We left Tokyo yesterday to travel to Kyoto. We also said goodbye to D as he was flying back to New York. His flight left at 3pm but he also wanted to do some shopping so he headed out at around 9am. The rest of us left at 10am (check out time of AirBnB). We did the 15 minute walk to Omori station (and I was sweating profusely by that time) and then 2 stops on the train to Shinagawa (pronounced, if you’re wondering, as Shi-na-ga-wa – said slowly with almost a brief pause between each syllable). We took the shinkansen (bullet train) from there to Kyoto. It took 2 hours 35 minutes. It is just over 450 kms and included 5 stops along the way. The fastest we tracked the speed was around 290 km/h.
It is very organised to board the train. You know your exact seat and carriage number and your exact board point is marked at a gate. In standard class there are 5 seats across (3 & 2) and so we had 3 seats next to each other. The trains are always on time. Over the whole of last year, the average delay was 42 seconds (not kidding). If the train is over 5 minutes delayed, the railway company will issue you with a formal letter stating the delay and the reasons. This is necessary because if you arrived at work late and stated ‘My train was delayed’ no one would believe you. Imagine that happening in the UK – they would be producing letters every day! If the train is delayed for an hour or more it makes the newspaper. The majority of train delays are due to power failures, typhoons, fires in nature (i.e. not related to the railway). Management don’t survive if the train delay is due to operational reasons of the train company.
We arrived in Kyoto at 1:45pm and as we hadn’t eaten lunch yet we found a restaurant nearby the station. It struck us immediately that Kyoto seems to be a much more modern city than Tokyo. Seems strange to say that but it really does come across that way. The station is like arriving at any major western city station – major mall and station concourse. We had probably our best Japanese food so far for lunch. It was a lunch tray which included a soup, main dish & rice, side dish, salad and desert. B & M had sweet & sour pork as their main dish and I had a seafood plate with a side of sweet & sour pork. Each meal cost around Yen1400 (about R200; $14).
We then headed to our AirBnB. The one downside of Kyoto is that the rail network is not as extensive as Tokyo. It means either more walking or using the buses/taxis. We decided to try out the bus (which was covered by our railpass too). We managed to find the right bus queue and get onto the correct bus. We did manage to get off at roughly the right place too (by counting the stops and seeing how close we were on google maps to the AirBnB). We walked the balance of the way to the AirBnB. It is a much more traditional accommodation. It is entirely made of wood with very thin walls (yes even the toilet). The downstairs consists of a small entrance area, kitchenette, lounge, shower & laundry (in one) and toilet. Upstairs basically has 5 beds separate by sliding bamboo doors. 2 of the beds. We discovered last night that all the light switches are in B’s room. He has the one nearest the door – M & I have to go through his room to exit the bedroom.
B & I went out and found a supermarket (much bigger than the ones we had seen in Tokyo at any point) and bought some stuff for dinner (we did a chicken stir fry which M cooked for us) and breakfast. Early evening (before dinner) we decided to walk to the Nishiki Market which is only 800m from our place. It is where the Kyoto chefs buy their produce. The traditional (food market) side was actually being closed (it seems to start closing at 6pm) so we will need to go back at some point in next 2 days before it closes. The Nishiki market is connected into the Teramachi market and that just seems to go on forever and it is a collection of shops selling absolutely anything and everything. We walked around for about 90 minutes and then decided to head back to make supper.
Until tomorrow …
P, B & M