Friday, April 10, 2009
Did we actually get any rest from the day before? All I knew was that it was early in the morning and we were already in Tokyo station on the Nozomi platform waiting to get on the N700 bullet train and travel across the country to Kyoto, the old capital of Japan and one of the few cities not bombed during WWII.
There she was, waiting to take us across the country at 180 miles an hour. This was the top of the line rail transportation in Japan.
Riding quietly across the railways we passed through he Japanese countryside. The train was smooth, clean, quiet, and arrived at the station exactly when it was supposed to. If only we could get something like that here in the USA.
We arrived in Kyoto Station, Japan's second largest station, a place we would explore in the coming days, before noon and quickly went to our hotel, the Kyoto Plaza Hotel, to drop off our bags and head back out into the city.
We were quickly on the subway and headed to Yume Yakata, a Maiko / Geisha photo studio. Today we'd (her) be dressing up as a maiko, a geisha in training, and get a few pictures taken.
After an hour I was called up into the dressing room. She had gone through the complete makeover of a maiko and was ready for her photo shoot.
The studio was great, along with the pictures that you bought they let you take your own camera and take as many as you wanted, both in the photo room and afterward back in the dressing room with other props or with each other. Highly recommended for anyone looking to do this sort of thing in Kyoto.
We then headed off into Kyoto to do some sightseeing on our own. I wouldn't recommend the route that we took, though. From the photo studio we took the subway to Kitaoji and then proceeded to walk for an hour west. We got to see many local shops and small shrines along the way, but if your feet are not up for it then take a cab or figure out the bus system instead.
Along the way we passed vending machines, obviously, this is Japan after all, but one was quite unique, a battery vending machine. The second shot is of the inside of a vending machine. We finally got to see what makes them work. It was a rare site.
Kyoto is filled with temples and shrines. It seemed like around every corner there was something to see. Unlike Tokyo which is neon and crazy, Kyoto felt much more subdued and peaceful.
Up in the mountains we noticed a huge Kanji carved out. Ka, or fire. During the yearly Kyoto Fire Festival this symbol is set ablaze in the night in celebration.
We had finally arrived.
The Golden Pavilion.
The grounds were absolutely packed with Chinese tourists, after a quite stroll through Kyoto this was quite a change of pace. People arrived here by the busload.
Despite people yelling at their children and folks mucking about all over the place the grounds themselves (off the walkways) were soft and moss covered. It was like something out of a post card, maybe that's because this site is on many sold across the city.
As were leaving we came across yet another exciting vending machine. This one sold ramen, complete with hot water. Yet another reason why Japan is such a magical place.
We left the pavilion and set off to our next destination, the famous zen rock garden of Ryoan-ji.
Along the way we came across another temple set in from the road. Besides for us it was empty and silent.
We also passed another Mos Burger, home of the Mos Burger. We had to stop in and I had the one they were named after. Delicious, as expected.
As we continued down the street I saw a sign that pointed to the temple, except it said it was far to our East. After looking at our map and consulting with some local youths we discovered that we had taken a wrong turn out of the Golden Pavilion and now were quite a distance away from our intended destination. Shucks. But we made the most of it and went back to something we had passed along the way.
Along whatever road it was we had been walking down was a large cherry blossom festival.
We found some food we had not seen in Tokyo so we tried it out.
Not sure what that was either. They were soft chewy balls of some kind covered in a sweet sauce and topped with powder.
Walking towards a subway station we passed a department store with dozens of bikes parked out front. All had only a simple lock on the back wheel, if anything at all. They weren't chained to a thing yet there they sat, not being stolen or knocked around. Trying pulling that one off here at home.
Back at Kyoto station we headed to the hotel, a short walk only about a block away. Our room was ready for us. We went to our floor, opened the door..
But the toilet did have buttons on it, so that made it worth it.