Friday was another culture break as we went to Kyoto where a guide would take us on a tour through a ninja house (actually a daimyo inn). Instead of one we guide, we found 3: three female students who are volunteering took us on a tour. One one side we get a guided tour and on the other they can practice their English. The result was pretty amazing: all of them had an almost flawless accent and their English was very good.
Once in the ninja house, we were told we are not allowed to make pictures with out cameras to protect the building from the flash as its over 400 years old. Any attempt to explain that me and Sebastiaan could take pictures without flash didn’t help. Also you are not allowed to touch anything inside besides the floor and the stairs (yes, really) and we had a pretty grumpy guide who was pretty strict with those rules.
Fortunately they never said anything about mobile phones so I tried to take some pictures behind my back which came out pretty blurry for most of them as I shut down the flash. After the guided tour, which became pretty boring in the end as the people in the back couldn’t see nothing of what the guide was showing us (despite the attempts of the girls to make it clear after he walked further) and in the end he didn’t want his picture taken because of some tale that it could capture a part of his soul. Some Japanese people are nuts.
After Nijo Jinya we walked to some imperial palace that was close by, again, only pictures of the outside were allowed. The only cool thing on the inside were the squeaky planks: every plank squeaks as you walk on it. This made it impossible to sneak in the building undetected. The only other thing inside are ancient drawings (which looks pretty bad to me) and puppets to depict what a room was used for.
After the tour, we headed back to Kyoto station where we thanked our guides for the tour and everyone empties their rented lockers. We then took the train to Nara where we had a bit of free time. So I bought some fruit and a towel (because I was told the temple had an onsen) and then we bought some coffee while we waited.
We went by bus as far up the mountain as possible but we still had to walk a few kilometers to the temple. We were told before that we probably should gear up for coal heaters and some form of camping in a real temple. Instead, this turned out to be a hostel type of building where we stayed with a monk who spoke not much English and electric heaters in the sleeping quarters. The teachers and Lischana got their own room with a TV while we were stuffed in one big sleeping hall.
After we unpacked we heard that dinner was served at 6 and after dinner we were not allowed to go outside by ourselves (no clue why, probably to keep the peace and quiet). So we set off on a hiking trip up the mountain to see how far we could come. Three quarters up the mountain and three times as far as we thought it would be we decided to turn back to make sure we didn’t miss dinner. Judging by the Spanish swearing behind me Jorge thought the path was as crappy as I thought.
Dinner was diverse allowing us to make a selection of what we wanted to eat. The only downside was that is was served Japanese style: on a small tray on the ground – forcing us to attempt to sit like traditional Japanese did while eating. I can tell you that those positions are impossible for us Dutch to maintain for very long. Cramps and numbness aside, the food was pretty good. I tried a bite of everything to at least determine what I liked and I liked the salad and fruit by far the most. After dinner a female monk came and offered to take us to the temple.
Hoping she meant the main temple I followed the group out the building and up the mountain. By the time we walked by the path to the main temple I got the dreadful impression she meant the temple on top of the mountain. The same damn path we took before. Some more grumblings containing "puta" came from behind me to confirm that Jorge was thinking the same.
After a long walk I made it to the top, bathing in sweat and as one of the last (I tried making pictures on the way up :-p). After some cool photos from the surrounds we went (way to soon after such a monstrous climb) back down to the hostel. When we came back there was a run to the onsen which appeared to be way to small to accommodate everyone at once. So I went back to the sleeping hall and lay down to relax while I listened to some music. I probably fell asleep and woke up when someone shuffed a laptop in my face with the recording of me snoring – thanks guys…
I then made it to the onsen with one hour to spare until the lights were supposed to go out. After some relaxing in the onsen and in the massage chair next to it, we finally went to bed – Japanese style.