I have lost all concept of space and time. Yesterday, I had to ask a friend what day of the week it was. I actually had no idea. I believe this is generally something you aim for in a holiday, but it is a very strange sensation.
So, believe me when I say, I think it was 2 days ago, but am not certain, that I went on the walking tour of Kyoto outlined in the Lonely Planet.
My day started, with a few mishaps with regards to locating the correct bus stop, and making my way back to Kyoto train station. Now, having come in late at night, and going straight from shinkansen to taxi on my way through, I did not really take any notice of the station itself. Seeing it again in the light of day, I was absolutely astonished about how I could have possibly missed seeing it. It is epic. If locomotives wrote ballads, there would be odes and sonnets to this monument of a building.
The train station is something like 15 stories high, which encompasses a hotel and department store. Right at the top there is a Skywalk, and Happy Terrace viewing area, from which you can see most of Kyoto sprawling out below.
I caught the bus, to the beginning of the tour and began my exploration of the traditional streets of Kyoto. The path set in the guidebook is, from what I understand, a well know tourist trek, and there were many tourists walking it, which added to the atmosphere for me. I found I spent a lot of this day not only sight seeing but people watching, catching snippets of conversation here and there. One of the true highlights of which was family of Americans speaking about how to pronounce 'Thank you' in Japanese, being 'Ah-ri-ga-to go-sai-mas', followed by 'yeah yeah I got it, its Alligator Godzilla Mouse'
I ducked in and out of craft shops, tea houses and curios vendors all day. Passing shrines, temples, and rub-able grinning Buddhas bringing me prosperity, wit and safe travels. Thank you happy Buddha.
Later on down the track closer to Gion, market stalls begin to spring up, offering yakisoba, and various fruit and meats on skewers, one stall has goldfish to catch from a tank. I stand and watch quietly as a little girl in a bright turquoise kimono endeavours to net her new pet.
The bus back takes me through the streets of Gion, preparing for the festival which culminates the next day. Giant floats are being set up on the side of the street in readiness for the parade.
Upon arriving back to the hostel, I discover I have dorm-mates now. Two very loquacious Danish dames, who I had actually met earlier that day, in the street looking very lost and had given them directions. We gabbed the rest of the night away in the common room til bed.