The day started early with a knock on the door, a metallic taste from the sleeping pill and the hurried yet slow motion attempts to brush hair into a pony tail, brush teeth and get loaded.
There was a path from the ship to the subway station but it was at least a kilometre, only to find that at two subway platforms, there was no elevator (we needed three subway transfers to get to Osaka JR station). So I did a trip facing backwards down the escalator (with staff catching behind). I had always thought I COULD do it, just didn’t plan on doing it with 40 lbs plus of gear on the chair.
At Osaka, besides agreeing that this was too damn early, we got the train to Kyoto and talked about what to do today. Because our rail pass runs out tomorrow and we had a sunny morning I thought we should go to the furthest Kyoto attraction; the bamboo path and the world Heritage temple of Tenryu-ji. We had been averaging one world heritage site a day for about a week (I think are seeing like 6 or 7 of the 9 in Japan). We had to take the JR line out to Sara Arashiyama.
The Bamboo path was the rural area where those artists and higher ups in disfavour from the Imperial court in Kyoto (150-200 years ago) moved so they were “exiled” but not really that far away, creating a sort of spiritual oasis where they could continue their crafts and build temples and shrines until called back to court. No westerner we had talked to had heard of it including most people in Japan AND some of the Japanese people who lived in Kyoto.
Our surprise when we showed up to find the place a THRONG. In fact the JR station in central Kyoto was a throng. It turned out that this is THE week (and THE WEEKEND) for coming to Kyoto as the Imperial Palace is open only once a year, and this week is it. Also the cherry blossoms bloom this week in the original city of cherry blossom watching: Kyoto. So we were hip deep in pretty fanatic Japanese tourists. We fought for a locker (as we couldn’t check into our hotel until afternoon) and headed out to ‘our little secret.’ WRONG!
There was a SINGLE tour group that numbered over 1,000 people who were visiting the Bamboo Path at the same time we were (I asked them how many in the group). So many were in the group, that sitting and waiting for Linda to return from Jo-Jakko Temple by the path in the chair, I felt like I was stuck in a 5K race going the wrong way. But we WERE the only westerners we saw.
We ended up losing our Kyoto map today with ALL the notes and page markings and highlighted walking routes that it took two days for me to put on (GRRRR!) back in Victoria but we ended up with a better map from tourist info.
The bamboo path was really quite something as Linda and I when we find that moment of solitude inside ourselves as we stare into the forest say, “Forest dark and deep” quoting from the Robert Frost poem, a code to say, “we aren’t in civilization anymore, but ascended or regressed into something wilder, something where humans do not dominate.” And after the massive group had passed we could see and feel that here as well.
It was a sunny day, warm to the point of thoughts of suncream in the sun but cool with wind in the shade. And I attacked the bamboo path (there is OF COURSE some freaking steep hills). You can see in this picture here what I have been mentioning that I have lost a size both in my jeans and maybe more up top (hey still got boobies, just getting a bit…gaunt).
At the top of one hill, Linda went on down the other side to pass Ogura pond and the fields of bright, bright flowers, including a bright blue flower, so vivid, it was hard to capture. It was one of those days. Everything, every colour was popping.
She went to Jojakko-Ji Temple which was a stack of those steep stairs and then ascension to a pagoda and shrine above. The colours were beautiful but truth be told, I think she took this pic to take a breather. Linda’s been losing weight too (so maybe that 10K at the end of the month isn’t so much of a dream).
We returned together to the Tenryu-ji Temple, which is a world heritage site and has spectacular gardens, as you can see in the variety of trees and colours behind Linda. We took lots of pictures in front of Sakura, or cherry trees but decided not to post one of those EVERY blog post. The temple spread out and integrated the outbuildings and the garden before getting to the majority of buildings.
We saw a pond with frogs in it and thought of our friend Maggie who we know is fond of frogs so while we are still looking for frog stuff to buy: Maggie, this World Heritage Site series of frogs are for YOU.
We then there was the stairs down to the shrine proper where Linda took off with her stamp book and I returned to do postcards…to find out Linda had taken the pack with the postcards with her.
I raced to the top of the steps and called her only to see the annoying vision of someone you are yelling at desperately to turn around; meander and look around at all that is before them before disappearing from view. This left me to sit atop the stairs and wait for Linda to either come back or to catch her as she used one of the wooden passageways. As I waited a daughter and mother came up wearing their spring kimono’s and I asked if I could take their pictures. They seemed complimented. After they passed I took another so you could see the complex bows of the Obi and still trying to figure out how a person, like, me for example, could do that without serious dislocation. I mean, is home care authorized for tying my obi on my Kimono…we will see.
Linda saw me at one of the passages and threw me the backpack. So I managed to flip my chair up into the shade and work on postcards (sorry about the handwriting, I am finding that is going…well, just going! – I mean, yesterday I couldn’t use my right hand/arm to use the mouse, so I guess that is signs of the future). Linda, tired of the sprawling complex, got her stamp and snuck back and got a picture of me in front of the main temple building hard at work. The good news is that I only have 2 to 4 postcards to go, so look in your mailbox! I posted another 14 postcards today (from what I worked on last night too).
We were both kind of tired as sleeping aboard ferry for 7 hours and then brushing by thousands of people in “our secret place” was getting irritating so we decided to head back. We had a little thing, or I had a blow off as Linda grabbed my chair to “help me” and almost wrenched my finger and then, let go and I didn’t know and I almost rolled into major traffic (and only by yelling “Can’t stop, Can’t stop!” did she lunge forward and grab me). So I had my little vent and we agreed that we liked each other and we should go grab a nap and would like each other more and explore more of Kyoto together.
But then it turns out that the Saga Arashiyama JR station, though a MAJOR station had no way for me in a wheelchair to get BACK to Kyoto (as in to get to platform three). Though they told me they were building a NEW station which WOULD have an elevator (done in only a FEW months). So we were emotionally ready to starting throwing JR guys on the track to make a ramp across to platform three when they said they would carry me up and over the walkway….except they needed all the staff to do it so I had to wait until all the trains had come and gone (welcome to “Chot-to Matte” time). This was sort of the way it went. I have noticed that the designers over here not only think people in wheelchairs are superhuman (As in, everyone else gets off train and goes to stairs 100 feet away while the wheelchair elevator is 1/3 of a mile away at the END of the platform and then next elevator to get up the main level is then over half a mile at the OTHER end of the station. That kind of stuff. I told Linda that someone should tell the station planners that people in wheelchairs actually don’t GET superpowers. We were pretty sick of it along with the whole ‘third gender’ thing. As the bathrooms are all marked: “Men, women, wheelchair user” - and there are actually three entrances. I vented a wee bit with a guy from China who was an English speaker and he said, “They (the Japanese) don’t think you are human the same way they are human” – succinct and not very encouraging.
So we get to the subway, which is another two elevators down and follow the signs for men, women and wheelchairs to go to subway (three symbols) which lead right to….six stairs. An arrow with a wheelchair, pointing toward the stairs! Linda was about ready to blow and a staff guy came and showed us this UNMARKED little side passage which went past the employee lounge and had a ramp up. So we FINALLY get to our hotel (about 35 minutes later than we expected due to the many elevators and misdirections). And guess what? The elevators are SO small and short that they can’t fit my wheelchair. I have to take off the foldaway legs to take the elevator to the room.
I have to say that I WANTED a rigid footplate for my travel chair but the number of times we have had to take off the footplates to use stores (like Animate in Tokyo) or elevators like this make it the unknown but optimal choice.
I tried to go to the computer area (two steps up…of course, same to the restaurant where I get the free breakfast – they DO have a level door but they put tables in front of it!), had to crawl up and Voila! The images were working on blogger so I postponed the nap in case Blogger goes down again and caught up on integrating images and finishing the blog from yesterday. That took under an hour and thus put me to bed at 4:30. We set the alarm for 6:00 so we could eat and then go shopping as many traditional stores stay open until 8:00 pm).
Since we refer to them so often I have included in here some of the stamps from Linda’s book. Every major shrine or world heritage shrine has a stamp as well as one of the head monks writes the shrine and for all we know maybe your fortune over the stamp themselves – here are three of the stamps. It is in an accordion Japanese book with silk covers. There are also stamps of major attractions such as these for the Monkeys of Miyajima, the ropeway and the Shrine and Torii on the water as shown in these stamps. Linda is going to fill BOTH sides of all the pages before she leaves, we are pretty sure.
As for me, I have been sucked into that crack cocaine like addiction which is Hello Kitty! In Beppu we saw a Hello Kitty CAR, with licence plate, seats, steering wheels, the works (not going that far, trust me). I then picked up a Hello Kitty pen for…um…someone. Plus, on the postcards I have been putting Hello Kitty stickers which are sometimes wholesome and sometimes…..um…what do you call it when Hello Kitty and her little friend are in grass skirts saying, “come hula with me!” So I noticed that on the stickers Hello Kitty is always saying how she likes apples. Then I saw Hello Kitty gum….and it was apple flavoured (so I bought some….for gifts, honest!). Then Linda bought Hello Kitty going to an Onsen in Beppu and it was SO CUTE. I started looking on the Ferry at the Hello Kitty washcloths and there was Hello Kitty and her little friend…..serving at a MAID CAFÉ!!!! I picked it up and pointed to it and asked, “Maid café?” and the person said, yes, that is Hello Kitty working in a maid café. Well, that is wrong on SO many levels so I bought it to STOP others from buying it, you understand right? And then today….I saw another washcloth out at the Bamboo path JR shop which had Hello Kitty wearing her kimono in the Gion district. I swear, I am not going Hello Kittly crazy, just a little crazy – I mean, Hello Kitty in a kimono with a flower in her hair – that is just too……..Kawaii!!! I just wanted to explain that there was an almost rational reason behind the Hello Kitty buying.
We woke up….found the map was missing (left in the bamboo path somewhere) and that it was POURING rain outside (that is why, go while the sun shines), since we wanted to go to a 150 year old Washi paper shop, we thought this was a not so great idea (for some reason, all the stores stay open until 8:00 pm). So we stayed in, caught up on email and journals and did laundry. We are going to bed early in preparation of tomorrow going and hitting a few of the traditional stores (expected cloudy tomorrow) and then doing something “cultural” before we take our nap, then going to the Gion district to see the geisha’s going to work at dusk. That is the plan. I keep y’all updated.
P.S. - if you can, please comment on these and previous three blog post pics as I have been going through various types of hell to get them on for people to enjoy, so a few soothing strokes would not go amiss (hint!)
1 day ago