Kyoto defeated us. I have no compunctions about admitting it. We stayed five nights and saw, on average, three amazing historical sites per day there, and yet barely scratched the surface. There are easily another dozen places in the city limits alone that we’d highlighted as worth going to, and dozens more that hadn’t made the initial triaging round. Five nights wasn’t enough. A month probably wouldn’t be enough.
But five nights is what we had, and we’d used them all. So on Friday morning, we woke up, repacked all our bags, and were graciously given a lift by our hosts to the nearest subway station. While we were casually packing up the car, we asked them how long they’d been doing the B&B thing, and were shocked to be told that they’d been at it for 5 years. I guess they’re just pretty casual about it.
We took the subway to Kyoto station, and dropped our bags into lockers. We didn’t really have any time to go sight-seeing (we had to catch a 1:45 train in order to make it to Kansai airport in time for our 5pm flight), but we did have time for one last meal in Kyoto, and we had a recommendation for what was supposed to be an excellent Japanese set-lunch place just a few blocks from the station…
…which was closed. A sign in Japanese was posted on the door: as close as we could puzzle out, they were gone on vacation. Oh well, there was another set-lunch place next door that was open and appeared to be doing steady business, so we walked in and ordered two out of the three available set lunches at random and trusted to fate. They weren’t life-changing, but they were very good, and I can now report that Kyoto does a mean Irish-style fried fish.
Lunch over, we walked the few blocks back to the station, and headed down to the basement for some last-minute provisioning. The food on the flight from SF to Tokyo had been pretty dire even by airplane standards, and it had occurred to me that as long as we were in a country that had basically perfected the idea of take-out food on this planet, there was no reason to put up with that noise. So we headed into the basement food courts underneath the station to stock up: I got a pork cutlet curry takeaway from a Japanese take-away chain called San Marco (completely Japanese fast food, but it was what I was in the mood for and it wouldn’t be hurt by the wait for the plane), Miranda got a bento box, and we both got a few random dessert items mostly based around red bean paste. This left us with another 45 minutes to kill, which we spent mostly having a cup of tea at a cafe: we were pretty walked out by that point.
On the way back from lunch to the station, I stopped at the post office to drop off the dozen or so postcards I’d been needing to mail for days now, and on our way in to the station I saw something that I decided would serve quite well as The Last Photo I Took In Japan:
And that’s about it. We took the express train from Kyoto to Kansai International, and suddenly we were no longer in Japan but in that everywhere-yet-nowhere land that my friend Ofer calls “Airportia.” We disposed of our remaining yen in the duty-free shops, tried and failed to find an electrical outlet for my laptop, I found a new English Haruki Murikami book in paperback at the newsstand, and eventually our seats were called. The stewardesses roundly approved of our choice of carry-on food. 9 hours later, we were home.
Goodbye, Japan. We’ll be back. I waited 15 years too long to get to you, and I’m not done with you yet by a longshot.