The taxi arrived, and while the driver was having a conversation with one of the other guests (she was asking for directions to somewhere, as far as I could decipher), the proprietor put our bags in the trunk of the taxi, without prompting. They were that kind of attentative people at Hanaya, really a very nice couple. They waved us off as well -- they didn't have to do so, but they made a point of it.
A short ride brought us to Nagiso station, and an uneventful trip took us back to Nagoya. There it was on to another Shinkansen (the Hikari) to Osaka, which also stops at Kyoto. We had located the ryokan where we would be staying in Kyoto on the maps. It seemed like only a short walk (ten minutes from Kyoto station, according to the brochure we had been given), so we walked around Kyoto for a bit.
Kyoto seems much more relaxed than Tokyo. There are a butt-load of universities and colleges in the city, so there are a lot of students around as well. Whereas riding a bicycle in Tokyo amounts to premeditated suicide, it is certainly a viable way to get around in Kyoto. Unfortunately, cyclists use the sidewalk, which makes for uneasy situations once in a while.
The ryokan was easily located, and we arrived just after 13:00, to be greeted by a man who seemed really nervous on one hand and overjoyed to see us on the other. I think he is on some psycho-active medication, because his manner reminded me of a former neigbour of ours. The man was really friendly, constantly saying thinks like "yes, yes, yeees" and "arigato gozadimashtaaaaa" in a weird sqeaky voice which was unlike his normal speaking voice. He informed us that we had been expected, that our suitcases had already arrived and that, unfortunately, our room was still being cleaned and we could only occupy it at 15:00... He took our auxillary bags, gave us a map of the city, pointed at some interesting temples and/or shrines (of which there are a mind-numbing number in the city) and wished us a pleasant day.
By that time, we were tired, hot and our feet hurt. We didn't want anymore, we had hoped to be able to freshen up at the ryokan and then explore the city... We were thoroughly fed up with being hot, sweaty and away from home.
Anyway, we located a promising park which seemed close by, stopped at a convenience store along the way for drinks and a small fruit pudding and set off. Unfortunately, the park only seemed close by on the map, so we were even more miserable when we arrived at the park. Along the way, I had decided to emulate the present fashion of using a parasol, and I used my umbrella for this purpose. This got me laughed at by a horde of school-girls -- apparently a big, sweaty gaijin with a parasol is quite a sight. The park itself wasn't anything special, but it had to do. We sat down in the shade, ate our pudding, some raison rolls and drank our drinks. We stayed there for a long time, perhaps 90 minutes, just trying to cool down and pick ourselves up again.
After some time Ingeborg roused me from my slumber and urged me to come with her into the city itself. We crossed a few streets and came upon the Kyoto Craft Center. They had some nice things on display, so I let myself be persuaded to enter the store. The store was an outlet for the works of several local craftsmen and was airconditioned (not unimportant in our present state). It was pleasant to wander through the aisles, cooling off and looking at the nifty stuff they had for sale. Of course, we came away with a mind-numbing amount of lewt.
We spent quite a lot of time (and cash!) on the beautiful merchandise there, and we felt really refreshed. We continued down the street, encountering several hordes of schoolgirls who seemed completely oblivious to their surroundings. They blocked the street, talked too loud (amongst themselves and into their cellphones) and were a general nuisance to walk near. We overtook one group, but were soon confronted with another group which exhibited similar behavioural patterns... Seemed like someone had opened a can of 'em, and we just had to cope.
We ducked down into a promising shopping arcade, and stumbled upon an Animate store. As David had said, if you'd been to the Tokyo store, there was little reason to go to the Kyoto one, but we came out with two packs of "Broccoli Character Cards", which were full-color cards of Pita-Ten characters. I also noticed there were a mind-numbing number of collectable card games on sale, including really "old"ones like Angelic Layer. We paid a brief visit to the Melon Books store next door, but Ingeborg got really nervous/annoyed by the amount of explicit hentai on proud display.
I had been searching for the Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto OST, but I had been too shy to ask, and not knowing the kanji for the title (or even the "alphabetical"order of kanji) I had been unsuccesfull in locating it. We saw another store selling anime stuff, and Ingeborg told me that she'd kick me if I was too shy to ask this time around. I set about finding it, and I did find the CDs of Mahoromatic -- which also starts with an M (the CDs for Mazinger were right next to it), so I knew I was getting close. I set about to inspecting the surrounding CDs and managed to find the MTTK OST! It features a full-color booklet with character art and a sticker. Of course, the opening theme is not included, and it has only the TV-sized ending theme -- Pioneer wants me to buy the separate singles for that, but I kept myself in check and bought only the OST. Hearing it all back, it has an almost Celtic feel at times, what with the up-beat whistles and violins. Still very nice to hear, though.
By that time we had almost exhausted our supply for money, and it was getting later. Banking hours had ended, and there was no big hotel in sight. An international ATM seemed like the best way to get some cash, so we set about finding one. We walked into an ATM-"shop" and were confronted by a security guard who asked to see my card. I said "Cirrus", and he told me my card wouldn't work in these ATMs. He proceeded to whip out a tiny map out of his wallet, on which he showed me the location of the Citibank ATMs, which did accept Cirrus cards. It's things like that that I like about Japan: in the Netherlands the guy would have decided it wasn't his problem anymore and just left me to fend for myself. But in Japan, you can expect a little service like that: people (and businesses) want to help you, even if they don't directly profit from doing so. It often doesn't cost them a thing (the guard already was there anyway), but reaps huge profits in goodwill.
With a fresh wad of cash in the wallet, we set out to finding something to eat. We ended up at the train station again. There were a lot of eateries on the eleventh floor of "The Cube", a large shopping mall next to/above the train station. The whole thing is built like a castle, with an inner courtyard (which does have a roof) and outer and inner battlements. The floors get smaller, so you get a pyramid-effect, only the open space is inside the building, instead of on the outside. So from the eleventh floor, you can look down inwards to the ground floor. Ingeborg got a bit nervous (she isn't really good at heights) but I really enjoyed the architecture. We selected a small restaurant and Ingeborg had a Satsuki while I had a bowl of Udon. Having thus satiated our hunger, we went to the twelfth floor, which was essentially an observation deck and apparently a popular dating spot.
On the twelfth floor of the Cube, looking down
We made our way back to the ryokan, where we were welcomed back by the nervous man. He showed us our room (spacious, the table fits next to the beds) and the various trappings of the place. Of course there is also a bathroom, but this one is also private. This means that you ask the staff to prepare the bath for you, and they'll call you if the bath is ready for you. Works for me (and more importantly, for Ingeborg). The room is also fitted with airconditioning, which is definately a plus with us!
Ingeborg has re-packed our suitcases (we had to find a place for all the lewt) and I am currently charging the GBA's via the handy USB-charger cable... In the end, the day has been salvaged, but I certainly wouldn't have minded going home today -- we're getting weary of travelling, and there are only so much temples and shrines to retain your interest.