On our last day in Japan we packed our bags and caught the train to Kyoto. Leaving our luggage in the baggage office of the architectural wonder that is Kyoto station we bought a bus pass from the tourist office then caught bus number 5 to Ginkaku-ji Michi.
Last time we had walked the Tetsugaki-no-michi, or Philosophers’ Path, in Kyoto it was early evening and most of the nearby sights had closed. This time we stopped first at Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Temple.
I was just expecting a moderately attractive Buddhist temple, but what was so impressive about Ginkaku-ji was the gardens. Soft moss covered the ground beneath maples, leaves bright in the sunshine. Tall bamboo and cedar surrounded the garden, while streams and waterfalls tinkled along with the sounds of the grasshoppers and cicadas.
After Ginkaku-ji we returned to the Philosophers’ Path along the stone lined Biwa Canal. Cherry trees and maples provided shelter along the path while cafes and craft galleries appeared regularly on either side. It is perfect for quiet contemplation and I could imagine walking the same path across the different seasons.
Eventually the path ended and we were in the region of Eikan-do. We waited in the heat for the bus to return us to the station and fortunately found seats on board. But it was so slow that, along the main shopping strip of Shijo-dori, we just gave up and decided to get off and walk to the nearest subway.
The Haruka Express takes an hour and fifteen minutes to travel between Kyoto and Kansai International Airport (KIX). The interior was comfortable and the ride fast and smooth, while outside it was raining. As we entered Osaka we emerged into a sunset that highlighted the city skyline, orange above buildings of white and grey.
The bridge across to KIX is surprisingly long and all you can see is ocean below. All my other trips across have been in the dark and this was my first opportunity to appreciate this amazing man-made island.
We ate a dinner of tonkatsu in a restaurant on the third floor. While exploring KIX’s shops we could not resist purchasing a Kobe White Chocolate Cheesecake. For eating this on the plane, and for some fruit jellies we had kept from Kurashiki, we would need spoons, so I purchased a small tube of Kobe Milk Custard. This caused us problems when going through security as they decided that it was a liquid and we had to throw it or eat it right there. It was worth it for the smooth, smooth custard!
Jetstar was holding a huge promotion besides our gate, celebrating their inaugural Osaka to Cairns flight with showbags and photo opportunities with the crew. Our flight was delayed, but eventually we lifted off and away from Japan, watching the rectangular island of KIX disappear from below.
I didn’t think that I had ordered a video player for the flight back but I’m glad that Jetstar thought I did. While B stretched out over three empty seats I found myself unable to sleep, too concerned about possible bumps along the way. Watching the movies and television shows on the DigEplayer took my mind away from caring about the turbulence and I found the hours passed quite quickly.
While most passengers were still asleep I watched a magnificent sunrise across the clouds. I saw us cross over Central Queensland and could identify the volcanic plugs poking their heads through the morning mist.
Our flight had a stopover in Brisbane and this time it was a small jar of lip balm that caused consternation at the security checkpoint, though they let it through in a clear plastic bag. We also swapped some Japanese passengers for Australian bogans. I’m certain that Japanese bogans exist but I can’t identify them, which is much more pleasant. You could tell that we were back in Australia when, in Sydney immigration, one bloke walks up to the counter and says “G’day love, I’m just down from Queensland.”
The short flight to Sydney was a little rough, especially as we descended through the clouds and across the city. The only APEC visitor’s plane that I could see was Vladimir Putin’s, so I was a little disappointed. However, it was good to be back, even if it meant catching a much slower and less comfortable train from the airport.
Unlike the trip to China earlier this year I feel that we really had a holiday. But I also know that I’ll want to return to Japan again!