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  • 2012 Japan Trip, Part V

    Posted on July 20th, 2012 Michele Sun No comments

    The beautiful sunset and the moment at Kamogawa may feel like timeless, but the clock was ticking in reality – this was our last night in Kyoto as well as in Japan. We took the city bus again and went back to our hotel, then got our flight to Taiwan checked-in, emails checked, FB checked, photos uploaded, luggage packed (thank goodness that we did not do much shopping) ..etc, and giving our tiring feet some rest from all the walking while talking about our run tomorrow morning. We figured out a running route for tomorrow – we would run along the Kamogawa river. Given our very different pace this would allow us a simple run without worry about being separated and lost (referring to me solely), and we looked up Google map and took a screenshot then saved it to the home screen on my iPhone – “course map” :-p

    We had no specific plan for our last night in Kyoto, and would just go into the town and see what’s interesting out there. Taking the Green line city bus and headed toward central Kyoto, we got off at Shijo Kawaramachi. From my previous trip I had learned about street naming system in Kyoto and it’s quite simple to decode, for instance the Shijō and Kawaramachi are two streets that intersects — Kawaramachi runs parallel to the Kamo River and Shijō runs east-west through the center of the city. This was a very busy part of the city, and many after work 9-to-5ers were out for dinner, drinking, shopping…etc. but very different vibe than Tokyo. I felt it’s more real here, and a place I could see myself in.

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    We walked between small alleys and following our sense of smell trying to find a place for last dinner in Japan. We eventually walked into an Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) place on second floor in a small plaza, and it’s small, tidy and very cozy. A man (assuming he was the owner) was standing in a small kitchen area preparing the ingredients, then the dishes were brought to our table for us to finish the seasoning and grilling on our own. Tonight I had the honor to enjoy a very nice Japanese Okonomiyaki dinner cooked by French chef Max :-p Since I could not remember that fancy victory dinner in Tokyo, I had no way to compare the food, but I had lots of fun this evening! Even with the smoke and grease between us, I enjoyed the food, beer, conversation and companionship of a great friend in Kyoto — totally awesome!!

    After dinner we walked around the streets to window shopping and just to digest the food, then took the bus again back to the Kyoto train station and found it a bit deserted. On a wall we saw a poster for Kyoto Marathon which was scheduled two weeks after Tokyo, so we half dreaming and half joking about next year we should do the Tokyo marathon first then take our time to travel to Kyoto and run another marathon here — two marathons in one trip!! The thought is very very very tempting!

    Thur Mar 1st, woke up and ready to lace up my running shoes to log in a run in Kyoto, also our last run in Japan. We did exactly as we had planned the night before — starting around 7:30am from our hotel and ran through the busy Kyoto Station while dodging between morning commuters – fun!! Out of the station and immediately was hit by (((cold air))),  after running together a bit on the street till we reached the Kamo river, and here I told Max to go ahead and not worry about me. Once he took off running along the river, I snapped couple pictures of him flying out of my sight. I was still in post race recovery mode, so just comfortably ran at slower pace and took the time to appreciate the scenery on both side of the river. Students and white collars, on bikes or feet, were starting their day with me, together, along this ancient Kamo river!

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    The Run Keeper kept dropping off, but I figured it’s about two miles where I turned around and headed back. Stopped couple times to read the street signs and interestingly I found Kawabata dori – the exact same spot where I once stood to mourn for the beautiful fallen petals in the rain during my last cherry blossom chasing trip. The fact that Kawabata dori was not far from Gion district (Geisha district) made that experience and memory very dramatic and dreamy, and yes I am not ashamed of being a helpless romantics.

    Got back to hotel and once again went into that funny restroom in the lobby to listen to the bird singing. I was just waiting for the elevator when speedy Max came back from his 9 ml run!! A quick shower, last breakfast, and we were on JR again heading toward Tokyo direction. We were going to transfer from Shinkansen to NEX (Narita Express) for Narita airport, but instead of doing so at the busy Tokyo Station we would make that connection at Shinagawa (品川) station which would be much less complicated and not as hectic!! This time at the train station we bought our bento box and drinks, lesson learned 🙂

    During the train ride from Kyoto to Shinagawa, I just stared outside of the window and took in the rapidly passing landscape and thought about the last 7 days had gone by so fast. The trip to Japan, the Expo, the overwhelming race day experience, strange quantum leap on JR in Shinyokohama, beautiful Kinkakuji and those turtle shaped stepping stones in Kyoto…etc. What an amazing trip!! But out of blue I remembered the thought of coming to run Tokyo Marathon was formed two years ago, and now this wish had eventually come true but so many things had happened last year. I felt a sudden coldness and sadness rushed all over me, and I could not control the unexpected emotions.

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    I closed my eyes and tried to clam and hide my emotions but with no avail, before I knew it tears started to stream down my cheeks and I wept silently. Not sure how long I had been crying, but I simply could not stop the tears as all the sweet and sorrow memory coming back to me until a very gentle voice spoke to me — “Shall we have lunch?” As weird as it might be, and incredible at the same time, it stopped my tears! I wiped the tears off my face with the back of my hands and felt no embarrassment or shame at all. Opening my eyes and nodded at Max as my response, he unpacked our bento box and took out the chopsticks, “Yeh, unagi bento!” – my favorite lunch. He never questioned or talked about this incident, ever, but I felt reborn after this wholeheartedly cry! I felt free! I felt new! And I felt that I had finally walked out of  the dark past.

    We reached Shinagawa a little around 2:30pm, and transferred to NEX heading to Narita airport. NEX has a very distinctive and futuristic look, both the exterior and interior suits Tokyo very well I think. We arrived Narita airport, checked in our bags, waited at that long line for security, and finally boarded our Taiwan bound ANA flight. We found ourselves been assigned to seats in different rows, and two very obvious honeymooners asked if one of them could switch seat with one of us. With no hesitation at all Max came over to sit next to me, and we were happy that we were united and excited that in next few hours we would be at the next stop of  this Asia trip – Taiwan.

    The weather in Taiwan was really bad for aviation that evening, and our plane could not land in Taoyuan Int’l Airport due to the heavy rain; instead the plane was re-routed to Songshan Airport in Tapiei. When I heard the PA announcement I could not be happier, because that’s actually closer to my parent’s place where we would be staying for the next couple days. Upon arriving Songshan Airport, we found couple tourist groups from China had just landed around the same time frame, and I was embarrassed with how loud the Chinese were and how rude the Taiwanese immigration officers and security were toward the groups. I had very mixed feeling there!

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    Max and I cleared through immigration and custom easily, no problem for a French and American. We walked out of airport and found ourselves just transported from coat and scarf Japan to t-shirt Taiwan!! Got into the very familiar yellow cab, and within 15 minutes we were at my parents place near Taipei 101! I told Max that if he wasn’t too tired, let’s drop the bags and go out to night market for some food adventure!! I promised to show him awesome fruits that he could only get in Taiwan, and that’s exactly what we did the first night in Taipei!



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