And just like that, I’ve swapped countries again, with only the minor inconvenience of the long flight back. For the main leg (Paris to Osaka) I was sitting in a front row of seats, where there was an emergency exit in front of me, the overhead luggage bins were all full up, and the sweet Japanese lady sitting behind me had commandeered the space under my seat for her tiny handbag. Thus, I spent the entire flight with my rucksack and laptop under my legs, hugging them close to me. This wasn’t helped by having to load up my hand luggage with hefty books as my suitcase was a couple of kilos over the weight limit. That aside, getting to Hirakata was easy. I dumped my bags in a friend’s room and went down to Kyoto to stay in a hostel for a couple of days, as dorms didn’t become available until Saturday.
I met a few Brit travellers making their way round the world, as well as the obligatory couple of Australians. With only a few days in the country, they chose to visit Kyoto for its beautiful old temples. As one of the few cities in Japan to escape saturation bombing in the Second World War, it also has more traditional wooden houses tucked away off the main roads. I was wandering through some back streets to get to the station when I saw one of these houses, in the process of being demolished. A crane with a giant claw on the end was tearing out the main wooden beams one by one, giving me a view into the structure of the house. I looked up and down the street. Every other house was covered either in concrete or concrete-look plastic cladding. They looked shiny and pristine; dolls’ houses, against which the old half-destroyed wooden dwelling of Japan’s past looked out of place. Two women were standing in the doorway of one of the newer houses chatting happily. As another bit of the city’s past collapsed into a heap of ruins, I turned away, wondering if I was the only person in the street who cared.
(11:25am Japan time)