Japan Trip 2 – Day 12

The plan was to get up at 7am this morning and pack as much of Kyoto in to a day as I could. I’d seen some pretty amazing sites here last year like the amazing bamboo groves in Arashiyama, and tori gate walks leading up mountains, but they were a bit out of the city, and I hadn’t really done that much sight-seeing in and around Kyoto itself.

So… I woke up about 9.30, but it WAS the best sleep I’d had in ages. I headed for caffeine and to write up my blog, and then caught a subway train a couple of stops to nishiki market. Weirdly, I was able to find my bearings pretty quickly, and was wandering remembering shops or cafes that were just around the corner. The market’s an amazingly long street filled with every single kind of food you can think of – stalls upon stalls with beautiful looking food outside – everything from raw fish to dried fish, sweets to meat.

Before long I found where I was headed – Aritsugu – and it wasn’t a food stall.

I’d been there last year, and wrote all about it then, but basically it’s one of the oldest knife makers in Japan. And they’re good at what they do. Last year I bought a chef’s knife, and I think it’ll last me forever. They do possibly every kind of knife you could think of – mainly Japanese ones, but Western handled (heavier and weighted differently) ones too.

This time I was here to get a chef’s knife for one of my sisters, and a smaller knife for cutting vegetables and fish for myself. The staff there are brilliant – and some do speak English. They’ll happily take their time to explain the difference between knives and help you pick the one that might be right for you. It is a very traditional shop though – for example, they only open 9-5.30, and don’t accept credit cards. I didn’t think they had a website, but they do– and even an online shopnow.

After picking out two knives, craftsmen sharpened the blades and engraved them for me, while someone took me through how to care for and sharpen the knives. I was relieved to see I’d been doing it (almost) right with the one I currently had.

An 18cm chef’s knife at Aritsugu came out at around 12,000 yen, which is around £70. My smaller one came to 10,000 yen, or just under £60 . They may be pricy, but I’d say they’re worth every penny.

Coming out of Aritsugu, I noticed the weather was decidedly taking a turn for the worse. And it was only early afternoon. I decided to treat myself to that Hallowe’en burger from McDonald’s for lunch to get out of the rain. Remember this?

So I headed into McDonald’s and ordered it up. This was how it looked from the outside:

And unboxed?

Pretty much like the picture I reckon! As for what was on it, it was hard to tell, but it seemed to be some kind of teriyaki sauce, onion strings and I think perhaps garlic cloves – it was very, very garlicky – maybe to get rid of vampires? 🙂

After that, I headed off for a bit of sight-seeing. But by now the sky was turning a dark grey that I recognised from a week ago. It was only about 2.30, but shutters were going down, wind was whipping up, and the rain was taking on a decidedly horizontal slant. But, I decided to keep going and see how far I got. I was headed to higashiyama – an old preserved part of town, which although promised souvenir shops, I thought sounded pretty interesting anyway. I walked for about fifteen minutes, and something just made me stop… everyone seemed to be walking the other way. Umbrellas were going inside out.

I stopped to think, and then decided that actually, I should probably head back to the hotel. Annoyingly on the way back I saw a robert doisneau exhibition that any other day I would have leapt at the chance to wander round. I hopped two stops on the subway, and changed lines to head back to Kyoto station. Incredibly, the staff there told me I was about to catch the last train of the day – even though it was only about 4.30pm. Everything was closing down because of the tycoon.

The wind (and rain) carried me from Kyoto station for the fifteen minute walk / stagger back to the hotel.

After stopping to get yet another tonkatsu sandwich for dinner (no restaurants in the hotel or around about remember), I arrived soaking wet, and a bit fed up. That had been my day in Kyoto – and thanks to the typhoon I wouldn’t be leaving the hotel again that night. I thought I’d finish the day off with a glass of wine to console myself (forgetting temporarily I was never drinking again) and amazingly, the bar was closed. Because it was Monday. I lay awake reading while the wind howled outside until I fell into a deep sleep. My alarm was set for 5.30am.