Because I have "iron boogers" and always know what direction I'm facing, I had no problem wandering from the train station about 3/4 of a mile to the temple with little to no signage (in English). Once again, anyone with any type of travel anxiety or planning compulsion would probably have freaked out, but as I'm perfectly comfortable wandering towards something that's "in this general direction" with my mental map, I had no problems.
There's something calming about Kyoto. It wasn't nearly as small as I'd imagined it, but the old-style Japanese architecture with the dark wood paneling and white screens was all around, and it felt very peaceful. There were giant trees, and even though it was too hot and humid for this west coast girl, it was still a lovely walk. Jeans were, however, a bad choice.
Tofukuji temple was, well, epic. The buildings were very simple, but at the same time they were really magnificent and grand. It very randomly reminded me somewhat of northern California - the trees I think, and the fact that everything was made out of dark, unpainted wood. It was, as a Zen Buddhist temple should be, very zen.
THEY EVEN HAD A REAL ZEN GARDEN. You know, like those things you put on your desk with the sand...
You had to take your shoes off to walk on the wood floors inside the temple and by the zen garden, and the floorboards squeaked - intentionally. I'll explain that later when I'm at Nijo Castle. But even with crowds of people, Tofukuji temple was beautiful and incredibly calming, and left me feeling all one with nature and shit like that. I had a nice little walkabout sans shoes, then I headed back to the train station for my next stop on the rush tour of Kyoto.
I made it back to Kyoto Station, and it was finally late enough in the afternoon for me to check into my "guesthouse" and drop some of my stuff off (that had been stashed in a convenient locker at the station). It was only about 3 blocks away from the station, which was nice since everywhere I went started from there - and there was a nice view of Kyoto Tower.
Because I hate people, I booked the only "private room" in what is essentially a capsule hotel. I have an intense hatred of snoring, so the thought of being in a room with other people that I wasn't legally allowed to assault in the wee hours of the morning to shut them up was terrifying. I had a nice, tiny room with a door, my own AC, and a TV that I didn't turn on. After hours of walking, I immediately shut myself in my 30 square foot room and blasted the AC to try to dry the layers of sweat, and put my swollen feet up for a few minutes.
Since I was on a time crunch, I didn't get an actual nap as I would have liked - I sat for 30 minutes and changed clothes, then it was time to head out for dinner. I took one of the 900 trains from Kyoto Station to the Gion area (which may sound familiar to anyone who read Memoirs of a Geisha) because a) it was supposed to be cute and traditional and b) there was a Sanrio store there. Priorities.
I walked another 9 billion steps along the main drag full of traditional shops selling tea, cute things, stuff made from kimono fabric, jewelry, delicious foodstuffs, Japanese candies, legit actual kimonos that cost as much as a nice apartment, and other fancy things. I found my Sanrio store, bought some cute Aggretsuko socks and a little plushie, and set out in search of sushi.
Since my main requirement for restaurants was either an English menu or recognizable photographs of food, I walked a while before I found something suitable. I went into a big department store and, as I've learned in Korea, headed for the top floor (where the food is). I was not disappointed, because I found a sweet conveyor belt sushi restaurant and only had to wait about 10 minutes for a seat at the bar. They gave me a number, and because I speak literally one single word of Japanese, I had to google how to say "66" in Japanese so I'd know when they called me. Even so, I was so obviously out of place that when the guy came out, he looked at my receipt and saw that I was the one he was looking for instead of trying to scream Japanese numbers at a foreigner. Bless him.
It. Was. Glorious. Was it better than sushi outside of Japan? Yes, yes it was. How? Well, the only way I can explain it is the way pineapple tastes in Hawaii. It's different, it's better, but I can't really explain how. So yeah. Here's a haphazard photo of the first of many delicious plates of sushi:
Plus the free matcha tea that just comes with your meal.
After dinner, my feet had grown to the size of small grapefruits and my body hated me for being awake and mobile for nearly 20 hours, so I took a quick walk down Ponto-cho, an adorably traditional restaurant street in Gion, and headed back to my tiny air-conditioned shipping container for some intense sleep. It was only 9:30pm, but I was dead, and honestly, there's not much touristing to do after dark.
I wanted some damn ice cream, because if I'm going to burn more calories than I'm physically able to consume in a day, I'm going to have some ice cream. But sadly, the ice cream places I'd passed on the way to dinner had closed, because they suck, so I went into McDonald's and had a cone with chocolate syrup and almonds that I devoured in approximately 3 minutes like a drunken bear. I was sweaty, with giant swollen feet and ice cream on my shirt, just like everyone abroad imagines Americans to be. I had succeeded in staying awake until dark after waking up at 5am, which to me, was a giant success. Time to sleep at least 10 hours.
To be continued...