Previously: I toured some very zen locations in Kyoto
When planning my trip to Japan, I got referred to an activities website by the portable Wi-Fi company (via a coupon which I promptly used).
Side Note: I’m (unfortunately) not popular enough to shill for companies, but I would recommend Voyagin if you ever visit Japan. It’s a great place to find activities you may not otherwise know where to find, such as tickets to a Sumo Wrestling show, tickets to the Ghibli Museum, or various walking tours.
Initially, I wanted to go on a cool-looking bike tour that went all around Kyoto with a guide. If it rained, it’d be a similar tour but in a taxi. I liked that it covered major locations and all types of weather. It was a bit pricy (C$120) but I was still interested. I had signed up before leaving Canada, but there wasn’t enough interest so it was ultimately canceled.
Undeterred, I decided I’d do my own bike tour!
November 9th, Wednesday, I woke up and did my usual morning routine. I skyped home while I had breakfast and glimpsed Japanese-dubbed CNN about the 2016 election. I was 14 hours ahead, but it was still election day and social media was buzzing. I wanted to keep up to date, but that would prove futile. Only at the end of the day did I think ‘Oh shit, I should check the election results.’
It was raining on and off again. I was smart this time: the hotel offered day-umbrellas. I grabbed one on the way out.
Side Note: There’s no point bringing it back up but I only half-used the umbrella because it was raining when I was biking and dry when I was on my feet.
I wanted to start early, so I left the hotel around 9:30AM and promptly made way for the bike shop I had seen on my way to the hotel two days before: J-Cycle. I was too early, however; they didn’t open until 10AM. A foreigner couple was waiting outside.
(I also made a huge fool of myself by totally ignoring the big sign blocking the way into the shop. I walked right by it, up to one of the workers, and asked about renting a bike. I guess their doors were open because they were still setting up. Anyone could’ve made my mistake. I bet the couple did too before I got there. Please let me think this is normal to save my dignity.)
Thoroughly embarrassed, I walked to over one block to the main street (the one where I found CoCo Curry House). I figured I could kill some time just walking around. I’m glad I did this, as I came across an office supplies store. Though it didn’t offer the same selection of Pilot pens as Tokyu Hands, it had cute, dumb little station things like the two items I picked up.
- A money tracker post-it. I imagine it’s main use is for agendas, check-books, or home finances notes.
- A notebook that turns into an envelope. I believe it’s meant for a long trip, where you would write a long passage and then use the cover as the envelope for the letters inside. It even had lines on the cover for writing the address.
10AM passed, so I returned to the bike shop and went through the whole process. There was a family of three ahead of me, so I had to wait a bit. After paying, I got a bike with a basket and lock. It was quite cheap, less than $15 for six hours!
J-Cycle offered a map of various paths/tours a person could take along with their respected time approximations. I didn’t follow any, as I wasn’t interested in every attraction listed, but it gave me some ideas.
My goal for the day was Fushimi Inari Shrine. Thus, I headed south.
Supposedly, the ability to ride a bike never leaves you – but I don’t ride bikes often. Other than three instances in September of 2016, I couldn’t tell you the last time I was on one. So, when I got on this bike I was a little unsteady. Something about its weight distribution threw me off – it was back heavy? Just, not what I was used to.
Although it wasn’t raining when I started, it started up quickly. I lacked the dexterity and coordination to hold up an umbrella while biking, so I had to rely on my coat and hood. It didn’t work out too well. The wind was against me and kept blowing my hood back. And I was still sick. It was just a sucky time.
However, the scenery was fascinating. I was following Google Maps which took me through the back streets and quiet neighbourhoods. I didn’t take many pictures during this part, since I didn’t want to risk damaging my phone, but it made a ride through the rain tolerable.
After 30-minutes of grueling exercise, I knew I was in the right area. I was passing by small Torii gates sandwiched in between houses. Closer still, the crowds were growing and before I knew it, I was directly in the middle of the crowd.
Which was really awkward because I was on a bike and everyone else was walking.
I was freaking out, because I wasn’t going to take the bike with me all the way up to Fushimi Inari proper, but I didn’t know where to leave the bike. There are specific parking locations for bikes in Kyoto, and if you don’t park in one of these spots, the bike could be towed. That possibility gave me a lot of anxiety, so I was really, really concerned about finding a legal spot.
I was in the middle of a direct path to the shrine, shops lining it all the way up. I was practically cutting through the crowd with my bike and my anxiety got the better of me, so I broke off into an alleyway.
I spent the next ten minutes trying to find my way back around, too embarrassed/anxious to retrace my steps back to the busy area. I had made my way into another quiet neighbourhood that had a lot of dead ends. Thankfully, I managed to return to a main road. Shallowing my nerves, I walked my bike through the masses (several getting off from the subway) and found the legal parking spots.
Although I had some worries, the energy in the crowd had me excited.
Next time: I get to the juice part of Fushimi Inari