I arrived on Monday by way of the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, which was actually a pretty cool experience. The train runs at speeds up to 300 km/h – it was a little weird to be walking in the train car in the opposite direction.
Anyway it took about 2.5 hours, vs 8 hours by bus, so I consider it a win. A little expensive, I think it was about $150 one way, but… it was an experience!
So I arrived on Monday, navigated the transit system very successfully thanks to a very kind gentleman who was a volunteer interpreter at the Kyoto train station – he clearly recognized the “duh” tourist look as I was looking at the map and walked me to the bus stop, told me how to ride it (you board on the back of the bus, and don’t pay until you get off, which is done at the front of the bus), and was generally very kind. Bus was uneventful, though a little packed and uncomfortable for someone wearing two large backpacks lol.
Arrived at my stop, got off, had a map (A MAP! Not an iPhone :(), navigated my way around and successfully found the hostel after only passing by it once! I’m getting better at this.
Didn’t do too much that day, I walked around and got to know the area a bit, found some food, soaked up the wifi at the hostel and went to bed.
In the morning I met up with Masashi, a great guy that I met at iRYLA in Montreal. He very generously offered me a big chunk of his time this week, and has been showing me around Kyoto yesterday and today! Very lucky to have him – it’s a huge help to be following someone who knows where he’s going! He grew up in Kyoto and seems to know the city like the back of his hand.
So… first day, yesterday, was pretty much temple day. We went to an unknown number of temples and shrines lol. Just a ton of them. Some were huge, and we went in, he explained to me the different Gods that were there, who you pray to and for what, and a little about Buddhism. So quite interesting to see – especially looking at some of these things that are quite old!
We did a ton of walking around, made it to a number of places in the area, stopped by the University to have lunch with a friend of his (I tried Japanese Curry!), and then returned to the hostel by way of a cool little street/outdoor mall very close by. Great first day, and much more than I would have seen on my own!!
Day three I got a bit of a late start – for some reason couldn’t fall asleep too well or quickly last night (I blame a ticking clock in my room), so met Masashi at the Kinkakuji temple, which is that giant, famous, World Heritage Site covered in gold. So that was pretty cool :p a very nice temple indeed! After that I hopped on the back of Masashi’s scooter (a first for me – not quite the Harley, Dad, but still cool lol) – a little chilly, but not too bad. We took a ride to another part of Kyoto, visited a couple of temples up there, walked through a Bamboo Forest, which was quite cool, had traditional Japanese tea (and a sweet), tried another kind of sweet, which I don’t recall the name of, and walked around the beautiful area that we were in!
After that we jumped back on the scooter and made our way back towards the city a bit, to finish up at a food place which served something comparable to Tepanyaki back home. It had a little grill in front of us, but they actually cook the food in the back, then bring it out to our table, turn the grill on, and it keeps it heated up and yummy.
So we had some yakisoba noodles and meat, which was delightful, and then we had something that I’ve never tried, and don’t recall the name of, which was basically a flour base, then cauliflower, some vegetables, egg and pork. It was actually pretty good – tried it with a couple of different sauces. I’ve never seen it before, don’t think it exists in Canada, so it was cool to try. Masashi is throwing as much traditional Japanese at me as he can :p very grateful to have him as my guide!
And that… was my day. Or two. Or three, technically. Lots more to do tomorrow, and I’m now staying until Friday then flying back to Tokyo for a very reasonable price, and from there – Seoul, South Korea where the weather is a balmy -5°! And there’s snow. So this will be my snow fill for Christmas. Because after that.. AUSTRALIA! Where the current weather is 21°. So I’m looking forward to that 🙂