Finally, my last day in Kyoto had arrived!!
It turned out to be a pretty low-key day, for several reasons.
First of all, it was toward the end of my trip and I didn’t want to spend much more money.
Second, I had to catch the overnight bus at the train station in the evening, so I didn’t really feel like going anywhere super far away.
And third, I had gotten to do pretty much everything I’d wanted to do while I was in Kyoto.
So, with those thoughts in mind, I decided to explore the Higashiyama district near Kiyomizudera Temple, the area I’d spent the first day of my trip, one more time.
This time, I took some videos, so you can wander the streets with me!
After re-watching this video, I was rather disappointed to discover that besides my alarming lack of mature grammatical skills, my pronunciation also still sounds sadly non-native. Something to work on, I guess!
The powder did turn out to be kinako (roasted soybean flour), which is often sweetened when used in desserts. It was so fine that I inhaled it by mistake and had to cough it out of my system. I noticed that it was happening to other people as well! Whilst I was enjoying my dango, I was joined by a nice Japanese family who had an English-speaking German girl travelling with them. Their son spoke good English and initiated the conversation, and I got to chat with the German girl as well. She had marvelous English AND Japanese skills, with Japanese fluency that made me quite envious.
After my mitarashi dango experience, I wandered some more, eventually buying some tofu donuts. These are not nearly as weird as they sound – just warm, soft, amazing mini donuts. I also got some ice cream, mostly because I really wanted to try some more of Japan’s unique ice cream flavors. They tend to have special flavors to match the region or attraction – for example, the bamboo flavored ice cream near the Arayashima bamboo grove, which I’d have gotten if I hadn’t been so full!
Unfortunately, the ice cream flavors in Kyoto weren’t all that special, at least in my opinion. The area’s food specialties are green tea and tofu, neither of which I particularly wanted in ice cream. I do enjoy green tea ice cream, but it is such a common flavor here that I can buy it in any grocery store. I eventually decided on a yuzu/shiso swirl. Yuzu is a type of citrus fruit common here, and shiso is “perilla,” a plant I’d never heard of in the States but that seems to be more well known here. Anyway, it turned out to be not that great – just a sour fruity flavor. Oh well. Next time I’ll try the bamboo!
I walked back through the Pontocho area (a place I’d already walked on my first day), enjoying the ambiance of the narrow alley lined with little hole-in-the-wall restaurants, many of them quite expensive. Of course, I also kept my eye out for geisha, but sadly did not see any. Next, I passed through the busy downtown district, stopping at a “Book-Off” (used bookstore chain) where I happily browsed for a time.
Finally, after a short stop at my guest house to pick up my luggage, which they had kindly stored for the day, I arrived back at Kyoto Station, hungry and worn out. I located my bus stop, then walked back and forth and pondered for way too long before opting for dinner at McDonald’s. I’d kind of hoped for a more exciting option, but the McDonald’s was fairly near my bus stop, and it was a place that I could park my luggage and my tired body for a while until my bus came. And besides, a good ol’ burger and fries are always an appropriate choice, right?
Oh, and here’s a video of the Christmas illumination (holiday illuminations are a big deal here!) at the station:
My bus finally rolled in a little after ten, and I boarded, on my way home at last. I’ll always cherish the memories I made in Kyoto, and I’m incredibly grateful that I got to experience so many wonderful things. Even though I wasn’t sure it would work out, I’m very happy that I was able to take a trip like this before going back to America. In a way, it made me feel like my time here in Japan has been made complete; it was a refreshing change to play the tourist and do some travelling, after spending so much time teaching and being absorbed in the work culture here. I’m not sure whether or not I’ll ever be back to Kyoto, but I’m really glad that I had the chance to visit a place I’ve been wanting to see for so long!
Goodbye for now, Kyoto!