It was time to bid farewell to Hiroshima and begin the next leg of our journey. So we hopped on the bullet train to begin the trip to Kyoto.
Kyoto was once the capital of Japan and is famed for its numerous shrines (in excess of 1,000!!!) We had comfortable reserved seating on the Shinkansen which almost felt like a first class trip this time and made it to Kyoto in short order. A brief ten minute walk led us to our new temporary home.
This was easily the favorite of our lodgings, though we still have one more to visit before this trip is done. This house was luxurious and could easily accommodate 4 people. We had a den which held a massage chair to soothe those sore muscles. A nice living room/dining room area with TV. A laundry room with a combo washer/dryer unit. We even had an electronic bathroom with a talking tub. This tub will fill a hot bath for you at the push of a button and recycle the water to keep it hot during the duration of your soak. We also had a comfortable upstairs loft.
It was a relief to set down our things and unwind for a bit. Then some bad news hit. Mat was ill. With our guide and resident translator down for the count, I became the de facto guide for our journey for the next couple of days.
In the evening we walked to Aeon Mall, a high-end shopping center near our house to find some dinner. They had a food court on the fourth floor with a wide variety of food which I was glad of. I’ve enjoyed the food over here, but I’ve noticed that the menus tend to be similar from place to place unless you hit up a fast food joint.
I found a curry restaurant and ordered chicken in a spicy curry with rice and water for my dinner and enjoyed a tangy, tasty meal. Afterwards we found yet another arcade and Dave won some more prizes and was now in dire need to buy a new suitcase since he had purchased or won so much stuff on our trip. Getting one at Aeon Mall was out as its high-end nature made the cheapest bag a mere $200.
We put that problem to the side and returned to the house for a well deserved rest.
Another Sunday in Japan meant another day without church. But, again, our little group of 3 (Mat was still unwell) went to a couple of Kyoto’s famed shrines and temples.
We found a little one at first and it seemed like a christening or blessing was taking place for a newborn. When the new family left, I walked into the area, but the monk held up his hands (a local sign for no) and I stepped right back out.
It was a quick exploration and then we came to Toji Temple. Now this was an impressive site and dwarfed Meiji Shrine in terms of size. The hallmark of this Buddhist temple was a 6 story pagoda. They also had some worship areas and it was very calming to hear the chants and intonations as the worshippers sent prayers to Buddha. Due to the holy ground, photos were not permitted inside the worship areas, but they had some beautiful statues and art pieces. They also used a very potent incense which quickly drove me back outside. Strong incense and I are old foes as I’ve had some fainting spells when exposed to it especially when combined with my other nemeses, high heat and humidity. I was feeling a little heady and sat down for a moment to clear my head.
When we were done looking around, we stopped at a little restaurant near to our house called Tenkaippin, which ended up being another ramen restaurant. I had a light and refreshing Assari soup which was made from chicken stock and vegetables and a soy sauce broth.
We returned to the inn after picking up some soup for Mat and relaxed for the afternoon. As I feared, my exposure to the incense played havoc with my head and it was pounding. I took a pair of aspirin from Dave and then collapsed for a 2 hour nap. The combination of aspirin and rest did the trick as I felt remarkably better after I awoke.
It was dinnertime so I led the group back to Aeon Mall where we ate at Kitano Grill and this was probably the best meal of the trip due to its variety. This menu was unlike those of other restaurants and I ended up choosing a delicious chicken and rice casserole which hit the spot.
With full stomachs, it was back to the house to close out the night.
Mat had a little of his vim and vigor back and it would be needed as we would be taking a half-day sightseeing tour that morning.
We went to our meeting place and hopped on a bus that took us to Nijo Castle to start the tour.
Nijo Castle was once the home of the shogun, head of all sumarai and the de facto leader of Japan. The emperor ruled politically, but the shogun was viewed as the true ruler due to military might. Nijo Castle really wasn’t a castle, just two sets of large buildings called palaces. The inner palace was being renovated so our tour was limited to the gardens and outer palace which were both quite impressive.
Like Toji Temple, pictures were forbidden inside Nijo Castle, but there were some beautiful paintings inside and the most interesting thing were the nightingale floors. Nightingale floors were a security system of feudal Japan and they sing like nightingales when you walk on them.
We spent an hour at the castle before heading to Kitano Tenmangu, a Shinto shrine. I was surprised to see that, in structure, there is little difference between a Buddhist shrine and a Shinto shrine. The only real difference is that prayers in a Buddhist shrine are offered to Buddha and in Shinto they are offered to nature. Again, we enjoyed the beautiful architecture for an hour before heading to our last stop.
Our last stop was the Golden Pavilion, known for its lush gardens and a golden pagoda. Once more, we spent an hour admiring the gardens, especially a 600 year old bonsai and the gorgeous structures on the grounds.
After this stop, a hard rain began as the result of another typhoon working its way across the country though it’s supposed to clear in a short time. Our bus took us back to our starting point and Dave took advantage of the shopping center to find a third piece of luggage to lug his swag back to the States. He was able to find one for the more reasonable price of $98.
Lunch was next on our minds and we found a kaiten belt (conveyor belt) sushi restaurant, not only to have something a little bit different, but would be fair to Mat. Since you are only charged by the plate, Mat would pay only what he felt equal to eating since his appetite was still tanked.
I enjoyed salmon, shrimp, and roast beef variations of sushi which perked me up. A veritable cloudburst erupted during lunch so Mat and I walked home in the rain while Amy and Dave went to visit Aeon Mall and the shopping center at Kyoto Avanti respectively.
Mat rested while I conducted some business for my impending return to the States and wrote up this article. The rain seems poised to keep us indoors for the rest of the night, so only 1 full day left to go before this epic journey reaches its conclusion.