I was so determined back then, to celebrate my 29th birthday, in Kyoto, wear kimono, and riding a bicycle, all by myself, surrounded by strangers, no party, no cakes. So I told my travel buddy, and my sister to back off (aww so cruel)
Kyoto, at first isn’t what I’ve imagined. It’s still way too ‘city’ for me when I expect it to be a little bit laid-back. But, I’d love to give it a try, spending two days in Kyoto before heading to my last destination for this trip I decided to spend the whole day riding a bicycle. In my imagination, I can at least conquer two or three places in a day, pffftttt mission impossible.
I started my cycling tour from Hannari Guest House, I rented a bicycle for the whole day and it cost me ¥400, cheaper compared to the other bicycle rental shop which will cost you ¥1000. I was overconfident, with my ability to read an old-school paper map, and a little bit help of GPS from my phone that drained twice ohh maybe thrice faster than usual.
At first everything seems ok, the GPS showed that my first pit stop Arashiyama is one hour and 30 minutes away, been walking back and forth from house to school since I was a kid, I told myself, this wasn’t a big problem at all. AT ALL. I am suck when it comes to cycling, I almost hit a truck (yes, wasn’t the truck who hit me), but I keep the positive vibe with me, my birthday not going to be that bad isn’t it?
Quick stop at a florist, I grabbed a potted white flowers for ¥99
I made it to the Arashiyama and I was tearfully in joy (literally), so I parked my bicycle under a tree near to the Togetsukyo Bridge, by the time I reached Arashiyama, my phone was completely out of battery, so I tried to charge it while wandering around Arashiyama. I gave myself one to two hours before hitting the other spot.
I walked into one of the kimono shop when I saw the ¥2500 used kimono! Great, I hope I could find a Kimono in a great deal here, and I did! Although not as fancy looking as the one I’ve found in Nippori Tokyo, but not that bad. I love the pinkish color and a little bit of ‘gold’. The staff helped me to put that on to let me see if I’d love to buy it.
Perfect! She pulled out her calculator when I started to ask for the price, a sum up of the Kimono ¥2500 and the obi cost me almost ¥5000, I almost faint. I want to use my card when I realized, I left it in my locker at the hostel…pffffttt the I gave her a ‘look’ and said たかいですね / takai desu ne (it’s expensive), she smiled and offered me a cheaper obi ¥1000, still a bit expensive and I’ve overspent on souvenir but I bought it anyway.
Later, an aunty asked me to follow her to the lower ground and she helped me to dress up in Kimono. I asked if it is ok for my ride in a bicycle with Kimono? Well, wearing their traditional custom, I should be aware they do and don’ts while wearing Kimono. The aunty said ok! I feel relief.
While she helped me with the Kimono, I keep telling myself, it shouldn’t be difficult, I‘ve ridden a bicycle with baju kurung before. She is an expert I must say, after thanked her thousand times I walked to where I parked my bicycle and marked my second pit stops, Gion.
Ok you can laugh at me now! I was wearing a Kimono, and of course I wanted to go to Gion, or at least Fushimi Inari. Yeah, you can keep laughing.
Honestly, I underestimate the Kimono, it was really hard to ride a bicycle with it, I should get a suitable bicycle for this purpose, luckily I was wearing a long thigh pants underneath my Kimono, as I cycled the slit on Kimono showed off my legs *facepalm* I started to cycle a bit slow and get used to it. Problem solved.
Second problem hit me later, I still was not able to charge my phone, Argghhh so I gave up and pulled out my old school map and pray harder! I soon reached a junction, I still remember clearly, there’s a bicycle rental shop on my left, and a ‘shortcut’ in front of me, I don’t know what made me believe it was really a shortcut so I took the ‘shortcut’ and it was getting interesting!
This shortcut made me feel like I was in one of the scenes in Ghibli Studio’s animation, the wind was blowing, the grass is singing (oh geez, please get real) and I kept my cycling pace, until I reached the other end.
It was a dead end road!
I started to panic, get myself together and carefully studied the map again. Marked where I supposed to go and I told myself, no more shortcut! I’ve wasted 30 to 45 minutes in this so called ‘short cut’.
It was autumn, the daylight is shorter and it will be getting dark at 5pm, and I have a few hours more to go Gion, Nijo and back to the Hostel. I met a lady halfway, I asked her if I was in a right direction, when I told her I was planning to go Gion, her eyes were getting bigger and said, way too far, you couldn’t make it. It sounds impossible too, so I decided to wander and get lost again, before back to the hostel.
Isn’t it lovely to cycling the whole day in Kyoto on your birthday? With Kimono?
I’ve met a mechanic guy, who guided me to Nijo, I dropped my potted flower and a construction uncle helped me to gather the flower and the soil, and another uncle, I’ve met at the junction, looked and cheering at me and said がんばって/ganbatte (good luck), and it was an experience that I would not trade in anything in the world.
Celebrating my last year of the twenties, and be brave to face the 30s. Remember when you asked why I have to go Japan by myself? I said, I have to find my long lost soul.