Karaoke and naked men

I’m sitting in a coffee shop called Coffee Maki in Kyoto. I ran past it yesterday and from the river it looked like an ideal place for breakfast and hopeful first coffee for the day.
Hamamatsu was pretty great, my first impression was that people are very honest, as I left my iPad in the ticketing office, only to realise 3 stops down the line, to my instant horror!
But people, I’m told, don’t steal here, so it was still where I left it.
My airbnb host was rather perplexed by my lack of plan for my time in Hamamatsu, I had chosen it specifically because it was far off from the hustle and bustle of normal Japanese city life. I was staying in an old style house, with the sliding paper doors, it’s own shrine, banzai trees, large fields for vegetables, rows of green tea shrubs and it was made complete with an very delightful old woman who spoke only Japanese. She was the mother of my host, Osamu, and was endlessly entertained by my attempt to use my translator app to talk to her. I don’t know how accurate it was, she would just look blankly at my phone as I attempted to interact with her.
I was once again a bit of an oddity as I walked into the closest town, it just wasn’t the typical place to see westerners visit. I found a nice Buddhist temple that was completely empty, at first I wondered if I was allowed to be there, but no one came out to tell me otherwise. So I had the place to myself. There was a trail behind the place that led up the hill to a shrine, then onto another, with a sweet view, then on to a viewing platform further up. It was nice to be completely alone in a place where ‘aloneness’ isn’t a regular occurrence.
I found a quaint cafe for a watery coffee, and found another shrine on another hill to sit and read in the warm afternoon sun.
I walked back to my place stopping off at a potential dinner spot to be met again by amused looks as I tried to speak Japanese and use my translator app. They seemed friendly enough so a came back. Such a great night, the translator app came into its own, I left it on the table so that my new friends around me could use as they please. At first I thought it had the potential of being a very messy night as the older fella was keen to “serve me” drinks, which essentially means keep my pint glass full of beer…
But he went off to bed about an hour into it, and the rest of them were more interested in getting me to sing than drink.
So yeah previously I would err away from karaoke, but 3 songs deep it’s a pretty great way to enjoy an evening. I’ve always liked Johnny Cash, as it’s a key that I can keep up with;) a great night with some great people.
I caught a bus to Kyoto early the next day, thankfully there was a Starbucks where the bus had a 10min stopover. Espresso isn’t a common thing, and when you do find it, they boil the hell out of the milk… but the milk over here is sooooo good! Just not so nice at a squillion degrees in my coffee.
Kyoto, is pretty darn impressive, there are temples and shrines at what seems to be 100m intervals.
My entertainment for the night, well I wouldn’t call it that, but after running around the old Imperial palace grounds and along a very runner friendly river, I was told by my new host, Mikko, it would be a really Japanese experience to go to the baths. I was like, sure, I played rugby, but Kiwi fella’s don’t tend to go out of there way to get naked with other fellas. Turns out though, it’s very popular With locals and tourists. To be fair, I had no idea as to the protocols, well, I knew the obvious ones. But essentially you would just go from pool to pool, of varying temperatures, a sauna that was crazy hot, and an ice cold pool to wake you up when you get sleepy. After initially thinking I wouldn’t do that, I’m happy I did, definitely a worthwhile experience. I gathered it was a frequent thing for the Japanese fellas, as they came prepared with their own buckets, soaps and the latest gels.
So I’ve got the day to explore Kyoto, then I have a date with a high speed train tomorrow to take me to Yokohama in the early afternoon.
356 km away in under 2 hours, exciting times.

A spot of Johnny
A place to get proper clean
Funaoka Onsen Baths
Some rather large banzai

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