Being environmental geeks our next stop on our Japanese itinerary is a name that resonates loudly through our lefty tree hugging consciousness. The Kyoto Protocol in 1997 was when the worlds developed nations acknowledged that climate change was a genuine global threat and set targets to curb emissions of CO2 by the year 2020.
Steps have been taken, partly noticeable by the proliferation of the hybrid and electric car along the city streets, but I am not sure that the world will meet the targets they set in 5 years time. These, however feel like problems of the modern age, and Kyoto is not a city that feels like the modern world is its focal point.
This sense is helped by our accommodation choice for our stay, a traditional Ryokan. Wooden houses, with wooden floors covered with tatami matting and thin bamboo walls that you are required to remove shoes before entering and remain quiet whilst inside. The basic theme is also seen with the furnishings, a typical room with have a futon mattress on the floor, a single Japanese wall hanging and maybe a low table.
This doesn’t sound the most comfortable place in the world, but believe me it is. Without an early flight or train, we have gotten out of the habit of setting an alarm and regularly wake naturally around 8:00am….our first morning in the Ryokan saw us stir at a decadent 10am!
If Tokyo is the economic heart of Japan, Kyoto is its daydreaming soul. In fact at the start Kyoto can feel a little overwhelming with the dizzying array of historic and cultural sites on offer. Looking through the usual guidebooks and websites, the disparate spread of locations all over the city can make planning days difficult. After 30 minutes of starring at maps and leaflets we head out for a much needed cup of tea with a plan for the next few days.
Temples, temples, temples.
These are the words that our friends in Hofu used to describe Kyoto and they were not wrong. We enjoy a wonderful afternoon strolling round a couple of the more famous ones, Nazenji and Ginkakuji, connected by a walk along the Philosophers Way nipping into a tea and cake shops to dodge the occasional shower. We may have missed the famous cheery blossom, but the brightness and range of early spring greens on display in the ornamental gardens is spectacular.