Hotel Review: Amanohashidate Ryokan Maruyasu (6825 yen/night, 1 night)
As Ryokan go, this is the most beautiful example I have found so far, and just the thing if you want to wake up to a traditional oriental view. Even at the price I paid (the cheapest room there), it's still a pretty good bargain considering the authenticity and location. The owners don't speak much English, but they are very enthusiastic and will try to help if they can. Unfortunately no Internet, but I didn't miss it for a day. Ask about the onsen to get a voucher. 7/10
But eventually I had to leave, and quite early too if I was going to take advantage of my surroundings. The flyer mentioned several areas - Monju where I was at the moment, and Fuchu to the north, connected by the thin Amanohashidate sandbar heading north-south. There was also Miyazu and Yura to the east, but visiting all these was not practical in a single day, so they were left for this time. Regardless, I would need to be returning to the station before the evening descended so I could return to Kyoto, where I was staying for the night. Based on last night's journey, I would need to leave 2-3 hours for the journey.
So I checked out of the ryokan, and asked if I may leave my large backpack inside the door to pick up when I returned. They happily heaved it into the back room for me and I headed out. The man road was quiet, it seemed that I was one of the first to wake that saturday morning, but it would no doubt get busy. As the morning sun began to peek over the hills, I got going.
I stayed quietly back for a while, but my curiosity for a decent shot got the better of me and I emerged from the trees. By this point, a dual tug o' war was about to start against the force of the current and a hundred little fishy tales that had just realised they'd chosen the wrong place to swim that morning.
By this point I was at the shoreline, trying to see if I could see any writhing bodies in the ever shrinking net. It was still too far out, so in a sudden rush of community-mindedness, I tapped a random guy at the back of one of the tug teams, and asked if I might lend a hand. Incredibly, he said yes to this stranger, and made room for me.
I pulled with all my might, and even though the sand was sapping my energy and the rope was wet and slippy, I'd like to think I lent a useful hand, despite falling over at one point. I lent my camera to one of the guys at the side, who took a few pictures as I dug my feet in.
After re-acquainting myself with the wobbliness, I sat back and enjoyed the silent ride as the gradient steepened and the ground fell away. The ropeway was cut into the hillside, but they tried to keep as much vegetation as possible to the side and below so you didn't feel too guilty about the swathe cut into the nature. It was a pleasant ride, although the pleasant breeze at the top was a few degrees cooler than down in the valley.
A smattering of morning sightseers were sat at tables and looking out to the shores below, some were sat enjoying their drinks in the sun, others were throwing tokens through a ring that had been set up on a tall platform. Still more were standing on platforms with their heads between their legs.
I really wasn't sure what to make of it all; I guess my first reaction was disappointment that the side of the hill in such a picturesque place had been covered with ugly metal structures, but better up here than down in the valley, and the kids aren't going to be satisfied with a long stretch of trees and sand I suppose.
Eventually I headed back down sometime around half one, raided the convenience store for a bit more grub, and got a bit more cash out of the post office ATM, which was available even though the rest of it was shut. I got my bag back, and said goodbye to the millionaires, and headed back to the station, pausing briefly at a few souvenir shops along the way, where my large backpack caused the patrons to eye me with fear for their newly-stocked displays of breakable goods. Fortunately I negotiated it well and got a green tea mug and one of those lucky cats.
The next train to Kyoto was an hour away, so I spent it looking through the leaflets in the station, and shifting my things around in my bags so all my newly bought gifts had a chance at not being crushed. I had to swap trains at Fukuchiyama, and then it was back to Kyoto, the initially empty train steadily filling up as it reached each station on the way. The rolling hills and pleasant scenery slowly disappeared in favour of large, grey buildings and neon signs, and eventually as evening began to set in, I arrived back at Kyoto.
The crowds in Kyoto were massive. Not since my first day in Tokyo had I managed to be bumped and battered by so many people at once. The main streets were packed with evening shoppers and fashionable young things trying to get to everywhere at the same time. Eventually, I found the Hana Hostel, down one of the side streets off the main road. It was a proper city hostel, people coming and going between rooms, and a bustly sort of feel to it. I got my room on the ground floor and dumped my bags, swapped into some less stinky clothes and in my bare feet (because I had no clean socks left) I headed back to reception to find the washing machine.
I headed back and munched a KitKat in bed, and planned what to do tomorrow.