took carp-filled pond.

After tearing ourselves away from the Golden Temple, we got the No. 59 bus to Ryoanji, a temple known for Photo we took its Zen rock garden. While that was lovely, Jer was equally entranced by their Photo we took luxuriant moss. As it was getting late, we stopped into one of the temple's little lunch rooms. Jer had soba with fried tofu, and Jess had soba with seaweed and a sour pickled plum (Jer ate the seaweed, and we nibbled the plum, but man was it sour).

We walked partway back to the Golden Temple, then caught the bus for the last bit. We'd forgotten to get our Kinkaku-ji stamp, so we headed back into the temple complex and wandered around, asking random people. Eventually Jer discovered that one of the calligraphers was also the keeper of the stamp, and he happily inked a commemorative stamp in our book.

We got back on the No. 59 bus and took it from northern Kyoto into central Kyoto. This took much longer than we expected. We walked along Photo we took the river toward eastern Kyoto, apparently this is a Photo we took very popular activity for the Japanese on Sunday afternoon, particularly during hanami (cherry blossom viewing) time. The pathways were packed with couples, families and lone strollers, plus there were groups enjoying drinks and snacks on tarps they had spread out under the trees.

After much walking, we arrived at Kiyomizudera, a temple known for its Photo we took large veranda over a cliff. The Photo we took views of Kyoto (and Photo we took yet more cherry trees) were stunning. Jer was very taken with the bells, which Buddhists ring just before saying a prayer. The bells are large metal disks, rung by tugging a large multicolored rope, to which a wooden clapper is attached. Kiyomizudera was a very popular spot, and it was Photo we took packed with people. There was a gentleman carrying a Photo we took very friendly corgi, which was Photo we took absolutely adorable and licked our hands when we petted him and scratched his ears.

From Kiyomizudera, we wended our way into Gion, the geisha quarter. It was lovely, with most of the buildings made of a dark wood that made the streets seem narrower. We didn't see any maiko (apprentice geisha), though we did see some Photo we took non-geisha ladies in kimono.

We walked back into central Kyoto, stopping in the Takashimaya department store so that Jer could ask after a microwavable ceramic rice cooker. Though the salesladies didn't speak English, they were able to understand Jer's drawing and romanji description, and they brought us to a small rice cooker that was melamine, not ceramic, but was otherwise perfect. Success! Jess found herself in the Mikimoto housewares section, where she fell in love with a pearl-and-lacquer picture frame. Jer assured her that it wanted to come home with her, so it did. We then had to stop by the information booth, as we had spent enough to warrant a rebate on the 5% tax on all goods.

We made the mistake of using the guidebook map when looking for the restaurant where we had decided to dine. We ended up in a covered shopping street, Teramachi-dori, with many interesting little shops (including some amazingly-carved $250 wooden Buddhas, some $20 antique kimono, and lots of shops selling trendy tees (meaning ones with broken and/or nonsensical English), hats, etc.). Eventually, we found a way out of the shopping street and over to Musashi, a kaitenzushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurant. We were given a booth that faced on the conveyor, and we had a great time taking tasty-looking plates as they passed by. The salmon was divine, as was the tuna. Various other items (yellowtail, shrimp, cucumber rolls, etc.) were merely very good. The sushi chef approved that we didn't take him up on his offer of an English menu, so he was very nice and helpful. There were a few items on the conveyor that we couldn't identify, but it didn't seem worth the effort to try to determine what they were — we just didn't eat them. Particularly avoided was the one that looked like it had teeth. We ate our fill and got the bill. Someone ran over, tallied up our empty plates, and gave us a slip of paper with an inscrutable number on it. We headed downstairs and handed the paper to the cashier, with some trepidation. When he rang us up, we were shocked. The bill was under $18, and we had eaten about 30 pieces of sushi!

Full and happy, we caught a (very crowded) number 205 bus back to the bus depot, stopping in the 7-11 to pick up pre-breakfast. Jess got 2 chocolate-covered waffles, Jer got a blue-labeled rice-nori triangle, and a big bowl of noodles, msg, and freeze-dried veggies. Cold Kyoto mornings mean hot soup!

We got back to the ryokan, collected our now-dry laundry (after being reminded by our proprietor), wrote out our last two postcards, and typed up this journal, getting to bed a bit past 11.