A Travellerspoint blog

Hong Kong and China

A Week in Hong Kong and China
T
he week in Hong Kong and China flew by really quickly. We spent the first 2 days in Hong Kong, went to China for 3, and came back for 2 more days before we flew back to Tokyo.

We stayed with some family friends, who were nice enough to show us around the area. I think the one thing that Thomas and I couldn’t get over was how cheap the food was. To put it into perspective, we went dim sum (or yum cha) and spent only $15 US. This is getting food for 4 people, where in the states $15 only gets you at most 4 little dishes. I think it would be very easy to overeat here, especially with the food so good.

So other then eating, we did some site-seeing, saw the Dark Knight, took a ferry across the harbor and went up to Victoria’s peak. This is the highest point/area in Hong Kong and it overlooks the ocean and the city. We went up at night so we saw the sun set and got a gorgeous view of the city and it’s lights. They even have a “light” show each night. Not bad for 5-10 minutes, but it gets old very quickly. Just blink a lot and it looks the same. Haha.

The next day we went to China to visit Thomas’ family. We spent most of the time with the family and made a few trips out to see some of the “tourist” sites. One of them was the weaving of the palm trees into various art pieces.
We came back to Hong Kong after 3 days in China and did some shopping. We also met up with my family from Florida. Then we flew back to Tokyo.

This entry is rather short, but we spent most of the time catching up on our rest and hanging out with family and friends with not too much site-seeing. Perhaps, there will be another trip somewhere in the future.

Posted by kalara 18:14 Comments (1)

More about Kyoto and Osaka

The long awaited update

Day 10: Two Weeks in Kyoto

Since our last update, we have done many day trips to some of the surrounding cities. The first one we went to was Hiroshima.

It’s hard to describe what it was like. When you first enter the city from the train station it is like any other city in Japan. We took the tram/trolley towards the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. It’s both at once peaceful and sad. The first view upon walking into the park was the A-Bomb building. Originally this was a government building that later became known as the A-Bomb building. This building was at the epicenter, or very close to, of the bomb blast and had an amazing amount of structure that was left after the blast. It is a silent testament to the devastation. We walked around the peace park and saw different memorials built throughout the years. One was devoted to college students, another the famous children’s memorial and other various ones.

At the center of the park are the long water fountain and the memorial tomb holding the names of those who died in the atomic blast. There is a flame that will be kept lit until that last nuclear weapon is disarmed. Behind this or in front of it is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. No words can describe the images and artifacts that were left behind. Parts of the museum were about the blast and the other parts were about the history of nuclear weapons and the need for the world to be rid of them.

We walked around the park more and made our way through more of the city. Along the way we stopped at Hiroshima castle, but did not go inside. Many of the historic monuments had to be rebuilt, so many of them weren’t really that old anymore. Some places were not rebuilt at all. After the stop at Hiroshima castle, we went to a garden nearby.

It was a beautiful area surrounding a small pond. This was a place where many people after the bomb went and took refuge. They rebuilt it and it’s now a very nice garden to visit. There were many little bridges and winding paths. There were also some cute turtles that couldn’t resist a photo opportunity. They just swam up and onto the rocks for some pictures.

Afterwards we headed back to Kyoto. There really wasn’t too much more to see in Hiroshima without spending longer time there. Most of the other sites were further out. Eventually, I would like to see Miyajima, an island close to Hiroshima.

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Day 11: Kyoto City

We decided to go visit the north eastern side of Kyoto. This was where the famous rock garden Ryoanji is situated. This is experience also showed another great facet of Japanese people. We were around the university in the area and was not clear how to get to Ryoanji. As we were asking one of the students handing out pamphlets, another student overheard and said she would show us a shortcut. She took us through the university and walked us to the temple. It was very kind of her and cannot think of an example of that happening in the US.

In Ryoanji, you first enter through a garden and lake area. Afterwards you head up to the main temple. At the temple is the famous rock zen garden. It’s much smaller than I thought it would be. Otherwise it was very peaceful. Around the back there is a water fountain with the saying ,“ I learn only to be content.” I couldn’t resist and got a keychain of it.

Afterwards we walked around a bit more before heading back to the hotel to rest up. Later that evening we went back to the Gion district. At the Yasaka Shrine we were able to see the 3 sacred carriages that will be brought out for the Gion Matsurii. They were beautiful, ornate and very detailed.

We walked around more and headed out for dinner and stumbled on a chain called Ki-Chi-Ri. It’s like a tapas restaurant - very trendy and a younger crowd. It was a fun experience, which I’m sure you can tell from the photos.

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Day 12: Fushimi Inari- Taisha and Day 13: Gion

Today we spent the morning switching to yet another hotel. After dropping off our stuff we headed to the south of Kyoto city. Here we went to the famous Fushimi Inari-Taisha shrine. This is the place where those famous photos of the red torii gates are all together.

When they say there are hundreds of them, they weren’t lying. It took a good couple of hours to do the entire loop. This is not including some of the side paths that led to other shrines. Many of the shrines are dedicated to foxes and there are stone statuaries of these throughout. Fortunately there are many little stops for breaks. The pathways go up and around a small mountain, which meant a lot of steps going up. I liked going down a lot better! From one of the tourists I learned you can get a torii gate with your name on if you pay $5,000 - $15,000. The amount you pay denotes how large your torii is. We ran into a couple of cats along the way. I couldn’t resist taking many photos of them. We finished in the later afternoon and headed back to our hotel.

After that hike we pretty much stayed in and relaxed for the rest of the night. We slept really well! The next day we just walked around Gion and took in the pre-Gion Matsurii set-up. Each of the 32 floats are assembled a couple of days before the actual parade. Included are some photos from the Shimizu Ryokan we were staying at. I loved their decorations – many cute things!

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Day 14: Nara

Today, we did another day trip outside of the city. We went to Nara (northwest of Kyoto?). Along the way to the train station we did see the firefighters working out. It was fun to watch.

Nara is famous for its large park with many free roaming deer. They also have the largest wooden structure in the world with a large Buddha sitting inside, Todaiji. It was an amazing site to see. You felt really small in that space. Interestingly enough, this was one of the few temples that allowed for photos inside. It’s one large Buddha flanked by two smaller gods/goddesses. There is also a pillar that has a hole in the middle bottom. It is said that the hole is the size of the Buddha’s nostril and if you go through it you will attain Enlightenment. Interesting enough, I think all the kids who went through will succeed in that! Hint – go through with your arms over head first. We made no attempts.

Anyways, the whole area was beautiful and it was peaceful to walk around. Peaceful that is until you had food in your hands and the deer went after you! Haha. This area really has a lot of free roaming deer and every so often you will come upon a stand that sells deer cookies. Closer to Todaiji there are several stands and the deer seem to know if they stand there long enough they will be fed by the many tourists there. They even seem to know when they can and cannot cross the street. They also have no fear of people. I had no food and yet I had five nuzzling me. The back of my shirt had plenty of deer drool on it from them chewing it thinking it was food. > .< Thomas with a cookie, got one to follow him around. Earlier, while we were feeding a group, the one decided that our map of the area was food. We played a bit of tug of war with it. We both got a piece!

We stopped briefly at the Sannin-ji, which is the oldest temple in Nara. They had many stone lanterns lining the way - probably an eerie site at night.

After Nara we stopped off in Kobe (famous for Kobe Beef). There wasn’t much to do there and unfortunately we didn’t try any beef. We walked around a couple of blocks and then headed back to Kyoto.

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Day 15 and 16: Arashiyama, Toji and Katsura Imperial Villa

The next two days we again did some day trips. We first went to the Sanjusangen-do temple, which houses 1001 statues of the Buddhist Kannon (Juichimen-senju-sengen Kanzeon). The temple site is similar to others, but walking in the main shrine area was very impressive. There is only natural lighting from the paper screens and one can only think how it would look at night. Unfortunately, they do not allow photos inside the building.

From here we made our way to a city outside of Kyoto called Arashiyama. They are known for the Togetsukyo Bridge and the Bamboo Grove. We first went to see the bridge and walked up along the river. There was a ride we could have taken down the rapids, but we didn’t think it was worth the price. Along the river we came upon the entrance towards a park. A famous Japanese actor had apparently built a home here and it’s now a park/museum. We skipped this and headed for the bamboo grove. It was very beautiful and interesting to walk through. From here we headed back to Kyoto.

We stopped by a nice restaurant a block away from our hotel. It seems like a place the locals like and the people are very friendly. There was one foreigner, perhaps exchange student, who was there. Later I saw him there again on another night talking it up with the same chef. That concludes day 15 and off to day 16.

We had made an appointment a while ago to see Katsura Imperial Villa, one of the few places we wanted to see on our trip. However, since we could not go in until the afternoon, we explored the south side of Kyoto first.
We stopped at the Toji Temple, a five story pagoda, along with two temples housing impressive Buddhist statues. Apparently this is the highest pagoda in Japan. It was surrounded by a nice pond/garden area. By the time we were finished here we made our way back to the train station and headed to Katsura.

Katsura was a villa completed in the 17th century by the emperor’s brother. It is surrounded by tea houses and a beautiful pond and garden. This place is tightly restricted and only allows 20 people at a time to go through it. Sadly, Thomas and I could not go through together, so we each had to wait an hour for the other.

The area is very beautiful and no matter where you stand you will always get a different view of the garden. It was built so that each time you move around the pond or stand in a different place something else will be revealed to you. They even planted a pine tree at one point to block the view of the pond so as not to spoil it for the visitor. A worthwhile place to go visit.

Day 17: Gion Matsurii

For now I will hold off on this until there is more time to write an appropriate entry. There is just too much to say.

Day 18: Last Day in Kyoto

We pretty much spent the last day in Kyoto at the new ryokan that we moved to for our last night. This place is one of the oldest ryokans in Kyoto, dating to over a hundred years old. The other oldest one is right across the street. We used it to relax and just to catch up on some much needed rest. The highlight of this stay, was a traditional Keiseki dinner (traditional Japanese meal with multiple dishes). There are no words to describe it, so I will let the pictures speak for themselves. I should add it took about 2 hours to eat all of this and each one dish was brought in one at a time to eat.

Day 19, 20 and 21: Osaka

The last three days in Japan before we headed to Hong Kong was spent in Osaka. This is another large city, similar to Tokyo. We went in the morning from Kyoto to Osaka on another Shinkansen. It took about an hour to get there. After checking in at the hotel, we made our way to the Osaka Bay area to check out the aquarium.

The Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is one of the world’s largest aquariums in the world. It’s tanks represent the Pacific Oceans different water life. You go up to the top and walk down around a ramp and it slowly takes you from the land further down into the ocean’s depths. The main attraction, were the two whale sharks in the Pacific Ocean tank that is 9 meters deep and filled with 5,400 tons of water. There were so many different animals here: penguins, dolphins, sea otters, colorful fish, ugly fish, giant spider crabs (creepiest things ever), jellyfish, etc. I don’t think I took enough pictures.

After going through the aquarium, we walked around the bay area a bit more. We went on the ferris wheel, which use to be the largest one in the world or still is. It was fun, but a bit scary at the same time going up, down wasn’t a big problem. We got some nice shots of Osaka.

The next day we went to explore Osaka Castle and the surrounding area. Having gone to old castles, temples and shrines, the castle was not what we expected. Mainly because on the outside it looks like a traditional castle, but on the inside it had been completed remodeled. It had gone under renovations earlier, but we were not expecting the museum and modernization that had been done (stated somewhere was that it was the only “castle” with an elevator). It was very informative, however, with the crowds and the number of tourists groups it was hard to really enjoy.

Before Osaka Castle Museum, we stopped at the Osaka Museum of History. This had some nice exhibits and displays about Japanese history as well as Osaka’s own history. This was probably one of the best museums I have seen in terms of the miniature models of daily life.

That was pretty much it for Osaka. There really isn’t that much to do or visit. From here we flew to Hong Kong and
spent the next week in Hong Kong and China. So for now a goodbye to Japan.

Posted by kalara 17:57 Comments (1)

Days 7-10: 75% Kyoto, 25% Himeji

Hey everyone, it's been a few days since our last update. Needless to say, JJ and I have been rather busy all over Kyoto, and been a bit tired to write these blog entries every night......and lazy too. It's Wednesday evening here and tomorrow we head off west to Hiroshima. Commence catching you all up!

To start off Day 7, we had breakfast downstairs at the our ryokan. We ended up chatting with a man originally from Jersey who is currently teaching English in Korea. The breakfast itself was good enough; the tofu was the best. I was not overall impressed but hey, these are the type of experiences you want. Anyways, after breakfast, we got ready to head over to Nijojo Castle, just west of downtown Kyoto. We spent a good deal walking around and took plenty of photos. I'm only sharing a few for the time being. I personally didn't think Nijojo was that impressive. After we finished around that area, we walked back to our ryokan and made a brief stop back at the Hisashi-Honganji temple so JJ can get a few more photos she missed. We had dinner at a place called Donguri near the ryokan which served all sorts of grilled entrees. Since we are staying in that area of Kyoto the duration of our time in the city, we hope to go back to that place again. That's saying a lot on how we like their menu. Day 6 was rather lackluster relative to what we've done during our trip and looking back at it, I can't seem to want to write more. Take a gander at our photos, it's not much. haha.

Pictures Day 7

Day 8 was a pretty long day. We had to check out of our ryokan which isn't all too bad except that we left around 8 and our check-in time was 3 at the Hotel Granvia in Kyoto station. We just left our bags with the concierge and made way to the station to head to the Kyoto Imperial Palace. Reservations were made for 10am (reason why we checked out early) for an English tour which lasted about an hour. To reiterate, Kyoto was the ancient capital of Japan for about a thousand years and during the latter part of that time frame, the emperor and his family lived in the Imperial Palace. It was quite an impressive complex, both in its grandeur and scale. There was a fair amount of walking all around. Given how expansive the photos are, I'll let them do the rest of the explaining. After the trip to the Imperial Palace, we walked around the area and visited the Golden Pavilion or Kinkakuji. It was another very dynamic place to visit. Oh the memories of studying East Asian architecture history back in college. Finally, we headed back to Kyoto Station to have a late lunch and then checked in to our room. The Hotel Granvia is very posh and much much nicer than many of the four star hotels back home. Kudos to JJ for finding such a great hotel at such a bargain. It is also of note to make mention that it was the first western style place we've stayed during our trip. The past week, we've been in more traditional Japanese style places. It was rather nice to be able to sleep in a bed have a desk to work. However, we do have more time spent in Japanese style ryokans/hotels, and we do look forward to them. On a side note, at the moment, Japan is the host for the G8 Summit in Hokkaido this year, and given the amount of dignitaries and other public figures, the Japanese provided Japanese-style accommodations to them which ended up being a big no-no. Many of the public figures felt disrespected to have to sleep in a ryokan or just on the floor like the Japanese do. I personally don't find it a big deal, but then again, I'm no dignitary.......yet. After settling in, we hopped back on a bus to the Gion district again to do a bit more sightseeing and ended our day there. It was such a nice evening to be out and we took advantage of that. We really love it here in Kyoto.

Pictures Day 8

We made the much anticipated trip to the Himeji Castle on Day 9, which of course is located in Himeji. It's about an hour or so by train (via the bullet train line aka Shinkansen). Himeji Castle is probably one of the most famous images of Japan. Since the day was pretty straight-forward in terms of what we did, I'll again let the images speak for themselves. After Himeji Castle, we walked to one of the museums near the castle, the Prefectural Museum of History. In this museum designed by Kenzo Tange, we saw exhibits to some of the really interesting festivals and a lengthy one devoted solely to Japanese baseball. It felt like we just walked into Japan's version of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Once we were done there, we went back towards the castle to check out the Kokoen Garden adjacent to the castle. It was interesting but more just an opportunity for some photo taking. The Kokoen garden was our final stop in Himeji before we headed back to Kyoto. We were in Himeji from about 9:30-2:30. We got to the station about an hour early for the train back to Kyoto so we just we waited. However, when we were on our way back to Kyoto, there came a significant delay which kept us idle at the stop before Kyoto station for about an hour. We're not sure what caused the delay, but the rumor was that someone either committed suicide and/or threatened to at one of the stations which caused a tremendous amount of frustration all over the train stations within 3-stops of Kyoto. We finally got back to our hotel closer to 6. By that time, we were just exhausted and decided to just have dinner back downstairs in Kyoto Station. Our days end typically around 10-11 and given how tired we are, just keep it simple back in the hotel. I work on thesis a little bit, JJ reads, or we just watch TV. I have been able to watch Naruto (anime show) live as well as watch the comedy variety show Gaki No Tsukai. Unfortunately, we have not stumbled upon any wild and crazy game shows but we are on the lookout for them. Anyways, to the last day of this entry!

Pictures Day 9

Day 10 became laundry day. We had quite a bit to do and were able to find a laundromat within three blocks of Kyoto Station. Nothing exciting about doing laundry. To remedy the heat here, JJ and I bought some athletic shirts by Adidas and Nike that have climate control properties, much like Under Armour. They work wonders on those long days walking out in the sun. After laundry and lunch in Kyoto Station. Notice a trend? Within the station are hundreds of decently sized sit down restaurants. Funny enough, it takes JJ and I a good amount of time actually settling down on one. Though this speaks more about us than about the station. haha. Our afternoon consisted of more sightseeing. Since we only got about halfway through Hisashiyama the last time, we decided to make the day's objective to finish it up. We went all the way north to the Ginkakuji Temple or Silver Pavilion. Unfortunately, we paid full price to see something that was under construction and hence covered in scaffolding. It was a let down yes, but we just moved on and went south to finish up the Philosopher's Path. We ran into some interesting shops and shrines/temples along the way. The best sight would have to be the Heian Shrine, which was not under renovation and had a grand palace-like feel to it, similar to the Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo, We went back to the hotel to clean up before we went out again for the evening. The night ended with some fun sights near downtown Kyoto. Right before dinner, we witnessed some sort of mini-parade-esque event where some locals dressed in traditional clothing and marched along one of the main avenues chanting, beating drums. We don't know exactly what it is and just assume it's in conjunction with the upcoming Gion Matsuri (Gion Festival) next week. Gion Matsuri is heralded as one of the the top three festivals in all of Japan during the year and JJ and I will be around in Kyoto for it. Can't wait!!!

Pictures Day 10

Anyways, that is it for catching up. This in itself took a bit of time with writing as well as uploading to Photobucket. JJ and I hope to be able to maintain the blog every few days, but don't be surprised if we cut corners here and there. At the very least, we'll upload the photos and link them. Hope everyone is well back home.

Thomas

Posted by kalara 05:22 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

Day 6: Saturday July 5th, 2008

Kyoto - Hisashiyama and Gion Districts

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Greetings from Kyoto. JJ and I have been making good use of the daily bus pass in the city. We've spent all day walking around the Hisashiyama section of Kyoto (the Eastern most part) where there are plenty of sites to see and shops to look around. The majority of our time today was spent in the lower half of Hisashiyama since it was blazing hot and humid out and we just could not deal with an all day affair in the whole area. We plan on going back for the rest of the area in the subsequent days. Kyoto is rich in history and is much more a traditional Japanese city than Tokyo. Of course, this is not a bad thing at all, and JJ and I really enjoy it here. It can be very modern and trendy too, but it is second to none when it comes to that classic Japanese history and heritage. The walk up to the base of what is called the "Philosopher's Path" is flanked by the shops and restaurants. It's much a tourist trap for souvenirs and anything and everything Japanese. However, due to the heat, it is also a great way to cool down for most of the stores have air conditioning, so it's like walking into pockets of cold from time to time. Trust me, you'll need it during this time of the year. We've resorted to bringing a little towel with us just to keep ourselves from being completely drenched in sweat. JJ and I spent a decent amount of time shopping, buying things and just window shopping. If you know me and know how much I love the anime Rurouni Kenshin (which is based in the Meiji time period), they have all sorts of trinkets/shirts/plush dolls/scrolls devoted to the Shinsengumi, a sort of special police in Kyoto. Come to think of it, what drew me to Kenshin was my infatuation with the history of Japan during that particular timeframe. Anyways, Shinsengumi cool, bought stuff. haha...

Our walk up the Philosopher's Path was not all shopping; we went in and out of all sorts of temples/shrines. Much of the time was spent orientating to which one we just went into relative to our map. Unfortunately, there was very little English on the maps and we just kind of just assumed where we were. There were a lot of tourists out there, in particular tourists from China/Taiwan/South Korea. Insert whatever stereotype you have of asian tourists, they are all applicable, haha. We ran into some Americans but most of the non-Asian tourists were from Europe. Again, this part of Kyoto is a huge tourist attraction. I'd say with confidence that less the obvious size and scale difference, the amount of tourists here in Kyoto rivals that of tourists on the National Mall. I'm going to let the photos do the rest of the talking and move on to the next part of the day, lunch. haha. Yum.

We've been documenting our dining experiences small and large throughout our trip and I will have a blog entry devoted to that plus a rating system, maybe even throw in a few Iron Chef-esque remarks. As for today's lunch, we just stopped at a local restaurant in Kyoto. The food was very good and it had a hint of diner food quality to it, a little greasy but still very good. We try to keep a budget of about 1000 yen per person per lunch meal and for the most part, we do. Truth be told, we knew ahead of time that we'd spent a lot on food, but in moderation. No regrets at the moment.

After lunch, we did a little more walking along the Philosopher's Path. Although it didn't take too much longer before we decided to go back and rest up. The heat was just too much. We got back on the bus and headed for the ryokan, where I unintentionally took a two-hour nap. I guess I needed it more than I thought. We decided to go back out for dinner and did that in the Gion district which was just west of the Philosopher's Path and Northeast of our ryokan. We did a fair bit of touring Gion before we found a place to eat, which actually was a bit off the main strip. We actually went through their red-light district before we found a place to eat. This restaurant had more a Japanese feel to it, being that we actually took off our shoes and ate sitting down on tatami mats. We had food that was grilled and I enjoyed another beer with dinner. Overall, the dining experience was good and we hope to go to another place with similar hospitality.

After dinner, we stayed in Gion and enjoyed the nightlife a bit. It being Saturday night, we figure that it'll be interesting to see what Japanese do for fun in Kyoto. Not being the clubbing or bar/karoake type, JJ and I just wandered around. We stopped by the Yasaka Shrine, a shrine that is lit by literally thousands of lanterns throughout the complex. There are plenty of photos on that. Needless to say, it was pretty awesome to see shrines and pathways lit by the lanterns. Interesting enough, as it is a weekend night, we stumbled upon an area filled with young people (age group 18-30?). They were mostly dressed in traditional garb and plenty of drinking games were being played and everyone seemed to having a good time. You couldn't miss hearing them from afar. I would say that about 150-200 people were just hanging around in smaller groups of maybe 12-15, but there was plenty of mingling around. JJ and I just passed through and went back out when we felt some rain. We took the bus back, and by the time we got back, the rain stopped. But, we were too tired to go back out so we just stayed in and relaxed, and I took the opportunity to write this blog. Anyways, tomorrow is more site seeing in Kyoto. Enjoy the pictures.


Pictures July 05

Posted by kalara 05:15 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Day 5: Friday, July 04, 2008

Kyoto

“Hey you!..... Hey you, wha-t’s your Name?”

This is the song that some older Japanese guy is singing on tv as I write up today’s blog. It seems to be some special show recognizing two older performers. It’s fun to watch despite the fact we really don’t know what’s going on.

Today was a traveling day since we went from Tokyo to Kyoto. Both of us ended up waking up really early and use the time to get laundry done and packed up. The only problem was it took a while to dry the clothes. Once that was done we were on our way to Tokyo Station. The Sumisho Ryokan was a very nice place with a very helpful and friendly staff. Most of them had some English and were able to help us out whenever we had a question. If you ever stay in Tokyo, I would recommend this ryokan. Only downside is that for some reason the room smelled of cat. One thing I would add is that they wet the entrance. Apparently this is a sign of welcome in Japan for inns.

We took a taxi to Tokyo Station and waited for the Shinkansen (aka Bullet Train) to go to Kyoto. They have a time table booklet that shows what time the trains arrive and which ones to take. In the station we need to go to the particular area for the Shinkansen trains. We were able to see the Nozomi trains, which are the fastest of the Shinkansen, but they are expensive to go on. We took the Hikaru 409 train. The Japanese are very efficient. In all the train stations, there are clearly marked lines that show where people should line up. So you know which door you are suppose to go into and there is no pushing or shoving. You just get in line and wait. It’s very nice. Another thing I noticed about Japanese efficiency is cleaning the train. If it is the last stop for the train, these ladies in pink uniforms line up in front of the train. They are the cleaning crew. Once the last person from the train departs, the pink ladies get on and begin cleaning. In the case for our train they actually turned the seat around since the train would be going back the way it came in. They were very quick. Once they were all done, we were able to get on. While we were waiting for the train I was trying to get pictures of them. They went so fast I needed to put it onto the speed shutter! Here is a picture of the Nozomi Shinkansen.

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The train ride was about 3 hours. During the ride, there is a lady with cart of food that comes around. Thomas and I got bento boxes for a late breakfast/early lunch. The ride was quick and gave us some time to rest up. There were a couple of stops along the way and there were several business people aboard. This is also one of the first times where I really saw a lot of tourists. Once we arrived in Kyoto we quickly made it to our ryokan. Well as quickly as we could with our luggage.

Fortunately, the ryokan is only 2 blocks away from the station. Compared to what we walked in Tokyo, this was a piece of cake. We’re staying at the Heinabo Ryokan. It’s this nice red little two story place. We got to it early and the ryokan owner, Okami (Japanese word for landlady) let us check in early. She is really nice and gave us a lot of helpful information with the little English knowledge she has. I will say the family who runs this place is very courteous and helpful. To get to our room we first had to take off our shoes at the entrance and switch to slippers.
Then we walked through a little hallway that led to a little bridge and garden. It connects to the other building which has all the rooms. We walked up a flight of stairs (which are very narrow) and to our room. It’s a door with a little window on it and it leads to the entry way. This is the area where we take off our slippers. There is a little closet to hang some of our things and it holds our towels and yukatas (Japanese cotton robes, kind of like a kimono). Then there is a screen door that opens into our room. Each room has it own air-conditioning unit that we can control.

There were two futons folded up on the 6 tatami mat room. There is a little alcove that has the tv, mini-fridge and a shelf with different decorative pieces on top. Below are two paper screens that open to a window. Beside that is a screen that leads to the bathroom. Thomas can actually stand in this one with no problems! This place is very traditional and very quaint. The room also feels like our own mini apartment in Japan. There are also many other tourists here of the English speaking variety. They also have two kitties. Here is the one that greeted us.

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After settling and relaxing we decided to head out and explore. Our first stop was to go back to Kyoto Station. Needless to say, this was Thomas’ favorite part. We took so many photos that we’ll just entitle it “Thesis”. The building had many elements that were part of his thesis. It’s an amazing piece of architecture and had such a large open space. There were at the minimum 11 floors and you could see the people just keep going up in one fluid line, so to speak. We spent a fair amount of time there before heading out and checking out some of the other sites.
The great thing about Kyoto is the number of places to visit within small distances. In just a 4 block radius there are two famous temples/shrines. We did a quick walk around to see them, but will go back when the places are open.
One of them is under renovations, but more about that the next time we visit. We stopped back at the hotel for a little bit to rest up and figure out our plans for the rest of the evening and the next 2 days.

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We headed back to Kyoto Station for some dinner. There are restaurants on almost all the floors and 2-3 of them are nothing but food. We decided to eat Aoi-jaya, a place for Japanese cuisine. Each meal was composed of many smaller dishes. It was very nice and a great way to end the day. Afterwards we headed back to the hotel for some rest for a full day of sightseeing. That’s it for today. Well, except…

Happy Fourth of July!

Pictures: July 4

Posted by kalara 06:01 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

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