Kyoto Day 1

[Taylor]

We wanted a loose, relaxed winter vacation that didn’t involve too much planning ahead.  The general strategy with regards to lodging involved booking a hostel in Tokyo for departure, getting recommendations from the staff once we got there about places to stay in Kyoto, and then reserving a room with our cell phones from the hostel in Tokyo.  Once we got to Kyoto, we’d repeat the process for Hiroshima, Osaka, or wherever else we thought we should go next.  This would have worked well in October but it wasn’t the best plan for the week leading up to New Years (the biggest holiday in Japan).

The people at the hostel told us matter of factly that we should call every hostel in Kyoto and take what you can get.  That’s precisely what we ended up doing.  After about six calls we ended up finding vacancy at an old Japanese style inn in a district outside the more touristy areas of Kyoto.  When we arrived, the owner performed a few magic tricks while we filled out some paperwork and introduced us to his five month old cat, Ponyo.  We were a little bit nervous when we got there but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  Our room was clean, warm, and safe.  It also allowed us an opportunity to get a glimpse of a side of Kyoto we otherwise would not have noticed.

Patrick showcasing the living quarters in Kyoto.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Before lodging in Kyoto, we had to find a way to get there.  In Noheji we purchased a ticket ahead of time that allowed us to travel from Aomori to Hiroshima (our farthest point South on the journey) with stopovers.  On account of our broken Japanese, we missed some of the finer details.  Basically through trial and error we figured out that the ticket we bought allowed us to ride for free on any local train lines.  If we wanted to take an express train, like the shinkansen, we could buy a reserved seat at a slight discount.  When we went to the station to purchase our ticket for Kyoto, we were shocked to discover that all the reserved seats had been taken except for four seats still available at 6:23 in the morning the next day.  The tickets were purchased from Ueno Station and unfortunately we didn’t take a very close look at them when they were handed to us.  It turns out our train left from Tokyo Station, a few stops away from Ueno.  By the time we figured this out, it was too late.  We rushed to Tokyo Station but missed the shinkansen by about ten minutes.  Confused, we asked the ticket office for help.  They informed us that we could try traveling on a non-reserved car on the train.  Basically we’d buy a ticket that was much cheaper that worked on a first come, first serve basis.  We didn’t really know about this option beforehand because non-reserved tickets are unavailable on the shinkansen ride from Aomori to Tokyo.

At 7:00 the train came in and I’m pretty sure we were all holding our breath hoping there would still be three seats left in the non-reserved section.  As it came to a stop we all exhaled a sigh of relief to see that the car was completely vacant.  We decided to ride non-reserved cars for the rest of the trip.  Aside from standing shoulder-to-shoulder and backpack-to-backpack for an hour from Himeji City to Hiroshima on our last day in Kyoto, this decision worked well.

Here’s a video of us riding on the shinkansen.

After depositing our luggage at the inn, we set out on bus to explore the streets of Kyoto.  Most of our time was spent window shopping in a famous shopping district in the heart of downtown.  We also went to a temple where we discovered an enormous cemetery.

Looking for a place to eat.

Chionin Temple. The first of many temple visits in Kyoto. Our innkeeper told us there are about 1900 shrines and temples in the Kyoto area.

The cemetery.

Oh, I almost forgot.  We also explored the International Manga Museum.  We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but here’s what it looked like from the sidewalk outside.

These pictures may give you the impression that Kyoto moves at a much slower pace than Tokyo.  That assumption is correct.  Whereas Tokyo is the symbol of Japan’s modernity and ever-changing technology, Kyoto is the heart and soul of all things traditional.  Since the city wasn’t bombed during World War II, the architecture has largely remained unchanged in the past hundred years.  Many temples and a few other special buildings date back even further.

To end the evening we walked around the Gion District, half hoping to see a geisha.  We wrote about that experience in an earlier post that you can read here if you haven’t done so already.

Thus concludes Day 1 in Kyoto.

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One Response to “Kyoto Day 1”

  1. Courtney Says:

    Ahaha! Here it is!! That seriously was quite a story. I do hope the guy doesn’t do a magic trick by mysteriously popping up out of nowhere and hoping to stay at your place for 5 days.

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