On my second day in Kyoto, the friendly but stickler-for-the-rules man at the Musubi-an Arashiyama guesthouse helped me make a pot of coffee, and I bummed around the hostel in the morning doing a bit of work in the quiet.
In the afternoon, I snacked my way through the Nishiki market, nomming on free samples of all sorts of pickled things. My favorite thing that I ate was a fried ball of dough filled with curry, onions and potato. After the Nishiki market, I made my way to the International Manga Museum (which was filled with a lot of Japanese people filling the hallways and open spaces reading manga), and then to the Fushimi Inari Shrine, which is famous for its hundreds of torii gates, which are large gates that mark the entrance to, or are just positioned inside of shrines.
I really liked the Fushimi Inari Shrine, but it was very packed with people. Eventually, I found a little side trail and hiked around the shrine for about an hour and a half, then headed out. I stopped to buy rice wrapped in pork topped with kimchi (soooo good), and then headed back to my hostel.
Where I got a discount ticket for a bathhouse a five-minute walk away… and went to another onsen. The Fukuno-yu was a bit larger and more developed than the Funaoke Onsen, with a large indoor pool, a smaller indoor pool filled with milkier water, and two outdoor pools. One of the outdoor pools was large and artfully lined with rocks, and the other was a cold-bath next to the outdoor entrance to the sauna. Dumping cold water on myself, I sat in the sauna by myself, mouth-breathing my way through 3/4s of a 15-minute hourglass timer, and then poured cold water over myself again.
Relaxed and clean again, I walked back to the hostel in my PJs.
The next day, I walked through the Arashiyama district of Kyoto (including the Bamboo Forest, which actually was very underwhelming), visited the Kiyomizu-dera temple (sadly under construction), and walked through Gion, the geisha district of Kyoto (no geisha spotted…!)
However, I still loved walking through Kyoto. I think my favorite things about Arashiyama and the other parts of the city that have more temples is the fact that so many people rent traditional kimono (and whatever the male version is called) and kinda just spend the day walking around and visiting temples in them. There were enough people doing this that it wasn’t like that one couple walking around in traditional clothing; I also appreciated that it was largely Japanese tourists who were wearing these clothes, so it felt a lot less like the commercialized exploitation of “minority” costumes that I so often see in Chinese cities, particularly in provinces like Yunnan, and more just like a thing people do.
After spending three nights in Arashiyama, I moved to a different hostel in more downtown Kyoto, by the Kyoto train station, for my fourth night. The morning I dropped my bags off at the new hostel, I headed to Kyoto station to take a train to the famous traditional Himeji castle.
The outside of the castle and its grounds were spectacular. The inside of the castle… was maybe not worth the incredibly long and humid line. Since the main castle tower had five floors with very narrow ladder-stairs between each level, natural bottlenecks were created. As a solo traveler, I was able to eel my way through the line (and was also encouraged to do so by the attendants!) and made it in and out faster than most groups of people, but still. I love Japanese architecture and the open spaces and clean lines of inside of traditional buildings, and the feeling of smooth cool wood beneath my bare feet (they make you take your shoes off in many castles). But at the same time, the open spaces also make it fairly uniform and potentially not worth waiting in line for forty minutes to see large empty wooden rooms, especially if you’ve seen this kind of architecture before.