Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Asia trip part 7 - Kyoto
Disembark day had finally arrived as we woke up in the port city of Kobe, Japan. We decided it was the perfect length for a cruise - two weeks. One is not enough but we were ready to go onto something else by that point. Disembarkation was super smooth, we walked off, cleared customs and went upstairs to the metro stop and caught a train to another station where we took an express train to Kyoto. The train was fast and efficient.
The train station in Kyoto was enormous. And just humming with activity. Serge had scoped out the walk from there to our hotel on Google Earth, so he led the way there, maybe a three minute walk. Perfect! We couldn't get into our room though because it was only 10:30 in the morning. We sat in the "Seattle's Best Coffee" attached to the lobby and caught up on our Facebook and emails before heading out to explore. We were told to come back at 3 to get into the room.
First thing we did was walk over to the Kyoto tower to get up high and have a look. It was more spread out than we had imagined but there was a subway system for the 1.5 million inhabitants. We spotted some shrines or temples and a park and decided on a walking route.
But we were hungry first. We scoped out the food floor of a department store and finally settled on this place where we pointed at pictures of things in the menu to eat. Everything was delicious even though we weren't sure exactly what it was. There was shrimp and there was pork, rice and different saucy things. Then miso soup at the end. Yum. Our first Japanese meal was a success.
First we went to a park we had spotted from the tower. There was a fee at the entrance to the park, something like five dollars. As you can see it was cherry blossom season and as we learned later, the Japanese flock to Kyoto for the occasion. The park was just beautiful and well worth the fee.
I had already bumped my head like ten times in Japan at this point. I felt like a giant, especially here on the footbridge. I was WAY too tall for that. Serge fit though.
Kyoto was just littered with shrines. We visited several, taking off our shoes in order to enter. Although they were different than those in China, they all had a similar style. We didn't end up going to the Imperial Palace. I hadn't done my homework and you have to apply for admission in advance. Takes at least two weeks. I just figured we'd go visit, oh well, something to do on a future Japan trip.
This was in the big train station. Cracked me up. In Japanese they have a sound which is kind of between an L and an R. And although my Japanese students have learned to make the difference in the sounds, they have a very difficult time hearing the difference.
We strolled along the river and then we went back to the hotel and checked into our tiny tiny room. Seriously, the smallest room we have ever had, even smaller than the Hudson hotel in Manhattan. Remember that?
I don't know, you be the judge. I think it is smaller. Definitely smaller than the cruise ship cabin, that's for sure.
Then we met up with a group of people to do a walking tour in the part of the city where it's possible to see Geisha girls. It was fun too because there were half a dozen people from the cruise ship who had the same idea. One couple from the Toronto area ended up having the exact same itinerary as us. It was funny when we got to Tokyo and we learned they were even staying at the same hotel as us. What a coincidence. Anyway, we learned all about the geisha girls and even glimpsed a few. Never got a good photo though.
Then we were starved and started looking for a place to eat. We found a really great place that also happened to be in our tourbook. It was a special kind of okinamiyaki, specialty in Kyoto. There were blow up dolls at each table although you don't see that here. Geisha town don't you know.
It was fantabulous! This was the only thing the restaurant served. It would be impossible for me to describe it. If you ever get a chance to try regular okinomiyaki, you should. Yum. You can see more pics of this place here
Then we went looking for a gay club we had read about in the guidebook. When we finally found it, fifth floor, no name on the door. We were told that it was Japanese only, sorry sorry sorry. Apparently, this is fairly common in Japan. Can you imagine having a business do that here? No Japanese allowed? We didn't know what to think. The guy was SUPER sorry and bowing even as he directed us out.
So we walked all the back to our hotel room and donned our Yukatas as I learned they are called. Basically a thin fabric robe. We liked them so much we asked when we checked out if we could buy them. The answer was NO. We kinda wished we had put them in our luggage.
The next day we headed over to the Kaleidoscope Museum. They wouldn't let you take any pictures inside which I didn't understand. But it was fun looking at and in a couple hundred. Some of them were really neat. We ended up buying one as our souvenir from Kyoto.
Then we went to a very crowded farmer's market type of place with all kinds of things for sale. We ended up coming back three times for the sashimi on a stick. I thought it was a great idea. I wonder if that would fly here or where you live. For $2 it seemed a bargain.
That is one happy hubby.
There were many things that were impossible for us to identify. Later, my Japanese friend clued us in. "This is "Narazuke"pickled melon with sake lees. Wash it cut in small slice and eat with rice. Sweet and salty.
Delicious!" Not sure I understand even with the explanation, lol.
I was really excited when I spotted the takoyaki booth. Yum! It's basically an octopus dumpling with a yummy sauce. I was a little disappointed at the TINY piece of octopus in the middle. My goal was to eat okinomiyaki, takoyaki and tonkatsu. I had already gotten two off my list.
As you may have heard, there are vending machines everywhere in Japan. Inside, outside, everywhere. What we found cool was that there were both hot and cold beverages available and beer too! The is Serge trying a milky tea beverage. He liked it.
After that we decided to take a train ride up through a gorge. This was a very popular attraction with the Japanese because it was beautiful with all the cherry blossoms in bloom. Unfortunately for us, we got the train car with no windows and it began to rain. It was one chilly ride.
This guy was some sort of entertainment on the train. He scared the crap out of me when he came up behind me. But he was very nice and spoke English to me. He asked if I was a movie star or actor. I said no. He said, You so handsome. It was cute and then he asked if anyone wanted to take a picture with us and the little girl did.
It was cloudy and rainy and we were on a moving train, but I think you can get an idea of how lovely it was.
Well blogger has stopped letting me upload photos for some reason. Maybe I have some kind of limit? Let's see if I can use a Facebook link. Can't embed the photos, guess you will just have to click the link and the pic will open in a new window.
This picture is of Serge with our transparent umbrellas. We had to buy them and I loved them but they were too big to fit in our suitcases so we didn't bring them home.
Then we went out to eat. It was another great meal. We were really loving eating.
Finally we went back up the tower to the bar and had some cognac to finish off the night.
One more post to go for Tokyo.