Japan – Day 5 – Kyoto day 2

We were up by 8 am, and down to the hotel lobby for our included breakfast. It was the most American thing we ate our entire time in Japan, but since it was included in the price of the room, I wasn’t complaining.

I had poached eggs, DLJ had scrambled, toast, muffins, a small breakfast salad of fruit, tea and juice. We went back upstairs and packed, checked out, and stowed our stuff in cloak check so that we could explore for the day without dragging the stuff around. We went to two large temples the opposite direction from where we walked the previous day. The first had the largest wooden building in the world. It was being renovated so it was hidden beneath a metal shell of a larger building, so the view from outside was clearly not impressive. But it was open inside and the floor was the size of over 920 tatami mats. Definitely beautiful.
From there we wandered to another temple, also with a building under renovation! But a smaller one was not so we removed our shoes and walked up the stairs. An older man slid open the door for us and….*gulp!* A ceremony! Hundreds kneeling on the floor, people in robes! We dropped to our knees by the door. I felt completely out of it as a foreigner, but fascinated to see this. We stayed for about five minutes before beating a quiet retreat back outside. As we put our shoes back on, singing started to emnate from the building. We walked back to the road and along the outside of the temple back towards the train station, ducking into a small entrance into the same temple to check out a smaller building. No one was in that one, and for a few minutes even DLJ wasn’t there, it was fun to stand in the temple alone.
And then we were off again, back to the huge train station to catch a local train to Inari to get to the Fushimi Inari Shrine.
We found the train, and the stop just fine. DLJ got a cheesecake and strawberry ice cream out of a vending machine and we left the station. The shrine was easy to find due to the massive orange gate right across the street. The shrine is huge, with hundreds of fox statues, as the fox is the messenger of the god Inari. Trails take over two hours to complete, through forest, by lakes, up hills and through tunnels of torii, the orange gates given by those whose wishes were answered. I am a stone lantern (ishidoro) junkie, and this place was heaven. It was a sunny day, causing the inside of the tunnels of torii to glow. There were small restaurants along the way serving tofu and noodles, but we were full, though the restaurants looked like a lovely place to stop and rest. My friend Berto was absolutely right…we bought our drinks at the bottom as the prices on the vending machines rose as you started hiking away from the main gate.
We made good progress but did not walk everywhere, as we had to get back to town and start our way back to Tokyo. I think this shrine was my favorite place, as it held so many things that fascinated me about Japan when I was a little girl, gates, lanterns, statues. We saw many cats weaving in and out of the endless pockets of small shrines and offerings that were draped all over the pathways.
Our trip back to the train station was easy, and we had one more stop that we had to get to on time…the English tour at the Imperial Palace. English tours happen only twice a day, and you have to first get to this little “application office” and show your passport, fill out a form and gain a “permission slip” to enter. I felt like I was in elementary school. We got our slip shortly before two and speed walked to the gate, gaining entrance.
The tour was just of the grounds, people can enter the palace only on a few days a year. But it was completely worth it to wander the outsides of the buildings, visit the formal gardens, and explore the business and living areas of the old palace from when Kyoto was the capital of Japan. The tour guide had good information and it was the largest gathering of foreigners I saw my entire time. At one point, an Asian tour went by the other direction, they had us going in opposite loops.
By the end of the tour, which lasted an hour, we were exhausted, and trooped back to the subway, back to the train station, back to the hotel, got our bags, back to the train station and slumped down into seats on the shinkansen. It was a sunny day and great for watching the scenery fly by outside the windows. We got some baked goods to eat on the way home, and arrived in Tokyo after dark. We made it all the way through several train changes back to J and M’s city inside Tokyo, with only one goof up of getting on an express that went by the station we wanted, so we went to the next one and turned around and came back. We walked back to their place without needing to look at the directions J kindly made for us. He was home and happy to see us. We left soon for dinner, a wonderful treat of a local place, nothing fancy. I had cold buckwheat noodles and a bowl of rice with katsu on top, along with a lovely sauce I had had at their apartment. I have got to see if the local giant Japanese place here has it.
It was nice to be back with friends, but I was glad to have given them a break from us while we explored another city.
Then it was home for the usual cup of brown tea and talking before we all retired to bed. One full day left to explore, and the big day where we met M’s parents!

cat in the Inari shrine on a statue of kitsune.

This guy looks like he stole his glasses from Leela on Futurama!

Random Japan Pics

I can’t even remember if I posted this one. Wierd statue in a back shopping alley in Tokyo.

Large and small torii gates at the Fushimi Imari shrine. The small ones are left by people asking for their wishes to be heard.

Shrines and temples have areas to purify before entering. Each has running water and ladles to ladel water over one’s hands. Some people rinse their mouths out as well. I was fascinated by the dragon at this one in Kyoto.

A local train trundling by near the Edo Maru (museum) in Tokyo.

I was just fascinated, amused, and sometimes apalled by the fashion on streets and trains. I loved this group, the woman on the left never stopped preening and staring at herself in the window reflections and mirror, high heeled fuck-me boots with tight jeans. Next, an Elvis style popular due to a Japanese band that had adopted the look, and a wholesome schoolgirl on the right.

J has a livejournal. If you feel like reading his version of things, it’s in his journal.

Japan Day 4 – Trip to Kyoto

Day 4. Train to Kyoto.
Note: I am a little distracted and sad as I write this. Mu, the dog of the fine folks J and M we stayed with in Japan, died within 24 hours of our leaving. I feel really sad that perhaps we kept them from being with her as much as they could her last week, or that we prevented them from taking care of her by trying to keep us happy and amused our last day and and a half in Tokyo. Mu was a darling dog and we loved living with her for the days we were there. She was old and definitely acting sick by Friday evening. It was apparent things were not right all week, but she was still happy, and having not known her previously, I had no way of knowing how sick she was. =( I am so glad we got to meet her, her tail thumped everytime we got near and she was a happy, good dog. But I feel really bad we were in the way in such a time. I knew she was really sick by Saturday morning, and I know M was especially distracted. I didn’t say a word as I understood completely, for both of them, though perhaps I should have said that “not being on best behavior in front of us was ok.” What was wrong with her was serious, I don’t know if any medical help could have done anything other than prolong her agony…but I still feel very sad. I am glad though, that her decline was very rapid at the end, and she had a fun last week filled with lots of attention, love, and crazy Americans come to visit her. DLJ took two cute photos of her but I am hesitant to post them until J and M are feeling better, and are ready to see it should they read my entry.

J took us to the main train line Wednesday morning for our two day sojourn to Kyoto, and we waved as we went through. In our day bag was enough clothes to get us back, the computer, some books and a handy package of directions and notes provided by J and M. We stopped and bought bento boxes from a small vendor before climbing aboard. We got on a car that was non-reserved, but smoking. UGH! DLJ found a seat and I was off immediately to check if there was such a thing as a non-smoking non-reserved car. Two cars up, there was. I came back and got him and we fled the smoke-soaked cars. Even after only being in there a few minutes, it took more than a half hour for my hair and clothes to air out. We sat on the right side of the train; if it was clear we would be able to see Fuji-san, the fabled mountain of Japan.
The trip to Kyoto was about three hours at most on the shinkansen, or Bullet Train. And it was FAST. Eventually the thought crossed my mind how obliterated we would be if it went off the tracks while rocketing at full speed. Of course, such a train is connected to the tracks way more firmly than would ever let that happen. But it was the first train I had been on where the train seriously banked on turns, causing the world to come in at a slant. as if all the construction occured leaning downhill.
Finding the hotel was more difficult than it should have been, simply because the station was so LARGE. We walked around a block we didn’t have to to get to the entrance, but no harm done. We checked in and went up to our room on the 9th floor. It had a large bed, tea, a radio in the headboard, slippers, and a full bath complete with crazy toilet and fully-stocked bathtub.
I really wanted a nap but couldn’t fully fall asleep.
So instead we wandered out into Kyoto. We were trying to find the tourist office which literally took an hour to find, as the info we had was several years old. Instead of an obvious streetfront it was on a top floor in a large mall in back, boring corridors. I was pretty frustrated but it was worth the maps we got in the end, and we set out to try to find a temple. This wasn’t hard. In Kyoto temples and shrines are everywhere, like Starbucks in America.
But after a few blocks, DLJ started looking at the map and being confused. I stopped a young guy on a bike and managed to get him to point where we were now…exactly 180 degrees opposite of where DLJ thought we were. But ahead of us, what do you know! A large temple! So we went in, and we scored jackpot. It cost us about 500 yen each to enter, but inside was amazing! Acres of grounds of gardens, the largest pagoda in the town, it was huge! And large lecture buildings filled with gold statues of the Buddha, the Gods of War and the Guardians. Everything was so large, and quiet. We strolled around until the place closed at 5, then wandered the backstreets back to our hotel, finding small shrines and interesting buildings along the way. One very small neighborhood shrine was tucked away, helter skelter and had a cute black cat sitting inside. Some of our best findings in Japan were those we got just by taking a stroll.
Our feet were TIRED when we got back. Everyday we walked so much, we always had foot fatigue by day’s end.
Back to the hotel, still no nap.
Instead DLJ and I engaged in some couple-monkey business as we had been on best behavior at our friends’ house. ;)
I then took a much-needed bath, soaking in the tub and relaxing. The room had Japanese style robes, I tied one around me after the bath and we hung out for an hour before figuring out dinner. We had had a place recommended to us but we were so tired, and it was 20 minutes at least by public transit to get to, once we figured out at the front desk where it was. So instead we opted for the top floor bunch of restaurants in a nearby mall at the train station. The whole area was called The Cube. There were so many choices of varying price and kind, the train station simply was SO huge, along with the mall that it encased. We chose a place with simple Japanese fair, DLJ had some tempura and rice and I had chilled udon with bonito flakes, shrimp, a raw egg, nori, and daikon radish.
We paid and left and went out another door, and found that a whole outside area of escalators and stairs went all the way back down to street level, as well as one more level up. We went up top and found a rooftop garden area, as well as walls made of glass so that you could look out over the city. We saw the temple with the pagoda, the Kyoto Tower, it was a clear night and very beautiful. Then we took the escalators back down and walked the short walk back to the hotel, where I promptly fell asleep and DLJ watched “Bladerunner” on the computer. All the motorcycles, city buildings and narrow streets got to him, I guess!

Lunch on the shinkansen (bullet train). This cost 1100 yen.

The pagoda at the first temple we visited. I’ll find the name eventually. ;)

A large lecture hall near the pagoda at a Buddhist shrine in Kyoto.

After dinner at the top of the Cube, the largest department store/train station combo I have ever SEEN.

Nighttime shot from the top of the The Cube. The brown glow near center is the shrine with the pagoda we walked to.

Later today I will post some more pictures without trip journal. It’s 6:50 AM, I have been up since about 3, but most of that just laying in bed thinking. I’ll try to stay awake till normal bedttime tonight.