Last night we arrived at our hotel , the Citadines Karasuma-Gojo. This hotel is ideally located just one subway station north of the main Kyoto train terminal. We have stayed here before due to the convenient location and amenities. Each of the rooms has self contained cooking facilities and a small supermarket is just two minutes walk away. At 24m2 it is small but perfectly organised.
We also met up with a neighbour (he has already christened himself "Navbour") who will join our travels for the next week. The hotel had already worked out the connection and placed us in adjacent (but thankfully not interconnecting) rooms.
This morning The Navbour went to the Imperial Palace and the nearby Nijo Castle. We visited Higashihongan-ji Temple, which is literally just down the road from the hotel. The temple is vast, covering an entire city block and consisting of three enormous halls. It is one of the largest wooden structures in the world. We took off our shoes and rested inside with the sweet smell of incense. Like many temples in Japan, this was rebuilt after burning down. The massive beams to support the roof were dragged down from the mountains during the winter when the snow made it easier to transport objects like this. Huge ropes were required, many of which were made from human hair donated by devout female followers. Now that is commitment to the cause!
By chance we discovered a garden which was once part of the main complex. It is now divided from the temple complex by the main road and houses. The Shosei-en Garden is a gem, with 13 different views designed to highlight vistas. Unfortunately some of the structures were damaged in the earthquake of July 2018 and then much of the vegetation was impacted by the typhoon in September. This made the garden look a little unkempt but there is a lot of work underway - chainsaws were buzzing away in the foliage as we walked around.
We are struck by how elegantly everyone is dressed - the businessmen and women in their smart suits; the children in their identical school uniforms; the elderly people in their beautifully tailored clothes. Many older women are dressed in kimonos.
We have also forgotten how tiny some of the cars and trucks can be - tiny bodies and tiny wheels. Our hotel is across the road from the fire and ambulance station. Even the fire brigade has a tiny truck to squeeze down the narrow streets.
Many people are on bicycles, including mothers with a childseat over the front wheel and the rear wheel. Many bikes have little electrical motors to assist the pedalling - like a Prius for bicycles.
The Navigator hit the jetlag wall at about 2pm, so we rested before heading out in the evening with the Navbour. We walked to some nearby temples to look at them in the evening light and then along Pontocho Street, which is a charming but touristic street full of restaurants and stand up bars.
We finally settled on a fast food restaurant near the hotel but not fast food as you might think. One orders from a vending machine which dispenses a ticket. Then, hand the ticket to the server and the food arrives within literally a few minutes. Delicious too - fried chicken, stir fried pork and the Navbour had pork ribs in a soy broth rice with egg. All dishes came with unlimited rice, miso soup and cost less for three than one of us would have paid in Pontocho Street.