We rose very early this morning, a little too early due to misreading of watch. But this proved to be a blessing. We ate what we had left in the studio, one piece of bread between the two of us, and washed it down with tea/coffee. We had been advised to return to Tokyo main station to board the Shinkansen bullet train, even though it stopped at a station nearer to us. It was a great piece of advice. We arrived at the main station about 6.45a.m. The place was already totally manic. Of course today is one of the biggest holidays in the Japanese calendar. Despite the throngs of people, everyone was moving calmly but smartly. There were dozens of railway staff to help with directions. We were told what gate and what platform to proceed to.
The 7.03 train was standing in the station. We knew we had to board carriages 5, 4, 3, 2, or 1. I tell you this in reverse order as everything in Japan reads from right to left and mostly up and down. Takes a bit of getting used to!!! We were somewhat puzzled as there was a number of small groups of people queuing either side of the open doors. So we bowed to all and sundry on either side and stepped on to the train. We worked our way up to carriage 1 without finding a single free seat. Of course this is why those lovely calm Japanese people were queuing. They were waiting for the next train!!!! We disembarked, red faced, and joined them. This time we were fourth in the queue. The bullet train to Kyoto runs every 30 minutes, bang on time, every time. Our 7.33 train rolled into the station and we quickly found a seat.
Bullet trains resemble the TGV in France but they are longer and the seating is much more spacious. The train quickly filled and off we went. At the first stop, which was the one near our studio, those getting on had to stand. The trip takes 2.45hr. Even small children stood quietly. One hears about how spoiled Japanese children are but this has not been our experience. They are delightful. One strange custom is that one is expected to stand up for children on the metro. Men do not stand for women unless they are old or infirm.
The trip from Tokyo to Kyoto passes through very flat land, with mostly rice crops, backed by mountains. We flew by Mt Fugi in the blink of an eye. I had just time to ‘snap’ it in a “we were here” type photo.
There is no food served on the bullet so on arrival we sought and found a nice cafe in Kyoto station and ate the biggest sandwiches I have ever seen.
Our landlady, Jasmin, had furnished us with detailed directions to our studio. We were disappointed to find that our JR Pass did not work on the Kyoto metro. We are staying only 4 stations from the centre. It is like a village within the city. Kyoto is so calm and serene after Tokyo – then anywhere would be! In Tokyo there are so many people moving about that on some footpaths, there is an arrow for the direction in which one is expected to walk.Also one ascends and descends stairways in predetermined directions. These are sensible precautions as one could be mowed down with the volume of people.
We found our studio which is on the 6th floor of a block. It is even tinier than the one in Tokyo.
In fact our Tokyo accommodation now seems palatial! But the quality is several rungs higher. In fact there are a lot of house rules to be followed. Two pairs of house slippers were sitting neatly at the entrance. Strange though, despite the higher quality, there are no knives. But there is a washing machine and a balcony with two bars on which to dry the clothes.
In fact one person and these bars fills the balcony completely. After a rest we set off to explore our surroundings and get some provisions. All the information was supplied with our paperwork so finding things was easy. Streets are on grid system so it is a little like a maze. Everything looks similar.
There are many more old wooden houses here, unlike Tokyo which is all modern and shiney. We took one of the recommendations, from our info, for a restaurant. We, and a single man, were the only guests. Because of the holiday most people seemed to be eating with their families. It was a delicious meal, cooked in front of us.
I had ordered a soup with ‘stringy’ eggs but it resembled closely, an omlette! My main course was veggie in a sauce. Delicious. We had a lot of bowing with the man eating alone until he took upon himself to teach us some Japanese much to the amusement of the two chefs. It was a lovely evening.
This morning we decided to visit the Imperial Garden Park which is within walking distance of us. At least it would have been if we had not taken off in the wrong direction! It was a lovely walk and, as usual, once we produced our useless map, a young girl jumped off her bicycle and came to our rescue.
The park is wonderful with a couple of old tea houses and temples which can be visited. The Imperial Palace is not open. The tea house, on the side of a very still pond, was such a place of peace and meditation.We sat there quietly for a while and allowed the atmosphere just washover us.
We had bought sushi for a picnic lunch which we ate in the park. Many families were having picnic lunches on the grass.
After a rest we set off for down town Kyoto. It is so calm compared to Tokyo. However it is holiday time. We visited a lovely garden in the city. Kyoto is the place to see Japanese gardens, a real treat.
Dinner was partaken in a city restaurant. Good but not brilliant.