Food on the road is a guiding need and one that can be tricky to satisfy, especially on in-transit days. In the past few weeks, many a meal has been cobbled together from vending machine and convenience store offerings - which are plentiful and surprisingly excellent here in Japan.
Iced coffee and an egg salad sandwich? That sounds like a good breakfast to me. Iced tea and a few skewers of meat? That’s a lunch. Discount sushi and…more discount sushi? Winner winner sushi dinner. Throw a couple of extra onigiri rice snacks in your backpack and you have a pretty good baseline for sustenance, especially when you don’t have time to arrange for more.
However, this morning I have a kitchen at my disposal and that is an opportunity to be seized - doubly so when preparing for three days of transit. Even if all you have left in your backpack are a couple of orphaned nubs of bread and some peanut butter, you can never have too many snacks.
“Kyyyyoooooto Staaaaaation!” the intercom announces.
Arriving in Kyoto is a completely different experience when you know where to go. It’s still chaos, but it’s easier to find one’s way through it.
The station is busy, full of people headed about their diverse lives. A cluster of swivelling heads catches my eye as I’m walking past; I stop to give directions to the newcomers that will hopefully get them as far as their next crossroads. As we wave goodbye, I continue onwards - my superhero cape flapping in the wind. One time, one meeting.
Arriving at my hostel, familiar smiles behind the front desk welcome me. They’re surprised to see me back so soon. The guests I had gotten to know are now replaced by fresh faces; people beginning where we were just days before.
Shedding my backpack, I venture back out into the streets - pausing for a moment at the little torii gate hidden in the wall. Entering, I toss a coin into the shrine’s offering box, bow deeply twice, clap my hands twice, and bow once more. Stepping back out into the light, I continue with my errands.
The spirit of today has a different tone; one which is focused on preparing for leaving. First, there are goodbyes to a few folks holding steady in places that I frequented - watering holes of both the caffeinated and alcoholic kind. Then there are some final shopping pickups to be done, of the heavy and not-going-to-carry-for-a-month-on-my-back kind like a pair of raw denim jeans. And finally there is the requisite passing along of travel advice to others still getting their feet beneath them - eat here, drink there, yada yada yada.
Before I know it my bag is packed and I am enjoying a cool beer on the hostel’s rooftop patio. It’s a beautiful evening and the other guests are out on the town taking in all that the city has to offer, so I have the bird’s eye view to myself tonight.
I am grateful, but I am also ready to leave.