Robert had suggested that we should visit Fushimi Inari shrine and its ten thousand red gates early, so that we would only have to share them with a few hundred thousand people rather than the several brazillion that would appear as soon as the bus tour groups got their act together.
If only he’d given the same advice regarding the breakfast buffet in the hotel we may not have left it till fifteen minutes past opening time to arrive. It was perhaps a good thing that our colds had by now rendered us listless and without enthusiasm for food as the place was swarming with Australian and American voices, several busloads of them, the sources of which had descended on anything edible with an enthusiasm bordering on avarice which left the normally abundant offerings looking like the aftermath of a bushfire following a plague of locusts.
Outside meanwhile, when we weren’t paying attention the cherry trees had gone ballistic, quietly shrouding everything in their wondrous magic. We walked all day through them and beneath them, oblivious to the cold and the occasional shower of rain, through Gion, the Geisha District where Chinese tourists in rented Kimonos made “V” signs to their selfies, visiting temples and markets as we went until we were pretty much templed out, blossomed out, and only the less blokey among us not marketed out as well.
In the way of Japan, it is the quiet things that speak loudest, and thus it was the house and studio of the renowned potter Kawai Kanjiro with all its personally crafted furniture and finishes and the legacy of his work scattered throughout, that seemed to resonate with all of us, a highlight of the day amid a trove of them.
On another note, having learned something from our respective countrymen at breakfast time apparently, we were instrumental in giving the happy chap in the tiny and aptly named “Smile Burger” cafe (open 11:00 am till sold out) an early afternoon. Though we were but a few, we were but a few more than his cafe could seat, perhaps more than he’d seen inside at once in fact. There seemed little point in letting his monster Australian beef burgers with teryaki sauce go stale, and the smiles they gave us lasted all afternoon and well into the night as well.