Biking Kyoto: A Tale of Joy and Struggle

We woke this morning semi-prepared for a bike ride to Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Temple) and places in between. We walked a short distance to Happy Cycles, a small shop located just about a block from our house. The young woman fitted us on the bikes they had. Dylan and I, tall humans, had trouble with the small frames, but we pushed on as the day promised to be great weather.

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We Started off Really Well!

As we rode down Gojo-dori street, it was clear that some of us were less adept at cycling. When I say, “less adept” you can politely read “holy crap we are going to crash!” A few folks in our number found the travel a bit more challenging than walking; in fact, a LOT more challenging. Our planned 20-minute ride of 5 miles took us a solid hour. As we rode, the heat took its toll on our bodies and we were all dehydrated by the time we made it to Kinkaku-ji. I bought loads of water and juices for us to drink. In addition to that small problem, a few of us had avoided breakfast and were absolutely spent.

When riding a bike in Kyoto, the pathways are well-marked (remember LEFT side) and I have to say this form of transportation is the BEST way to visit this city.  My advice: avoid the subways, trains, and busses and rent a bike (many places to rent bikes) for $8.00 a day!  You can get everywhere in Kyoto…when I return to this city, I will definitely travel by bike.

Our wander around Kinkaku-ji was, more than likely, a little less glorious than it might have been. I avoided taking pictures of the students because they requested anonymity on this day.

The site of the golden temple is in the middle of a business district, like many of the temples in Kyoto and Japan, but wholly a world apart once you are on the temple grounds. We gathered at the fence just across a pond from the edifice and it felt surreal. The bright gold glinted almost silver in the sun giving a kind of strange 3-D effect to the building and the surroundings. The reflection in the water was striking when the light breeze slowed, and I was mesmerized by the sight.

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This photo simply does not capture the light shining off the sides of the temple….

We headed around the trail and through the trees and despite the crowds, the place was serene. Jade, Hailey, Nick, Pandora and I made our way back to the beginning. We found Logan and Dylan in a heap settled along a rock wall. I bought more water and juices. Pandora felt faint; Logan felt a little ill. Everyone had seen a better experience to be sure.

As we left the grounds, we decided to visit an annual flea market at Kitsune-Tengu Temple about three blocks from Kinkaku-ji. Had we been in a better state of mind, this festival would have been a place to stay for hours. I bought food for everyone and within a short while moods were improved. Judith, Sarah, and Hailey planned a ride from there to the Bamboo Forest and I took the rest of the group back to the house to recover and revive.

The following video captures Dylan’s mood after food: the HONESTY, it burns!

The ride back to the houses was almost entirely downhill. We coasted most of the way back taking us just 35 minutes to make it to the house. Once back, everyone took showers and rested in the late afternoon.

As you might imagine, the entire group rallied for a walk to food. Nick found a small hole in the wall that served, you guessed it, fried chicken. Logan searched for something different; Dylan, Jade, Pandora and I went to a fast food noodle place not from our abode. When I say FAST food, I’m talking maybe 3 minutes from order to plate. The food was tasty (not great but cheap and filling), and we headed to a Lawson 100 Yen Grocery Store where all items are 100 yen (basically a dollar). I loaded up on some breakfast food has been my custom for the past few days. We’ve had cereal, bananas, grapefruit, tangerines, a kind of giant breakfast pastry, and toast and jam. As an aside, I’ve supplemented by unusual diet with beans and rice, prepackaged and very inexpensive. I can eat a hearty vegan dinner for three dollars. No joke.  The Lawson stores can make ANY visit to Japan a much more financially reasonable approach to visiting this country.

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REALLY fast food.

Tomorrow’s excursion is completely up to the folks on the trip; they wander wherever they want….I have a phone they can use to contact me, AND they have some rules to follow along the way.

Lastly, tomorrow is our last day in Japan before we take our ridiculously long flight home (crazy layovers in airports). I’ll post a variety of trip photos in my next post….stay tuned!

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