On our way from Tokyo to Kyoto, we were cycling for two weeks almost incessantly. Not every day exhaustively, but without resting neither.
The only day without cycling was the day-hike we undertook in Kamakochi as already mentioned in the previous post. And that was by no means a rest for our legs, as the sore muscles for the following 3 days clearly showed. The hike itself was quite nice and interesting, with some snowfields to tackle (many trails still require crampons this time of the year) and a nice ridge line with some easy scrambling.
The reason we didn’t stop for a rest was mainly the weather. We were pleased to have sun almost everyday. In Kyoto, however, finally the rain season has started and from now on we should be prepared for considerable rain.
Now, the cycling during the last two weeks encompassed some very nice sections. Most remarkable were a few little and very quiet passes. Two of them were actually still closed because they had to bear quite considerable damage presumably caused by the snow. Despite the landslides and a few retreating snowfields, we fortunately got through nevertheless. Those quite and enjoyable hours of climbing and down-hilling the passes, however, were in stark contrast with the urban areas in between with the narrow and busy roads. No wonder, the coastal plains from Tokyo down to Kyoto and Osaka is supposed to be one of the most densely populated area in the world.
Interestingly, however, those build-up areas are all limited to the plains and wider valleys. Since Japan is quite mountainous there is still space for plenty of densely forested mountains – to our delight. Thus, those spacious forests also provide habitat for animals like, for instance, quite a few monkeys we saw a couple of times and bears in the alps (we haven’t spotted any but many people were hiking with these little bells). However, not all animals apparently prefer the peace of the forest. Like those weird deer that have made themselves at home in the parks of Nara next to Kyoto. About 1200 deer are roaming around there freely and are incredibly tame. Tourists pet them, take selfies etc. and they patiently endure it in expectation of some food in return. With those deer hanging around who then cares about the temples next by – for instance the biggest wooden building in the world? We didn’t, and after the overwhelming number of temples and shrines in Kyoto, even Jela finally shows signs of being “templed-out”.
Apart from some exception we were wild-camping (the nights we spent in Kyoto, for instance, we stayed with the fantastic warmshowers host Ken). Thus we were heavily lacking the opportunity to have a proper shower every now and then. Consequently, instead of the usual river wash, we once opted for a Sento visit – the Japanese communal path houses. Although it is more a legacy from times where bathrooms at home were rare, there are still plenty of them, usually costing around 400 Yen. One of the bathing etiquettes is that the shower is taken seated (little stools are provided). And sexes are separated.
By the way, the Kanji (Japanese adoption of Chinese characters) for man – 男 – is composed of rice field (upper part) and power (lower part) …