Our disco-era Kyoto hotel redeemed itself when we found out they rent free bikes. So our 24-hour visit was topped off by a delightful morning ride through the hills of the Higashiyama district. It's the section with the largest concentration of temples and shrines, with narrow streets lined by old shops and small wooden houses. Our first discovery was a flea market at the Hokoku shrine, selling everything from tiny buddhas and kimonos to old junky electronics. Some of the oddities spotted there:
The juxtaposition of the bric-a-brac against this majestic shrine was a curious one. Even stranger to see people squeezing through the clutter for the ritual hand washing and prayer.
We continued up and down the winding roads, passing Kyoto Women's University, clusters of old and new houses, and a beautiful cemetery tucked away at the top of a hill. (More photos up on Flickr.) Heading back to the train station (and relieved to be finally going downhill), we spotted this tiny coffee shop run by an old couple. I think we were the only people there under 70. The coffee was delicious. Unfortunately our Japanese hasn't gotten good enough to ask how the place got its name.
After they pampered us with their kind service, it was back on the bullet train to Tokyo. A perfect little side trip to gear us up for week #2 in the big city.
- Leital Molad