If we were going to get around Kyoto we needed a bus map; the subway just doesn’t have the same kind of reach as it does in Tokyo (where we didn’t use the buses at all). So when we eventually got moving (at almost noon), it was to find our way back to the railway station and locate the tourist office. Kyoto station is a vast, modern edifice that is apparently an architectural gem. The main hall was imposing, but generally I just found it confusing. However, eventually we found the busy tourist office and picked up a good general map as well as a bus map.
Next to the station was a branch of the Isetsu department store, but its basement food hall was more decorative than useful, so we found our way over the railway tracks to the Aeon mall. The Aeon supermarket in Kuala Lumpur’s Midvalley Megamall had been enormous, but although this mall was part of the same corporation, the supermarket was disappointing – less cramped than our local Fresco, but the range was not much better. What the mall did have though was a Daiso.
Daiso is fabulous. We first came across one in Hua Hin, and at the time didn’t realise that it was a chain. Almost everything in a Thai Daiso is £1.20, but here the standard price was only 65p – cutlery, crockery, all sorts of kitchen bits and bobs, car accessories, computer accessories… Need socks, a toilet brush and heart shaped silicone cake mould? Daiso has them all. A miniature torch key ring, inflatable neck pillow and a toy car? Yup. Hammer, chestnut peeler and clothes pegs? Try Daiso. It’s like Poundland, but with class. Not everything is the standard price, but perhaps 80% of things are. As it happened, we needed a drinking glass to replace the one that I knocked over the previous evening, and a dinner plate as the apartment only had one. We bought a glass, but the plastic plates were too heavy (we’d decided to get one we could take with us as it would be useful for hotel room picnics).
Skirting back around the station we picked up some onigiri from a convenience store for lunch on the go. Onigiri are little triangular parcels of rice stuffed with meat, fish or vegetables and often wrapped in nori seaweed. They’re the Japanese equivalent of a sausage roll, but more refined and less fattening. Working our way through the back streets back towards our apartment, we stumbled across a supermarket. The name was only in Japanese, so I still don’t know what it was. It wasn’t huge, but it did have yoghurt and naan bread (very unexpected) which went nicely with some prawns that we mixed into a foil pouch of vegetable curry. It began to dawn on us how lucky we’d been with our Koreatown supermarkets, where we’d bought frozen vegetables much more cheaply than the available fresh ones. Here, frozen veg was twice the price we’d paid in Tokyo for a bag half the size. Surely there must be a market somewhere?