When I woke up this morning I still hadn’t decided what I was going to do in the few days after visiting Naoshima. I’d been thinking about it all night, and had a few different options in my head, but nothing locked in. I also had the problem of my heavy and inconvenient suitcase, which I didn’t want to take with me through the islands. I really should have through about all of this before yesterday. I thought about sending the suitcase somewhere, but I hadn’t decided where I was going to be, and hadn’t booked the accommodation to send it to. So then I thought that I could leave it in Kyoto, and come back for a night or two to collect it. This was just a thought last night, when I was feeling sad about leaving the Mundo family. But I asked Midori if there was any vacancy on the 30th or 31st, and she said there was only one bed left on both nights. I had asked out of curiosity, but as the night went on, I liked the idea of returning more and more. When I woke up this morning, I knew that I wanted to return, so I booked myself back in on the 31st. It saved me having to worry about what to do with my luggage.
After waking up and having breakfast, I packed my backpack with everything I would need for the next four nights, and then shoved everything else into my suitcase. Then I stored it underneath the stairs, and handed back the key to my room. I spent the next few hours sitting in the living room, trying madly to book hotels and work out a schedule. Tida watched me from the chair opposite, before falling asleep with his head on the arm rest. 1pm came around quickly, and I ate some cabbage with sesame dressing, and a cup of mis soup for lunch. I really wasn’t hungry after yesterday’s feast, but I knew I should eat. Then I said goodbye to everyone and walked to Nijo station, where I drank a vegetable juice and got a train to Kyoto.
At Kyoto, I switched to this really rapid train which took me all the way to a place called Aioi, at the base of many mountains. I was surprised that I could use this train with the 18 kippu, because it went so fast that sometimes my ears felt funny. We passed Shin-Osaka, Osaka, and Kobe, and I stared out the window in awe when we passed by the inland sea. It was raining slightly, and everything looked pastel and blue. The sea and the sky merged together on the horizon, and deep blue silhouettes of boats dotted the water. I saw the giant bridge that links the main island (Honshu) with Shikoku. Having read a lot about it, it was strange but also amazing to see it pass by on the train. I feel like such an old man saying that I enjoyed watching a bridge. Oh dear.
As we got closer to Okayama, the train passed through small towns at the foot (feet?) of many mountains. It was raining lightly, and while clouds of mist crept up through the deep green hills. It was really really beautiful, and I kind of felt like I was in a Miyazaki film. The atmosphere was just so serene and the scenery so beautiful. There was also that sense of being inside a warm dry train carriage whilst the cold wet world passes by. I felt like I was in the Neko bus (Totoro reference. Nerd. again.)
At Aoio, I had to change to a local train for Okayama. This train was bright yellow, and stopped at every station. I took another hour to reach the station, but I really didn’t mind watching all the scenery go by. When I got to Okayama station, I realised that I had no idea where I was meant to go because I’d stupidly forgotten to screenshot the map of my hotel. Luckily, Okayama is a huge station, and it also had a large detailed map that listed most of the big hotels. But of course, my hotel wasn’t on there. It was called ‘Hotel Riverside,’ so I assumed that it was near some kind of river. But the river looked really far away from the station, and I didn’t think that I would have booked something so far away when I was only staying one night. Puzzled, I studied a few more maps, just incase they had forgotten to put it on the first map, but there was no sign of this hotel. I thought that maybe I’d reserved a room in a hotel that didn’t exist. Then, in my most brilliant move yet, I had the bright idea to visit the tourist information centre and ask if they knew where it was. Surely they would have heard of it at least once or, at the very least, would have the internet so I could look it up. It took me a while to find the tourist info centre, because it was tucked away in the corner of an underground shopping mall. Inside, the two ladies at the desk were really helpful, and knew exactly what I was talking bout when I mentioned the name of the hotel. They drew a little route on a map for me, and spent about ten minutes explaining over and over how to get there (the directions weren’t hard; I only had to turn once.) I thanked the, and made my way to the station exit, where it was raining and misty, and starting to get dark. Okayama is much colder than Kyoto, which made me wonder if I’d brought enough clothing for Naoshima island.
I found the hotel really easily, and it only took about 5 minutes to walk there. I was really glad I’d brought an umbrella with me, because it rained constantly the whole time. But the rain was gentle and calm, if that makes sense. I didn’t mind it, and it didn’t make me frustrated, just happy. The hotel did end up being near a river, but not a real river. There is a tiny canal that runs down the length of the street that the hotel faces, hence the name ‘Riverside.’ I checked in with no hassle, and was given a special ‘ladies pack’ which included all the essentials for the female human. Things like a comb, shampoo, and a little scrunchie. There is a big bath and sauna complex in the hotel, but only men are allowed to use it, so I guess the ladies pack is the compensation for being female.
The room was clean and neat, and looked pretty modern, despite the slightly seedy appearance of the hotel’s lobby. I dumped the heaviest of my stuff, but wasn’t brave enough to leave my laptop or anything valuable in the room. Then I walked around the streets for a while, looking in a few stores and checking out which places looked tasty for dinner. I was looking at the menu of a ramen shop, when this gross began looking guy came out and said to me (in a dirty Australian accent) “its ramen. Like, noodles. It’s the bloody best one in the whole town.” That pretty much consolidated that I was not going to eat there. I found a place that served a bit of everything, including bibimbap, which I felt like, but the wait was 30 minutes, so I decided to find somewhere else. I was hungry, from not really eating a proper lunch, and felt like lots of food, fast. Across the street there was a little izakaya called Daruma, and I headed inside and was seated at the bar. This was great because I could see into the kitchen and watch the guys preparing food. One guy was working over hot charcoals, pumping out delicious yakitori and tending to the flames. It smelled amazing. I ordered a bunch of dishes, which were all cheap, and sat back to enjoy the atmosphere. The place was multi story, and most people were upstairs, so it kind of felt like I had the whole place to myself.
The dishes came out one by one, and I demolished them straight away. I had chicken and leek yakitori, shiitake yakitori, a Caesar salad (Japanese style) which had a soft egg on top, and some special vegetable and chicken rice cooked in its own pot. Everything was pretty tasty, but the salad was swimming in dressing. The best was the yakitori. After dinner, I was still hungry, but I couldn’t be bothered waiting for food to be cooked because I wanted to go to sleep. So I went to a convenience store and bought a little vegetable dish with 10 kinds of vegetable inside, and a chicken onigiri. I also got a little pudding and a 60 cent ice-cream bar which I ate back in the hotel. I used the downstairs LAN internet for a while, and I could see all the other guests in the hotel looking at me when they thought I wasn’t looking. It was like they’d never seen a girl before. I suppose the hotel does cater more towards men, but still. It was kind of weird.
Back in the room, I had a shower, and it was kind of nice not to have to wait and then race in when there was a free space. I had planned to go to bed early because I have a full day of activities tomorrow, but when I got in bed I knew I was going to have a crappy sleep. You see, the bed was catered more towards people who enjoy having metal springs poking between their rib cages. I could feel every single coil in the mattress, and there was nowhere on the bed that I could escape them. Ahh the joys of travelling.
I’m sorry there aren’t many photos today, I shot a lot of video instead, and I can’t upload it because I’m too cheap to pay for that privilege. Oh, and I probably won’t have internet access for a few days, so please don’t think I’m dead. I’m just on an island :)