The old and spiritual Japan; tea houses, geisha girls, temples and shrines galore with the most beautiful Zen gardens you’ll even see…even if I was too early for the cherry blossom.
Friday 9th February 2018
The Shinkansen is really quite incredible. Easily the cleanest, most efficient transport system I’ve ever travelled on. When you’re reaching speeds of up to 300km per hour, it’s pretty hard to find fault with it.
This being my first trip, I watched the other passengers scheduled for the bullet ahead of ours to work out just what the procedure was. Even the way everyone lines up on the orderly painted lines on the is clever. It was quite something to also see the staff poised on the platform with their little cleaning buckets, dressed in pink mario kart style outfits ready to spring in to action to clean the carriages before the next departure. And I mean clean. Every seat vacuumed. Every head rest cover changed. Every floor swept and mopped. Every table wiped. At one point I even saw a completely new seat being taken in and fitted. And all this done literally within minutes. In Japan, only the highest of standards and very best will do.
When I arrived in Kyoto some 3 and a bit hours later, it was really heavy rain and already close to dinner time so that along with making my plans for exploring for the next few days kept me busy and out of the rain for the rest off the night.
Saturday 10th February 2018
Today I felt quite tired. I think all of my Tokyo sightseeing and training had caught up a little. I took advantage of catching up on a bit of a lie in and took a walk to the nearby Imperial Palace in the afternoon before heading out towards the Kamagowa River to get bearings for training for the rest of my time here.
Some takeaway sushi for dinner rounded off a good day.
Sunday 11th February 2018
Today marks two weeks until race day so it’s time to start tapering again a little. Because of the time scale between each race, it’s not really quite the average build up when it comes to tapering and recovery. Still, a bit of a reduction in volume for the next few days is always a nice feeling when you know you’re approaching the big day.
My long(ish) run of 1:45 was 60 minutes easy, 45 at 9:10 goal race pace. Along the river and around the grounds of the nearby Imperial Palace in the snow, it’s still cold enough here for snow, though not quite nearly as bad as it’s been at home.
In the afternoon, I made a trip to the Arashiyama Bamboo Forrest. The recommendations from what I’ve read is that it is best to go first thing to avoid the crowds of tourists, and although the photographs quite do it justice it felt really quite peaceful for all I was there later in the day. It was just easier to work it with training this way today. Definitely my favourite stop in Kyoto so far!
Monday 12th February 2018
Some blog catch up and then later this evening I was lucky enough to take part in a full tea ceremony, also known as ‘The Way of Tea’, the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha green tea. From what I understand, Kyoto is where the tea ceremony was born and although initially you think what a lot of effort this is for a cuppa, there is something super special about it. It’s a very interesting and peaceful process, celebrating the rituals and traditions of this part of Japanese life.
I visited En, a very quaint wee place that seemed to have just the right balance of formalities. The hosts were very welcoming and took time to explain carefully about all stages of the process. It was quite amazing to watch the ladies move with such grace and calmness. The first step is for the host to prepare for the tea ceremony, preparing their tools and then starting the cleaning process. There is something lovely about these old rules and specific movements that must be followed. No words are spoken and all guests attending the tea ceremony must behave in harmony with each other. After the initial demonstration, she then talked us through the process one step at a time before allowing us to make our own tea, traditional matcha green tea.
Walking around Gion before heading back to the hostel, I was lucky enough to catch glimpse of some Geisha girls…I just wasn’t quick enough with my camera.
Tuesday 13th February 2018
The final day in Kyoto has come round really quickly. I could easily have spent another few days here. My threshold session this morning went well; 10 minutes warm up, 4x 10 minutes with 2 mins recovery odd miles at 9:00-9:10, even miles at 8:40-8:45 finished off with 10 minutes cool down. My legs are feeling great at the minute… long may it continue in to race week.
I left my luggage at the hostel and visited the impressive Fushimi Inari-Taisha, famous for the thousands of torii gates on the trails behind the main buildings. It was super chilly but a beautiful clear day for great views around the area.
On route to getting the train to travel to Osaka, I stooped off for a quick pit stop at Cafe Koto where the coffee is prepared by siphon…quite an art to it. If I’m honest, the coffee didn’t taste all that much different but it was delicious all the same.
Now to catch the train to Osaka…the city that loves to eat!