So while in Kyoto I would tread the manicured boards of a few temples (a handy guide) and keep my eyes out on the streets, until it came to the time to head north-east to Matsumoto where I would be settling down for the night.
I popped a couple of coins in the box, waggled the rope and clapped my hands, and then left, saying goodbye to the Geisha girls who were still being photographed. The road came back out at Higashi-dori, so I followed it back the same way as the night before and ended up back at the Hana hostel.
Hotel Review: Kyoto Hana Hostel (2800 yen/night, 1 night)
Described as a hybrid between a Ryokan and a Hostel (although it just looked like a hostel to me) this was pretty easy to find and right in the centre of Kyoto. The staff are friendly and speak pretty good English and the rooms are cheap, clean and plentiful, although you do have to sleep 4-6 to a room and the price can mount up depending on what you use while you are there. 1000yen key deposit, wash/dry clothes 300yen, towels 300yen, internet 100yen/30min 7.5/10
Because it was close to check-out time, I sorted that out and after a bit of internetting (which gave me a bit of time to recharge the camera) I left for the station. Looking at the timetables, the trains to Matsumoto left hourly at quarter past, passing through Nagoya. The next train was due in about an hour as I had just missed it, so I got hold of the ticket, and then decided to - in the absence of a spare locker to stick my stuff into - have an explore of the industrial cavern that was the breathtaking Kyoto station.
Over to each side as you come through the entrance are stairways, the one to the right in particular seems to carry on up into the heavens, which fortunately when you have a heavy backpack on, also includes an escalator. Having never been up it before, I decided to take a look after getting myself a sarnie at the Vie de France below (no the coupon didn't work).
Arriving around 4pm into a quite rainy Matsumoto, I was immediately very aware of the chill in the air brought about by having travelled further north, and landing right in the mountains. The clouds overhead were grey and wintry, and it was clear that I had passed through the receding summer weather which was now heading further south with every passing day. Taking a map from the tourist booth in the station and comparing it with the contents of the book, there was not an awful lot of things that I could see before the cutoff-time of 5pm when pretty much everything touristy shuts it's doors (especially at this time of year). The only place that sounded plausible and in the vicinity was the Matsumoto Timepiece Museum, a small building off the main streets that apparently had the largest working pendulum in the world in it. I must confess a clock museum didn't exactly cause my trousers to combust with excitement, it was better than nothing.
Sure enough, the outside of the building sported the clock in question. A large-faced analogue with a 20-foot pendulum swinging slowly back and forth. Whether or not it had any bearing on the actual timekeeping was another matter, I could not hear the expected low klunking of gears you would expect to hear from such a large structure.
Anyway, the museum was nicely placed to get me onto the landmark I would use to find my stopover for the night. The river through Matsumoto crossed east-west under the main street north from the station, and at the east side, curved northwards towards the outskirts. Down the east side of the river was a small back road which, at some distance not discernible from the map I had, was my hotel. The instructions that I had received from the booking suggested I take the bus from the station, which would stop somewhere close. However, rather stupidly I decided since I was already close to the river and all I had to do was follow it, what would be the harm in just walking there. Ten or twenty minutes journey tops, through the rain, with a heavy backpack.
I rejoined the road, and by now it was getting darker. My camera had just about died, and the rain was getting heavier. Finally the river started to bend to the north, which meant I was about a third over with the travelling. Frankly I couldn't be sure which direction the bus route was in by this point as I had lost my bearings, so I just had to trust in the river.
The evening drew in. I was on the lookout on the road for a blue sign, which was pretty much all I had to go on. It was too dark now to be able to compare the Kanji on the now soggy printout with that of the sign, so blue was all I had to go on, unless I was lucky enough for the owners to have put up an English sign.
I had been walking through increasing rain and decreasing visibility for about 45 minutes when I happened on a young woman going home on her bike. I guessed that a large, flustered and soggy yorkshireman suddenly coming up to her out of the night and talking English may cause her to run for the hills but to her credit she listened to my plight and tried her best to give me some direction. When we didn't come up trumps on the name of the hotel (she thankfully had a smattering of English) she guided me to a nearby convenience store, where she talked intently with her friend behind the counter as they attempted to decipher the soggy and almost unreadable map. Eventually they pointed me pretty much back in the direction I was headed. I thanked them all and carried on my way - at least I was now reassured I was going in the right direction.
At around the hour mark, a small blue sign (one of many discounted small blue signs by that point) emerged out of the darkness. My backpack straps were digging deep into my shoulders and my legs and feet were aching badly, but I took what last ounces of energy I could and headed to the door. There was indeed an English sign at the entrance, which removed the last of my doubts this was the right place, especially under that, was my name!
The kindly woman surveyed her new visitor. To my intense relief, she spoke perfect English, and after some puzzled questions about why I just didn't take the bus (quite rightly suggesting I was being a silly sod) she took my details and helped me to my room with my things, and offered to take me to the station the following morning, which I immediately accepted, figuring I could take my bags and leave them there, and then head into town and see the sights.
Bedraggled, I stood in the small but pleasant room, which was a very welcome sight. I changed my wet clothes and laid down for a while on the futon, reading the photocopied guides that the owners had made for English-speaking visitors. One detailed the things to do in Matsumoto, while the other highlighted the places to eat that were near the hotel. Feeling the rumble of hunger I concentrated on the second one, and after a bit of a rest, headed back out with my umbrella.
The rain had eased slightly, and I joined the main road on which the buses travelled. I knew this as just as I turned onto the road, there was one such bus at a stop no more than fifty yards from the hotel. Bugger.
I noticed from the map there was a 7/11 nearby, so got out a few more yen from the cash machine, and then - rather greedily but because my stomach was still growling - I headed back down the road I had just come up and went through the sliding doors of 'rugger alice', another highly recommended place that specialised in omelettes. I rationalised my greed by arguing with myself that I wouldn't be able to try these restaurants tomorrow as I'd be off in the afternoon and they only opened at night.
Not sure quite what I had chosen, and quietly bemoaning the lack of a rugby theme, I was presented with a reassuringly safe choice of ham and cheese omelette with a large splat of tomato-ish sauce on top. It was pretty good and filled up the corners that the ramen didn't for 1050yen.
The rain had stopped by the time I was ready to waddle home, so I took a slow walk back, checked my email, and went to bed.