Public bathing on Miyajima

For our final morning in Kyoto, we decided to leave our bags at the hotel and venture out to the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts. I’d had enough temples for the time being and felt we needed to see a museum and Mirinda chose the craft one. It’s also very convenient for the number 46 bus which passes by our hotel. The public transport beauty of the place is the fact that the bus then turns around and comes all the way back.

It’s easy to follow…no, really!

Though the convenience does not outweigh the magnitude of the traffic. The Gion end of Shijo-dori is very busy and, it seems, always traffic and pedestrian ridden. The night we saw the Maiko/Geiko it was easily the worst but every trip has taken a lot longer than it should. Mind you, the locals don’t seem to mind they just sit and take it in their stride…or stand with big bulky bags.

Speaking of which…on the bullet train we thought we’d struck it lucky with a spare window seat but, as you’d expect, someone claimed it at the first stop. I should explain: the seats are reserved for various parts of the journey and our seats were the centre and aisle. Unlike planes, you don’t have a lot of choice.

Anyway, this kid of about 18 gets on. He had a big wheelie bag, a baseball bat in a baseball bat bag and various paper bags with intriguing things written on them (the only one in English said ‘Sugar Tree Plum’). Instead of putting everything in the overhead section which would easily have taken his bag and detritus, he preferred to squash it all in front of him.

I should stress that none of what he did had any impact on me at all…apart from making me wonder what was wrong with him.

So he sat, all squashed up, playing with his phone, until he left the train one station before Hiroshima (where we were going) dragging his stuff behind him. It was very odd though I guess if you live within such a densely packed population, you’re going to have put up with stuff we’re just not used to. I have noticed that, like the Chinese, the Japanese also have no real understanding of personal space.

But, back at the museum of traditional crafts, space was not an issue. In the case of this excellent museum the issue was chairs or, should I say, the distinct lack of them. Okay there was a little open area with benches in it and they were very welcome, however, any museum worth it’s weight needs to include a rest stop every now and then.

The seat quibble aside, the museum was amazing. Such incredibly fine work explained in perfect detail. From candles, to lacquer boxes, to No masks, everything was explained. There were also examples that were for sale. We managed to save around £1500 by not buying one. But it was so beautiful. A tiny Japanese style cabinet in pale wood. All hand made and perfect. I managed to convince Mirinda that it wouldn’t fit in our suitcases.

My favourite handicrafty fact was that the wooden combs are made from wood that has dried for 17 years. Now that is labour intensive. I have no idea how much they cost but they are quite small and the tines are so fine they could easily just snap right off. One might be careful but there’s some knots that just won’t budge.

We still managed to buy some things from the gift shop (SMALL, FLAT things) before heading across the square to the Terrace Restaurant where the waiters are rude and the food is western.

If the location hadn’t been so perfect, I reckon Mirinda would have told them to shove their terrace but, eventually, we were given a table in a lovely spot and enjoyed a very dull, traditional western meal each. We even had to use cutlery. It wasn’t ‘bad’ exactly, just dull and ordinary. We’ve had so much exciting food that our tastebuds almost spat it out thinking it couldn’t possibly be food.

In the toilet I was amused to find that, along with all the other wonderful buttons, there was one marked ‘Privacy Button.’ When pressed this emits the sound of running water and is used in order to mask the sound of…well, running water. I’ve heard tell that such things exist in the women’s toilets (and I once knew a woman who would run the water tap when she went) but this is the first time I have seen one in the men’s. Mirinda said there wasn’t one in the women’s so maybe they just installed the wrong toilet in the wrong toilets.

So, having discussed the merits of water running, we hopped into a delightfully empty number 46 bus and took the long and torturous trip back through town to pick up our bags from the hotel. We then flagged down a taxi and headed for the bullet train.

And so our trip through some pretty morose countryside saw us arrive at Hiroshima at the busiest time. I don’t know why because it was a Sunday but every man, his dog and trailer full of chickens was there. I left Mirinda standing with the cases while I went to investigate the small train ticket situation.

Originally (quite a while ago) we’d planned to stay in Hiroshima and go out to the island of Miyajima on a day trip then, because we wanted to go totally Japanese, we decided to go native with the whole kit and caboodle of tatami matted room with sliding paper walls and food served in our room – all very ryoken style. I am SO glad we did. Hiroshima looked a bit bleak while our first sight of the island was divine.

I feel I have to mention Mirinda’s new found talent for reading and understanding Japanese station names. We were standing on Hiroshima station waiting for a train but had no idea whether it went to where we wanted to go because the indicator board was completely in Japanese (except, oddly enough, the fact that it had six cars) which is odd because we’ve been a bit spoiled with English as well

Anyway, Mirinda looked up the place we were going on Google Maps and tried to match the Japanese script on the map with the stations on the indicator board. And you’d never guess…well you probably would. She managed to figure out that our train did stop where we wanted it to. We boarded the train and headed out to Miyajimaguchi where we switched train for ferry.

The trip across to the island was a bit like sitting in a garage waiting for your car to be serviced but it was only ten minutes and we were soon standing on the island waiting for our lift to the hotel. And Mirinda observed a deer strolling into the ferry ticket office looking for someone…or something. She didn’t find whatever it was she was looking for and just strolled off again. Apparently there’s a lot of wild deer on the island and you have to be careful because they are likely to eat your tickets if you’re not careful.

The hotel, when we arrived was a delight. We had to remove our shoes and slip into too small slippers (I was told I could just wear my socks) just after walking in the door and, when we reached our room, even the slippers had to come off (or socks in my case). And speaking of specific footwear…there’s even toilet shoes.

The room overlooked the water (and Hiroshima in the distance – so distant that Mirinda decided it looked quite nice) and had tatami mats and a low table for dining with chairs with no legs and…well here’s the video:

Dinner was served very early (for us) and was delicious and varied. It was served to us by a young woman who came and went with various dishes. It really was exceptionally good food.

After dinner, Mirinda went for a short walk while the sun was still up (it very quickly went down) and eventually I went down to sample the public bathing.

Like the Romans, the Japanese are quite keen on what they call Onsen or hot baths with their mates. The water is from hot springs and, of course, there’s lots of rituals and rules around the taking of them. I wanted to try so I donned a yukata robe (folded the correct way and not as if I was dead) and headed downstairs.

The experience was a delight. I will explain a bit more about it tomorrow when I have my second (or third) one.

Suffice it to say that this place is ridiculously quiet.

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1 Response to Public bathing on Miyajima

  1. Mum Cook says:

    What a great experience it must be your best holiday yet i know I would not have liked the food but the rest would have been great. I now understand how poor Hide found everything so different but being young can except it quickly. There country is very beautiful it might have cost the earth but the memory’s you have far out weigh the money. I have really enjoyed it. Every place you have been felt I was there with you. Also loved the videos all ways watched them two or three times How did you manage to sit on the floor or those tiny chairs no way would I have been able to. Love Mum xxxxxxxxx

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