Monday, 20 June Early this morning, I arrived to Kyoto, once the capital of Japan. One of the things on my to-do-list-while-in-Japan was seeing a geisha. “Oooo, not many geishas around anymore (apparently there is only around 700 of them left), but if you are lucky, you might see one… Go to Gion, the old part of Kyoto, that’s your best chance.”
I walked from my hostel (this time I opted for a capsule style accommodation 🙂 ) across the river, to the old part of town. In comparison to the other parts of Kyoto, the old town is really cute. Tiny traditional houses, narrow streets, little souvenir shops, rickshaws, temples, temples, and more temples.
I passed by a shop with beautiful kimonos. The lady spoke some sort of English and was really happy to see me. “You wanna try? Come in! Which colour? Blue, pink, yellow? You like this? Oooooo, you so beautifuuuul! Make up? Hair? You go to the temple like this. Bring back by 6 pm.” I was confused at first. But as I learnt a bit later, dressing up as a geisha and walking around temples is a very popular tourist activity (for women and men). I decided to skip it :).
After about 6 hours of walking I ended up in the far north part of the city. My feet were burning so I started looking for a bus. “Damn, I have no cash left. Stupid!” I tried one ATM machine. Bad luck. None of my cards were working. The same story happened at the next ATM. I tried at a bank, then at a post office, but noone was really able to help me. The only way I could get cash is from the ATM, which was obviously not happening to me.
I hopped on a bus. Maybe, just maybe they actually accept credit cards. Of course they didn’t. “Sorry, cash only.” I walked off the bus with my head down. “I’ll be fine, I can walk back, it’s probably going to take me 3 hours at most…” I have no idea where this man came from. “Excuse me, let me help you.” He was a foreigner, he spoke very good English. I was stoked to see him, but didn’t really feel like I qualify for his help. It was my fault that I ran out of cash, I should have known better. A rookie mistake. I’ll just walk back. “Oh no no no, you’re not walking, it’s too far. And too dangerous in this weather. Heat strokes, there’s been so many lately. Are you sure 100 yen ($1.5 / 1 EUR was how much I was short for a bus ticket) is all you need? Take a bus no. 5, it will take you straight to the city centre.” I accepted his help, his generosity and the coin. Thank you, whoever is looking after me! By the time I turned to thank him again, he was gone. The way he appeared, he also disappeared.
One of my favourite things to do in Japan is buying food from supermarkets and convenient stores. In Japan, you don’t have to cook, ever. Every single meal is available from a supermarket. Sushi, bento, ramen, curry, anything. Everything is also heavily packaged, plastic in unavoidable, unfortunately. I’ve mentioned before, if you don’t speak and read Japanese, buying food is a real adventure, a real hit or miss. I’ve been trying all sorts, and some of the things I literally had to spit out on the spot. I better not even try to find out what was in it.
Today, I decided to go to a restaurant. I saw one dodgy looking place just across the street from my hostel, but was super busy, full of locals. This must be a good sign! However, I was sort of kicked out of the restaurant before I even got in. “No, sorry, no place.” He wasn’t even happy for me to wait for a free table. Ah well. The place next door was empty, I could certainly get a table there. But no, I wanted something good, something with locals. I found another restaurant not much further away. “Come in, come in! Just one?” Two ladies just stood up, cleaned the spot and squeezed with the others. “Please, have a seat!” The chef was preparing all the food (okonomiyaki, the Japanese savory pancake, as his main specialty) on a big stove with people seating around this stove. There was only 6 people in and they all seem to know each other. The chef was cooking and chatting and drinking with his guests. It was really like walking into someone’s house right in the middle of dinner. “Where are you from? You like Japan? I’ve been a chef for many years. Yes yes, these all my friends. She travels a lot. He is a live performer, had shows in New York! Look, this is his painting! And miss Tsukasa, she is one of the most famous and popular geishas in Japan. Welcome!” The day couldn’t finish any better :). And the food was delicious too!