A sharp u-turn bring the team around and they beginning to head back east, but there is a reason, and it’s name is Kyoto. As cliche as it seems, it would appear no visit to Japan is complete without a visit to the city which is literally home to over 1000 shrines! Time to for our team to be tourists, riding bikes around the city to see the famous sites such as Kyomizudera Temple and Kinkagu-ji, and then heading to Gion home to the Geisha, where Natali is transformed for the day! With the team exhausted after now over 30 days on the road, Dean heads off on his own to hike to the top of the relatively unknown Sajikigatake Mountain.
Dean Newcombe, Duncan Buckley, Natali Jacobsen and Timothy Buerger
Points of Interest
Osaka City, Osaka Castle, Yodo River, Kyoto City, Kyomizudera Temple, Fushimi-Inari Shrine, Gion District, Ginkakuji, Kinkakuji, Nijo Castle and Mount Sajikigatake
Arriving in Kyoto
The guys had partied hard in Japan’s 2nd biggest city. Waking up with a hangover may just be one side of Japan too often overlooked, but in stark contrast, followers had voted next to send them back north, to another of Japan’s old capitals and perhaps the most holy place in Japan, Kyoto! From ‘Osaka Castle’, Dean runs to the ‘Yodo River’, which you can follow almost the entire way to ‘Kyoto’. Natali and Duncan soon join him, running in todays glorious weather up the river as a team. They find university students, training in athletic disciplines – Dean is neither good with a javelin nor the discus! To cover more distance, Dean continues now by bike. By the time he has reached ‘Kyomizudera Temple’ the sun is setting and he must quickly meet his team and hurry into the complex. At the main hall, Natali and Dean removed their shoes and head inside to kneel and ring a gong at the altar. Further into the temple, they find, in the light of dusk, 3 water channels from the ‘Otawa Waterfall’. Natali and Dean drink from the waters, which are believed to grant wishes of Intelligence, Long Life and Love to the visitors. Now closed, they wander away from the temple, down a shopping street, which sells everything from handmade chopsticks to green tea flavored ice cream. Tim introduces the team to ‘Yatsuhashi’, a famous Kyoto confectionary, but for dinner they will have ‘Obanzai Ryori’, which is a traditional home style of cooking in ‘Kyoto’. They are served multiple small dishes and they even can create their own style of ‘Onigiri’ (Japanese rice ball) – selecting ingredients in Japanese proves tricky!
The Many Shrines of Kyoto
One of the most visited shrines in Kyoto is the ‘Fushimi-Inari’. This shrine is said to have over 1,000 Japanese Torii gates and is decorated with foxes, which are said to be the shrine’s messengers. The team head here in the morning, to pass under some of the gates and to take in the atmosphere. Dean interviews other foreign guests to find out how and why visitors choose this shrine from the thousands in the city. From here the team head to a Kyoto city market called ‘Nishiki’, where you can find Japanese only style foods like Yuba (tofu skin). It was the ‘Kyoyasai’ (Kyoto Vegetables), however, that Natali and Dean were searching for. The vegetables grown in Kyoto are said to have more nutritional value than any other vegetables in the world and are part of the reason Kyoto people are said to be so healthy. Many tourists of Kyoto go searching for Geisha or their apprentices, called Maiko. The runAway team, instead, decided to turn Natali into a Geisha! Dean puts on his best jacket and escorts Natali through the quaint streets of the ‘Gion District’ and around a shrine complex. All shrines in Kyoto, despite looking alike, are unique. At one shrine, Dean, Duncan and Tim play a game of luck, tossing coins at a high up target, which, embarrassingly, the Japanese girls seem much better at! Another shrine was themed around wild boar, and you could even buy your own small pig, to place with the main statue, and at the same time receive your fortune on a slip of paper. In the evening, the team now get to taste the ‘Kyoyasai’ at a dinner buffet. Food is followed by Duncan and Dean going in search of a ‘Shiatsu Masseuse’. Dean is the lucky one to receive the treatments of a lady named Kaori, who offers insight as to why massage is another component of the Kyoto peoples healthy and able bodies.
Silver and Gold
Today the team would rent bicycles. No more racing bike for Dean, but instead, the ‘Mamachari’, the bike choice of Japanese mothers. Complete with built in lock, auto-light and a front-basket, there is no more convenient way to see Kyoto! Their start point was ‘Kyomizudera’, where they previously left off. Riding through the city north, they first reach ‘Philosophers Walk’, a route named after a professor who would use this cherry-tree lined canal-walk for his daily mediation. Soon after, they reach ‘Ginkakuji’ or the Silver Pavilion Temple! In the temple grounds the team find a perfectly placed mound of sand, representing Mt. Fuji. There is also again the coin tossing game, where Natali finds her good fortune. From the top of the temple grounds you can see the Golden Pavilion temple which is where they wanted to head next. ‘Kinkaguji’ has all the things you would expect by now from temples – the fun coin games, the beautiful gardens, but in this temple, mostly you are mesmerized by the glowing golden temple, a spectacular sight that makes it obvious why this is one of the most popular buildings in the whole of Japan. In the evening, when dark has fallen, the team are invited to the ‘Shamenchi-odori Festival’. This very local festival sees a parade of children climb the temple steps holding lanterns above their heads. The candles in the dark, with the dancing and music, end the day beautifully.
In a very different kind of runAway day, while in Kyoto, the team would welcome their musician from Tokyo, and film a music video, while at the same time making their way slowly toward their goal. They headed to Kyoto’s main station to meet her, and while waiting, met other foreigners and Japanese alike, who were visiting the popular Kyoto. ‘Sayulee’ soon appeared with a smile on her face, and they headed to ‘Ginkakuji’ together. It was back at this Silver Pavilion that they could hire a rickshaw for Sayulee. The idea was for her to sit back and play the guitar while being escorted around the city, with Dean running by her side. Nothing could be more motivating for Dean, and after a great shoot, they headed for a local soba restaurant to break for lunch. Soba went down fast and the meal time conversation was on Japanese squatting – which neither Dean nor Sayulee could do so without ending up flat on the floor! Well fed, the next stop was ‘Nijyo Castle’. The beautifully decorated castle was another great back-drop for the music video, for Sayulee’s song simply titled ‘runAway’. The team explored the castle grounds and high on the battlements, beautiful views opened up of the gardens and the surrounding city. Time was running out, and Dean had a long way to go still. The team walked out of the city and said their farewells to Sayulee, but with the team feeling exhausted, this time Dean would finish the episode alone, heading up the relatively unknown ‘Mt. Sajikigatake’ for a silent and spiritual moment with nature.