Sadly for us, the next morning we had to leave the quaint and affordable Gojo Guest House Annex as it had been booked for the coming days. Since it will be at least a week until we again stay in a ryokan, Iâll take a moment to review two things that make them distinct. First, on the floor there are tatami mats. They are traditionally made of rice straw and have a combine some aspect of walking on nice wood with the softness of carpet. They arenât made for walking on with shoes or slippers, but are quite comfortable barefoot or with socks. According to wikipedia, they originally arose as a luxury good. Iâd guess that traditions of shoe removal and the relative scarcity of brick and stone construction go a long way to explaining why they worked so well for Japan. The point of note in the picture on the right is the tokonoma, an alcove that displays art or flowers or the like. The specific implementation, importance, and prevalence is the main contrast with such settings in other cultures. The big thing one remember as a visitor is not to put your bags in one nor to sit or stand in it.
We ate at our favorite local cafe and I took a few pictures back from the annex roof, but after completing checkout we were off to Kyoto Station. This remarkable building was around the last time Iâd visited, though this trip I had more time to appreciate it. Designed by Hiroshi Hara, the station is a futuristic contrast to the ancient city. The exterior has a fairly uniformly glass surface, but manages to be intriguing without relying on detail work. It accomplishes this trick by significantly changing its form from section to section while still holding to an overall theme.
Critically, the interior is just as remarkable. The grand atrium in a different building might simply be a courtyard separating two skyscrapers. Instead, the buildings are are joined into a single structure and provide a indoor space thatâs remarkably vast. The next day weâd return at night and see a whole different part of the station.
We dropped our bags at the Hotel Keihan Kyoto and then caught our train for our the day trip to Osaka. I will confess that we did get a bit lost navigating the station several times. It wasnât particularly labyrinthine, itâs just that finding the efficient path from one part to another sometimes proved more complex than one might think.