Okayama to Kyoto: meeting day 4, Kibitsu Jinja Shrine

We got up this morning at 07:00 after a good sleep. We ate our breakfast items and then packed our bags for check out of the hotel. We headed down a bit before 08:00 and checked out, leaving our luggage there to be picked up later in the day.

We walked over to the station, where the shinkansen ticket office wasn’t even open yet, but a few people were queued outside. Continuing on we went to the coffee shop near the Convention Centre so my wife could get a take-away coffee before catching our train to Kibitsu. The shop was open and we went in, but when M. tried to order her coffee, the woman behind the counter indicated that she had to wait until 08:00 – it was only 07:57. So we sat and waited a few minutes until their official opening time. Another man had been sitting inside and waiting already, so when he got up to order my wife queued behind him.

Coffee achieved, we walked back to the station quickly, because we just had time to make the 08:11 train to Kibitsu. It’s a small local train and the carriages were full with high school kids. We squeezed on, and found there were some empty seats in the middle, so we excused ourselves and moved past the kids to sit down. The kids all got off at the first stop, leaving the train more sparse with only a couple of people standing. The train passed out of the suburbs of Okayama and into countryside, with small villages and rice paddies lining the sides of the track, and large forested hills behind them. Our stop at Kibitsu was the fifth stop, after about 15 minutes.

We alighted and walked to the platform entrance to swipe our digital Suica cards on our phones. There were two women there puzzling over how to end their ride with their JR Passes. They spoke English, so I tried to help, but didn’t find any way for them to swipe their tickets, so just said it’d probably be fine. They were also heading to the Kibitsu Jinja Shrine, and I said we were going there too, so they followed us, and we ran into them later at the shrine a couple of times.

It was raining lightly and we got out our umbrellas as we walked. After turning a corner and crossing a main road we walked along a path between rows of pine trees that led straight to the shrine. I washed my hands using the Shinto ritual at the water basin with provided bamboo cups on long handles. We entered at the impressive gate, with granite steps leading up between rows of paper lanterns and under torii gates. There was a courtyard area with small shops where visitors could buy items like ribbons and wooden blocks to tie onto the frames doted around the shrine for that purpose. One shop had what looked like calligraphy experts who would write visitors’ prayers onto the blocks for them.

Kibitsu Jinja Shrine, Kibitsu

The shrine sprawled over an area of the hillside, maybe 20-30 metres wide and about 200 metres long, with multiple buildings set amongst walkways, trees, flowers, ponds, and small courtyards. One major point of interest was the long covered walkway extending down the hill and along a flat area for 100 metres or more. The whole area was beautiful and provided lots of photo opportunities.

Kibitsu Jinja Shrine, Kibitsu

We finished exploring the shrine a bit after 10:00, actually faster than I’d anticipated. We started walking back slowly to the station, taking a different route through rice paddies and houses for variety. I checked the train times and found we have about 13 minutes to catch the next train, after which there would be a 50 minute wait until the next one. So we hustled a bit to make sure we made it in time, which we did. The train was right on time and took us back to Okayama, where we arrived shortly after 11:00.

With some time before lunch we headed to the shinkansen ticket office to buy our tickets to Kyoto for this afternoon. There was a bit of a queue bit it didn’t take too long. For lunch we decided to go back to The MARKET bakery where we ate yesterday. We sat at the same outside table, which was nicer today as there wasn’t a truck parked nearby so we had a better view. I decided to try the “bread plate”. This consisted of three slices from different loaves that they baked – a rye seed loaf, something a bit wholemeal, and a bread with dried orange peel bits in it – plus a small bowl of what turned out to be tuna mixed with some citrusy herb (shiso leaf?), some preserved vegetables, vegan butter, and a “small dessert” which turned out to be a bite-sized chocolate brownie. It was very good; the bread being delicious.

Rain returned as we sat, but eased off again as we departed at 12:30. We parted back at the Convention Centre, me going to the final plenary meeting of the ISO meeting, and my wife heading off to explore a bit while I did that.

The final plenary session was basically just administrative matters, and lasted a bit under two hours. Therein thing of interest was that the German delegate said he’d consulted the German mirror committee and received a positive response to proposing to host the 2025 plenary meeting in Berlin. They still need to contact DIN, the German standards body, for approval, but it seems likely that Germany will be making a formal offer to host that meeting.

After the meeting I returned to the hotel lobby, where my wife had been reading a book (on her phone). We retrieved our luggage and went back to the station to catch a shinkansen to Kyoto. We caught one leaving at 15:20, and arrived in Kyoto about an hour later. There were two different exits from the shinkansen platforms and I chose one thinking it would lead in roughly the right direction, but it doubled back and deposited us on the south side of the station, when we needed to head north to our hotel. Consulting a map of the station didn’t show any obvious way whatsoever to get from one side of the station to the other. We decided ask at the information counter, but on the way there I spied a sign indicating a “north-south passage”, so we followed that and managed to get over to the north side.

We walked to our hotel a few blocks, and checked in. There was a brief issue in that I’d accidentally booked the room for one person, and here in Japan they charge different rates for occupancy by different numbers of people. So we had to pay a bit extra. And they gave us a package of stuff which contained an extra bath towel, hand towel, night robe, slippers, coffee, tea, sugar, and a biscuit, which matched the single copy of each already in our room.

We rested briefly and figured out where to go for dinner. I said I’d found a vegan ramen place, and my wife said we should try that. So we walked out towards Gion Soy Milk Ramen Uno Yokiko, which was about half an hour’s walk north-east. We passed through some quiet old residential streets, and then hit an area that was obviously very touristy and busy, with plenty of restaurants, and plenty of tourists walking around.

At the restaurant, we noticed a larger sign declaring the place to be a laundromat, accompanied by a smaller one with the ramen restaurant indicator. That was a bit weird! But we went to the door and a waiter came out to tell us there would be a short wait for a table and directed us to write our name on the waiting list and take a seat. While we waited, a lone guy, then a couple, then a single woman, and another lone guy joined the queue. The waiter gave us a menu to browse and then took our order while we were still waiting for a table. It took a long time before anyone came out of the restaurant, and we were ushered into a small table in the back corner. The place only had three two-seat tables, and seven seats along a counter.

Our food came quickly: a serve of steamed gyoza, then the “yukizuki” ramen for M. and the “gekko” ramen for me. There were only really three ramen dishes on the menu, and some side dishes. I enjoyed the meal, but M. wasn’t too keen on the milkiness of the soy milk broth. She liked the gyoza though.

Vegan ramen

After eating we walked back to our hotel by a different route, again noting the large number of tourists wandering around, and all of the restaurants obviously catering to the tourists. We stopped at a 7-Eleven for breakfast supplies for the morning. Back at the hotel we showered and prepped for bed. We might try sleeping without an alarm set for the morning.