We took a taxi to the north side of Kyoto station to the “My Stay” accommodation which was a more compact and modern hotel. It did have extras such as a heated part of the bathroom mirror which didn’t fog up after a shower. Other more expensive hotels could learn from that.
We decided to do a reconnaissance of the station we would use the following day to go to Arashiyama, a popular tourist spot around the hilly western side of Kyoto. Half the day was gone by then so we
opted to take the train to the Fushimi Inari Shrine with it’s more than 1000 red poles set in a lovely tiered garden setting. Back at Kyoto station we took a bus back to the hotel, had a rest and then set off on foot to Gion (the historical part of town)where we had dinner and wandered around the atmospheric alleyways. Many young girls and some older women were dressed in Kimono but we didn’t see any of the fully made up Geisha who work in that area. We had walked many kilometres that day and staggered back to the hotel after dinner.

We caught the 8.17am Randen Saga tramway and then took the Torokko scenic train (with views of the river below)to the Arashiyama area with the white gloved station staff waving us off. We transferred to a bus for the 1/2 hour journey to the Hozugawa river at Komaneka where we boarded the flat bottomed river boat for the 1/45minute ride down the river with it’s gentle rapids and the view of the forest displaying a few lovely autumn colours. We were the only foreigners on the boat and unfortunately missed out on the lively commentary by the three boatmen who were jolly fellows and who had the passengers in fits of laughter. A drawback not knowing the language.

The boat took us to the centre of Arashiyama with it’s many temples and tourist shops.
We found our way to the Tenryu-ji temple and walked around the gardens before having a delicious lunch (which Yuko had booked for us, given it’s popularity)at one of the temple buildings sitting cross legged on tatami mats.

The main street was bustling with many tourists, mainly local and we found a cheerful “Rikisha” or rickshaw driver who took us to the amazing bamboo forest about a kilometre away and then dropped us at a bridge near the river where we were interviewed and filmed by Kyoto tourism who just happened to be where we had stopped. The rickshaw ride was pricey at $70 for 20minutes but it was a Japanese experience and the young guy had to pull us all the way. We apologised for being heavier than the average weight of his passengers but he told us that the rickshaw could take 250kilos but that he could only manage 200kilos – I forgot to ask if that was for two or only one passenger but it was a fairly snug fit for the both of us.

The JR train took us back to Kyoto station where we caught a bus to the historic Nijo-jo castle,an enormous one storey series of wooden reception rooms and residence to the ruling Shoguns. The huge grounds full of plum trees and a large lake were surrounded by a very thick stone wall surrounding the moat. Walking around the castle and gardens took us a good two hours.

We caught the bus back to Gion where we stopped for dinner before making our way back along the main brightly lit shopping streets to the hotel for an early night.
When walking on the wide footpaths we had to continuously dodge bicycles which seemed to have no
defined route (left or right). This seemed so strange to us as most things were done in such an orderly fashion.

We left the hotel at 7am to take the bus to Kyoto station and boarded the Shinkansen to Takayama with a change at Nagoya to the “Hida” wide windowed scenic train trip through the hills and river below. We passed many fields with bright yellow rice crops and many persimon trees laden with fruit. They seem to be a very popular fruit here in Japan and many have been grown into a square shape. Rockmelons are a perfect shape and a fantastic price packaged mainly as gifts.

Buses were entered at the back of the bus via a sliding door and passengers paid when leaving the bus either with correct change or with pre paid cards. There are change machines on some of the buses and all stations are displayed on a screen and announced in Japanese and English.

We met up with Maurice’s son Craig and his Japanese wife Yuko at Takayama station. They had taken some days off from their English teaching school in Yokohama to show us around some lovely old traditional towns, one being Takayama with it’s specialty shops of quality souvenirs and Sake shops where I bought a small Sake cup and tried half a dozen different Sakes.

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