Train to Kyoto
For all that we’d had so much trouble finding our way to our hotel, we had no trouble finding our way back to Kanda Station. From the front of the hotel we could see the train tracks, and then we walked along a street paralleling the tracks in order to find an entrance and a train to Tokyo. I was glad for my pre-research, since I’d discovered that there was one track for the Yamonte inner line heading one direction in the loop and a different track for the outer line. Getting to Tokyo Station was easy.
We had close to an hour before our train to Kyoto, so we wandered around the station in search of food. We found a “South Court” and purchased bento boxes. They were probably designed as lunches (fried chicken, sushi or sashimi—still don’t know the difference), fruit, and rice. Just behind the small seats where we perched, we found tea drinks for Jennica and Stan and what we thought was juice for me. It turned out that the juice was almost a compote and the texture didn’t work for me that early in the morning. I went over and got water and Stan “drank” the compote pouch.
We then headed to the Shinkansen section of the station. If we’d rushed, we could actually have made the 9:03 bullet train to Kyoto, but our seat reservations were for the 9:33, and it was much less stressful to be leisurely. The train actually started at Tokyo, so it was there early enough for us to board and find out seats—again without feeling rushed. I’d heard so many stories about there not being luggage space on the trains that I expected to have difficulty finding places to store our luggage. It turned out that there are limited places for big luggage. Our suitcases fit just fine on the overhead racks. Unlike airplanes, where we put carry-on luggage in wheels first, the train racks were designed to put the luggage in longwise. (I let Stan put the luggage up!)
Finding out way from the train station to the hotel again proved a bit confusing, but I knew that we’d be able to see the hotel from the city bus area, and we eventually found our way there. In fact, as I’m typing this (6:30 am—Stan is still asleep), I can look out the window and see Kyoto Station. Kyoto Station is the largest station in Japan—although not the busiest. Kyoto station is the station for the Shinkansen, but also the station for other JR trains, the Kinetsu trains, two subways, and the terminal for both JR buses and city buses—a very busy place.
We had made plans to meet Bethy at the hotel by 6:00, so we decided to head out and visit Nijo Castle. We managed to find a bus there (another mini-adventure, but we overcame confusion and achieved success).
I’m really glad that we got the English audio tours—although we did it one-at-a-time since I hadn’t been thinking clearly enough to get 3 all at once. Parts of the castle were under reconstruction and we learned that the complex consisted of Ninomaru Palace and Nijo Castle—they were different buildings. Ninomaru Palace had the famous nightingale floors, which made a pretty noise when walked upon. I’d been worried about what to do when I was wearing sandals (no socks) and we reached a place where we needed to take off our shoes—and Ninomaru Palace was a no-shoe inside building. As it turned out, many people walked through the Palace barefoot. I decided I didn’t completely understand early Japanese art, which wasn’t as realistic as I expected, but it was incredibly amazing to see artwork that was this old—and just covered all of the walls. The building itself was filled with receiving rooms and audience rooms. We only went past one room which was labeled as being living quarters.
By the time we’d toured the palace and walked around the Nijo Castle and moat, we were all tired—and thirsty. It became a trend on our trip—we wanted bevers. There are vending machines almost everywhere. The first ones we encountered were out of water, but the second set wasn’t The machines were in one of the rare smoking areas—and we got our water and moved away from the smoking area. There were toilets there as well—some marked Japanese, some marked Western. Stan peeked in the Japanese men’s room and pronounced himself enlightened.
As we left, we visited our first Japanese gift store. I purchased a small booklet to fill with stamps at each of the attractions we visit—apparently that’s very common and we encountered stamp stands at almost every location. We also bought more bevers and sat in the cool(er) inside building to drink them. We didn’t get to take pictures in the Ninomaru Palace, but we all took a lot of outside pictures.
Exhausted and hot, we took a cab rather than the bus back to our hotel. For the 3 of us, it was only a bit more than taking the bus—and it was cooled–and it dropped us right at our hotel.
Dinner at the “Italian” Restaurant
We got back to the hotel about 5:00 and rested (okay, I dozed) while waiting for Bethy. She arrived about 5:45 and we all agreed that it was time to get dinner. We weren’t sure yet if skipping meals was going to be a trend, but we realized that there’d been a lot of time since our 9:00 am breakfast in Tokyo Station. Just outside of our hotel, there were stairs that led down to “Porta”—an underground mall. We wandered through the mall (it appears that ‘wander’ might be the “Verb of the Trip”) and found an Italian restaurant. It definitely had a Japanese spin on Italian (more so than American restaurants have an American spin on Italian, I think—or maybe not—perhaps I need a trip to Italy to refresh my memory?) Bethy, Stan, and I all chose the same entrée, so we ordered the Large size for the 3 of us—and it was plenty of food, especially since Jennica had suggested that we order garlic bread as well (great garlic bread—buttery and garlicy).
When we got back to the hotel, the four of us gathered in Stan’s and my room, where we took advantage of the pocket wifi. What a great device—we’d used it on the Shinkansen on the way to Kyoto as well. We planned when we’d get together in the morning and I fell asleep. (Oh–and we looked at all the coins to be sure we understood what sizes were what.) I woke an hour or so later (perhaps 9:00 pm) and Stan said I’d been out for an hour, the girls had gone to their room, and he was going to bed, too. I got up just long enough to brush my teeth and take my meds, and I was out again. I woke several times in the night (probably still confused by the time change) but heroically managed to return to sleep until the alarm went off at 7:00 am—and even successfully used the snooze alarm after then!