We’ve spent most of our time in Kyoto. Like most cities in Japan it is nothing much to look at save for the odd temple or shrine cropping up here and there and even those after a while become rather samey. We went round Nijo castle in Kyoto which was pretty interesting and had some pleasant zen gardens and also did a lot of random street wandering which we’ve found to be a good way of discovering parts of towns that you may not otherwise have ventured into.
The best shrine that we have visited is defintely Fushiminari shrine just outside Kyoto in a forest. The shrine is actually lots of mini-shrines with loads of stone carved foxes at each one. The path to all these shrines has ‘gates’ along its entire length, there must be thousands up there. We did this walk in the rain which really added to the atmosphere at it got pretty misty up there.
Back at the hostel we had a really fun night in with the other backpackers staying there and got very drunk on cheap Japanese beer. This was a mistake as our 48 hour hangovers would testify. Apparently the cheaper beer is brewed with chemicals instead of hops resulting in horrendous hangovers, we’ll not be making that mistake again!
We took a day trip out to Arashiyama too where we got attacked by monkeys who we later fed and went for a pleasant wander around back streets and bamboo groves. Arashiyama is one of the more attractive places we have visited. It also heralded the first day of spring, nice balmy temperatures and a cooling spring breeze, beats the bitter cold we’ve mostly endured for the last couple of weeks.
We found Kyoto to be quite dissapointing, it’s attractions are really not that varied and revolve largely on temples which as I’ve mentioned get to be somewhat tedious after a while.
After a bit of confusion as to how many days there were in March resulting in cancelled and then re-booked accomodation and train tickets we now find ourselves in Kobe, scene of the massive 1995 earthquake that devastated the city. This may have been a good opportunity to bring some striking architecture and personality to the city, unfortunately it seems an opportunity missed by the town planners and Kobe is as grey and bland as every other Japanese city that we’ve visited.
Our accomodation here is the certainly the dingiest that we have yet stayed in. Our bunk beds are like cots, the lighting is dim, the room cold, the corridors institutional, the staff un-smiling and the toilets smelly. The hot water and electricty is turned off between 9am and 5pm and there are only 2 showers serving the entire building. It is crap. On the up side it is cheap (for Japan) and clean for the most part. Unfortunately as far as cheap accomodation goes in Kobe it’s Hobson’s choice (been trying to get that phrase into the blog for a while!) and the ‘Kobe guesthouse’ was our only option. We’re not here much longer anyway as it’s off on the slow boat to China tomorrow. We should arrive in Tianjin at 3pm on Sunday, a mere 50 hours after we set sail from Kobe, we’re stocked up on sea-sickness pills and green tea flovoured kit-kats!