Not a whiff of ‘protocol as we emerge from the ordinary platform the into the extraordinary space that is Kyoto Station. We ride super-length escalators to the sky garden and argue pointlessly about what to do next. You see dear reader Kyoto is bloody huge and arriving sans plan is a whole heap o’time a’wastin’.
Taxi! We skip the queue to get a “tourist friendly, no extra charge” cab. Nice. Presently we are stuck in endless Kyoto traffic and I am admiring the car. It’s a Toyota Crown (Taxi model, natch). A squared off 1970s silohuette like a lesser Japanese Volvo with doilies on the head-restraints. This one has done 662,000km. Wh-aaaaat? Literally moon and back mileage. I ask what our drive’ – a local, who helps by speaking English – likes about his whip?
(I admit, I giggled. Think about it.)
After a blur of cherry blossom we are turfed out – as requested – on the road up to the Kiyomizu-dera temples where tourism seems to have dumped every single tourist in the world. Right now. All of us. All at once. The low, narrow hill side street shops are hawking all sorts of trinkets and local sweets – they love a sweet treat – but we resist and head ever upwards.
Unlike the superficial selfieness of Nara, the “we’re totally into it” thing here is to tour a shrine or three in a rented Kimono. You get groups of girls and occasional couples – but never gangs of lads – giving it large: a shy, giggly, bashful, Japanese “large” on a sanctified hillside under the cherry blossom. Like a fancy dress hen do only not. They are deeply committed to the vibe and are doing it correctly. Drawing attention to themselves is not how it’s done. Despite the looky-here threads.
All shrined-up we head for the Maruyama Park where Mum admonishes us all for craving food from the oddles of noodle stores. “There’ll be plenty at the food market!” There wasn’t. The Nishiki Market is a spectacle alright: a long, narrow aisle fish/veg/spices/tea/fruit extravaganza but no Borough Market. D’oh. We end up snacking in a Seven-Eleven and soaking up free WiFi.
Blimey Kyoto is busy. Yes, it is “cherry blossom” season and all but still. It feels like a million souls that the census recorded. Plus tourists.
We ignore 97% of the sights and instead make for Inari and the Fushimi Inari Shrine. Good call as it turns out.
Apologies Kyoto: we spared you no time and moved too fast.