Yesterday was our last day in Kyoto. Our plan was to go for a leisurely stroll through Maruyama park, enjoying the gardens and temples as we walked, then head back down through the city, ending up at an early dinner at Shunsai Tempura Arima, a tempura restaurant we were excited to try.
As usual, our leisurely walk turned into a hot, sweaty seven-mile trek. It was lightly raining for most of the day, but that only made it more humid. We planned on eating lunch at some point on the walk, but we hadn’t really considered the fact that there weren’t any lunch options in the park (or if there were, we couldn’t find them), so after about three hours, we staggered out of the park and onto the city streets, looking for something – anything – to eat.
We ended up at Doutor, a coffee shop that was also kind of a gas station convenience store, where we found some packaged sandwiches that were actually pretty tasty (or maybe we were just really hungry). Once we weren’t keeling over from low blood sugar, we continued on, wandering towards the general area of Shunsai Tempura Arima. We figured it would take us about an hour, but we underestimated the distance, which seems to be one of our specialies.
The last mile or so was the most difficult, as we were swimming through the sweaty sea of downtown Kyoto at rush hour, shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of other people who were hurriedly zigzagging in and out of shops and speed-walking down the sidewalk. It was loud and disorienting, and we got separated a couple of times, with a pair of us getting swept along in the current while another pair got stuck in an eddy off to the side, but we kept our calm and eventually made it to a less-crowded area.
The final half-mile to the restaurant was a push. It was raining, we were super hungry, and we had already walked over six miles that day. From the map, it seemed that we were always just around the corner, but “just around the corner” kept getting further and further away. We weren’t exactly sure where we were going, and we were on a side street, so we couldn’t just hail a cab. We trudged along in silence, just willing it to be over.
It felt like a small miracle when we stopped on a corner and realized that we were there. Finally.
The meal was definitely worth the walk (review coming soon)! Shunsai Tempura Arima is a tiny, 12-seat tempura restaurant run by a husband and wife team. They welcomed us in, even though they weren’t open yet (it was 5:10 pm when we arrived, and they officially opened at 5:30). Everything was delicious, and it was even better because we had walked so far through the city in the rain to get there.
Needless to say, after our meal, we decided to take a taxi back to our hotel. We actually decided to take two taxis – one to GU (which is an amazing, less expensive version of Uniqlo – review coming soon!) for some last-minute clothing purchases, and then one from GU to our hotel.
We walked to the nearest main street and hopped in a cab, which dropped us without incident in front of the shopping center. We all hopped out and happily walked into GU. I kept smelling a very bad smell, which at first seemed to be coming from the escalator, but then continued to follow us into the store.
Of course I thought my kids were involved somehow. “Did one of you step in dog poop?” I asked them. “Check your shoes!” Both were clean.
“Check yours!” Josh told me. I did, only to find a huge clod of poop stuck to the bottom of my boot. As I moved my foot, a miasmic cloud of stinkiness wafted up and assailed our nostrils, causing us all to gag.
We all stared at each other. We weren’t quite sure what to do. Actually, there wasn’t much we could do about the situation at the moment, so we decided to grab the items we came in for, then grab a cab ASAP.
We didn’t realize just how bad it was. As soon as we got in the cab, we immediately had to roll down all of the windows. Since we don’t speak Japanese, we were unable to communicate what the problem was. My kids were giddy with a combination of horror and delight, while Josh and I were absolutely mortified. The ride was a long one.
When it was finally over, the poor driver distributed packets of kleenex to each of us. This was the icing on the cake of our embarrassment. We were dying. But we didn’t know how to say how sorry we were.
After we got out, I kind of shuffled along on the sidewalk, searching for gravel or a stray patch of weeds. We found a random water spigot in a parking lot instead, which we used with wild abandon. However, even after all of the poop was gone from my shoe, the smell remained. We tried harder when we got back to the house where we were staying. We used cleaning products and scrubbed. We rinsed and rinsed and rinsed. We cleaned the tiny crevices with toothpicks.
Nothing worked. The poop seems to have permeated the sole of my shoe, bonding with the rubber to create a new chemical compound whose main property is stinkiness. This is a very bad development indeed, as these shoes are the only ones I can wear if I want to walk serious distances – and I already had to go through a lot to get them (they are men’s hiking boots, as apparently no women have size nine feet in Japan).
Oh, the joys of traveling.
Right now I’m on the Shinkansen (bullet train), heading from Kyoto back to Tokyo. My shoe doesn’t smell too much, but I know the smell is lurking there, just waiting for another taxi ride or other small, enclosed space.
I’m not quite sure what my next move is going to be. Any suggestions?