Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Kyoto + Bicycles

Where have I been lately?

A little break from the world wide web was most welcomed, I put my laptop down and spent an amazing weekend riding bicycles in my beloved Kyoto. Julie and I met up early on Saturday (well, early being before noon) at Kyoto station, where we rented some pretty sweet rides for the whole day. I had read that Kyoto is best enjoyed on bicycles (the buses are always so crowded and confusing, and the subway can be a bit limiting), but I had never actually rented a bike.

We cycled away with nowhere in mind, armed with chilled green tea and our cameras. Riding a bike through Kyoto's narrow alleys, side streets and steep hills was such a wonderful way to explore new areas I had never seen before, despite having visited Kyoto dozens of times. We got a little lost, but we laughed it off and discovered so many sights.

We had lunch at our favourite vegeterian café, Proverbs, near Kyoto University. I highly recommend the peanut sauce tofu skewers, and the grilled eggplant, mabo and brown rice bowl. For dessert we shared a fruit tart and a seasonal matcha pudding.

Julie also introduced me to a little hidden gem, a tiny used English bookshop tucked away neighbouring Kyoto University. I'm so happy about that find, as the selection of English books is so limited here. We continued our adventure, and I showed her my favourite shop full of twee objects (which was Isabel's favourite as well). We climbed up the steps all the way to the picturesque Kiyomizudera temple, munching on samples of yatsuhashi (Kyoto's regional confectionary, a rice cake sprinkled with cinnamon and filled with red beans, matcha or chocolate) along the way.

We had a pretty funny encounter with an older foreign man who yelled at us for parking our bicycles on his street, an attitude we found very un-Japanese. No Japanese person would ever shout at people in public, instead they would politely ask us to move our bikes. We categorized him as one of those 'lifers', a man who decided to spend the rest of his life in Japan, although not being truly happy there and never quite fitting in. It sounds like a generalization, but it's a reality here in Japan, and although most 'lifers' I met were usually very happy and pleasant, this man was just angry and we felt bad for him. That's the thing with Japan, it's a wonderful place, but the day I stop being happy and hating my life here, will mean I overstayed my welcome and I'll be on my way out. I don't ever, ever want to become like that.

Despite that incident that we turned into a positive experience, we ended our gorgeous day by picking up take out coffee and sitting on the banks of the Kamogawa canal, which is so animated at night by tons of young people and performers. We walked some more before catching one of the last trains back to Osaka.

It was one of the best days I've had in a very, very long time and I'm so thankful for new friendships and being in Japan.


Christine loves to Travel said...

Sounds wonderful! I can't wait to go to Japan someday :)

Corie said...

That temple looks amazing! This time of year is so nice for touring around--looks like you had brilliant weather! ^^

Kelly said...

love those bikes, Vivi! hope you're well, sweet friend :)

I'm With Stupid said...

Yeah you get expats like that everywhere. They've usually been somewhere long enough to tell everyone else how bad it is, yet never seem to be able to take their own advice and leave.

Michi said...

I love exploring places on bike. And maybe those kinds of expats really aren't happy anywhere they go...?

Michelle {lovely little things} said...

What fun! I would love to visit Kyoto when it's not a thousand degrees outside, it was soo hot and humid when we were there!