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I travel to Kyoto

Today I departed Tokyo and headed to Kyoto.


I woke up about 2 AM as it was quite cold and tried to get the blanket which I had been using as a pillow, but I think I woke up half the room. The bed creaked and squeaked and was extremely loud. Once the blanket was on, I drifted back to sleep. . .

I’d set my alarm for 5 AM, and 5AM it went off. I got up trying to move off the bed quickly thinking the noise would be over quickly, but it was just louder. I’ll make a point to check my bed in the future. I didn’t dare roll over in that noisy bed iif I could help it..

The morning was fairly cool but not too cold. It was not raining, which is more than I could say about yesterday. The metro was closed and didn’t open till six, so I took a cab to Ueno station where I grabbed a JR line to Tokyo Station. Navigating Tokyo station to the proper Shinkansen line was a bit tricky, but not too bad. My problem was that I knew which model of Shinkansen I wanted, but didn’t realize that the lines are labled according to where they are going (I guess?) But I did figure it all out. I arrived a bit earlier than I needed to, and the doors weren’t even open yet. So I took some pictures. When the door opened about 6:00, I got on and selected a good seat.

(Click on any picture and you go to the whole gallery for today)

Inside the Shinkansen, one would find a comfortable and clean car, but it was not luxurious. I’d expected carpet everywhere, and power outlets, but none were to be found. It was just fine for my 3 hour train trip to Kyoto. The train must have departed exactly on 6:23, and though it made a few stops on the way, it arrived just a minute or two before 9:14. You don’t really have to know where you are on the Shinkansen. Just leave the train when the time is right. I’m counting how much fare I would have to pay without the pass to see just how much I’d spend without it. So far, total comes to 7,980 yen, not including local lines.

The Shinkansen overall was very smooth, and the noise level was just a bit more than you’d hear in a car going down the interstate , but less than a jet flight. I liked it, but also think the concept of a high speed train in the US to have limited appeal. First, they are expensive, both to build and to ride them. This ride was about 80 USD, which would get you much further (the distance was 513km) with the gas you could buy. I also kept thinking how I wished I was riding a motorcycle. I could see mountains and we were in mountainous areas, but alas, we went through the mountains, and not over or around them.

That being said, the rail lines are faster than buses, and offer excellent flexibility and accessibility for foreigners who can get the pass. I’m happy they exist in Japan.

I changed strategies yet again with my luggage. Now, I’m not going to walk around with the big photo pack, even when I’ve removed items that I don’t think I’ll need. The pack itself is pretty heavy. Now, I’ll just use the “day pack” and take only what I desire, which is limited mainly to the two bodies, three lenses, a spare battery, the memory cards, and the tripod. Despite the weight of the tripod, I will say its really nice to be able to take self portraits with the tripod and the D70’s remote.

I did not see Mount Fuji as there were low clouds for much of the trip. However, when we got to Kyoto, it was nice and sunny, with a blue sky I haven’t seen for months! After leaving the Shinkansen, I walked to the hostel. It wasn’t too far, nor did I have much trouble finding it. I kept my eyes open and looked at the streets, but in my head, I was thinking what I could throw out of my luggage. Its so heavy. Wearing the heavy photo pack around all day the other day really was a bad idea. I dropped off my luggage and then needed to kill some time before I could actually go to my room. I went back to where I’d seen a temple. . .

Higashi Honganji

This is the temple I’d seen earlier. Its pretty big, and if I’m not mistaken, its one of the largest wooden structures in the world. This temple is the “mother temple” for people who practice Shin Buddhism in Japan. The first thing that struck me were these killer pigeons that were stalking me, a big difference compared to China where they would have all been eaten years ago! I tried to get a good photo, but it didn’t quite work out how I’d hoped. Oh well, I tried. The temple is being renovated which is both good and bad. Good as it will be around for a long time to come, but bad as they basically built a gigantic shed around the main hall. It felt like a factory was right next door. Too bad. I took some photos of the outside, but none inside, as that was verboten. I will say the insides of these temples are astoundingly beautiful. It was all brown due to the wood, but there was what appeared to be considerable gilded word work in the form of peacocks and roosters and other ornate carvings.  Also present in the complex was a modern hall that said “visitor reception” on the door. It had some galleries, but in a way, felt like some new age religious place, or a Baptist mega center, especially with the monks or whoever running around in their robes, which I didn’t get a picture of. (IDIOT!)

Shosei-en Garden

After the mother ship tour, I walked around a bit more with no clear goal in mind. I  found a wall that I thought hid a park. After following the wall a bit, I found the entrance, which cost me 500 Yen and I was told I couldn’t use my tripod. The park probably would be beautiful in a few weeks, or maybe a month or two, but at this moment, its a bit bare. I walked around and then left.

Unknown Temple

After the garden it seemed no matter how much I walked, I kept ending up at the mother temple. Was I being called by Buddha? Not sure, but the scooters and motorcycles sure were calling me at this shop I passed. Let me tell you what, I wish I had an international driver’s license. I’m going to get one when I get back to the US. I settled for a bicycle and set off. By and by I came to a temple .

There are a lot of temples in Kyoto, and I have no idea what the temple I found is called, or even where it is now. It also had some signs of minor renovation. I peeked into the empty halls, and I really wish I had taken a picture. I wasn’t even sure I should open the sliding paper doors, but inside was georgeous. 

I rode for a bit more and found a little noodle shop. I ordered something, ate it, and left. One interesting thing I saw was a vertical car garage. You pulled in, left, and your car was pulled up by a giant chain like “thing” with many car baskets. When you got your car, the staff moved the cars around until yours was out, and then you got in, and backed out onto a turntable. Attendants were everywhere to direct traffic and they would have you stop on the turn table, which would then turn your car around so that you faced outwards to the street. Interesting, sidewalk safety is very high in Kyoto. Attendants have cars stop and wait for pedestrians to pass before allowing your to pull out. Even when an ambulance was leaving the fire station, one of the medics stopped pedestrians, then the ambulance pulled out, and finally the medic got in, and they drove off with lights and sirens going. In the US, when emergency vehicles pull out, you know to stop and stay out of their way. In China, nobody notices emergency vehicles. But in Japan, they follow some crazy safety practices.

I had a little trouble finding the bike shop, and asked a man for help. He called the shop, and almost led me to the place, but I didn’t want to put him through so much trouble. They really are nice in Japan.

I headed back to the hostel after that where I’ve been working on this post and my photos. I needed to get some maps and make a plan. Tomorrow I’ll set out with an idea of what I want to see and where to see it. I’m a bit tired from staying up too late and getting up too early for the last 2 or three weeks.


One Response to “I travel to Kyoto”

  1. Chenxi says:

    Plum blossom photos are BEAUTIFUL!! You are an awesome photographer! Temple looks cool too!