We made it to Kyoto on Tuesday night and were once again welcomed by one of the student`s from Funari: Toshi. We visited with him that evening in the Riokan we stayed at and he provided us with a great deal of information on Kyoto. We also gained some insight into University life in Japan. We had planned two full days here… Wednesday morning we found a bike shop and rented bikes for the day. Biking around the city was an experience as the traffic congestion was greater and more confusing than we:ve experienced on bikes before. Combine that with the incredible heat (37 degrees) and the amount of humidity and you`re biking in a sauna!! But it really is a great way to see the city. We finally figured out how to take back streets – just making sure they continue to go in the direction we want to go. We managed to find our way to the two temples that we wanted to see and made it back to the bike shop by 6:30 pm.
The second day, we met a couple more students who toured us around the Golden temple and the Nijo Castle. The Golden temple was really a sight to see and was one of the more beautiful here in Kyoto. The Nijo Castle was very impressive with more than 3000 sq. metres of rooms and more than 800 tatami mats. They also had a guide booklet in English which helped. This castle dates back 400 years and served as the Shogun`s living and working space as well as a sort of government house.
We made it back to the Riokan to shower (after all – it was another day spent in a sauna) and then took the train out to Uqi where we caught an impressive fireworks display. None of us had ever seen a show like that – it was an hour and a half long. What was also impressive was the sheer number of people. There was street upon street of vendors selling all sorts of edible (??) creations and packed on every street were people moving shoulder to shoulder going somewhere. We moved through the street like one long snake as we made our way to the JR station (along with everyone else). Up the stairs, through the gates and onto the trains directed by the train personnel. They indicated what door of the train to get in and when I looked in, there wasn`t really any room. However, we`re all experienced Tokyo commuters by this time and I knew instinctively what to do. I turned by back to them and then stepped backwards pushing the people backwards enough to make room for the three of us. Then we all sucked in our body parts as the train doors slid shut. After about 15 minutes, enough people had left the train so we could actually turn around and relax somewhat. What an experience.
Today, we head back to Tokyo and meet up with Mr. Enomoto again. Tomorrow night (Saturday) we climb Fuji-san.