Tokyo - Day 8 Kyoto. Sunday, December 18, 2016

Elaine:

We knew we wanted to take at least one ride on a bullet train and Kyoto was a common recommended destination, so off we went! We woke up late, but decided to go anyways because the weather forecast for the Kyoto for the rest of the week looked like rain.

We booked tickets to Kyoto on the Nozomi train - the fastest train running along the Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen line. It reaches speeds of 300km/h! It takes about 2hrs 20min for this route - the Hikari takes 2hrs 40min and Kodama takes over 4hrs!

Kirk:

Vancouver to Portland is the same distance as Tokyo to Kyoto, but getting to Portland on train takes 8 hours.

Elaine:

Trains are extremely punctual in Japan. Usually running within 6 seconds of schedule! More on this later... We tried to pick up food before getting on, but I was a little wary of spending time selecting from the different bento boxes offered in case I were to miss the train. We had already picked up a few rice balls earlier, but we needed more than that for the 2+ hours ahead of us as we hadn’t eaten anything yet. I read about self-heating bento boxes but everything was in Japanese and I didn’t have time to try using Google Translate :( I ended up picking up a basic cold bento box and some general snacks for the kids from a kiosk just outside the train door.

We did not upgrade to a “green car” - the equivalent of business class, but the general reserved seats were quite nice. Similar to a plane seat, but with more leg room. I can’t remember if we mentioned this or not, but people are expected to take their garbage home with them. So on the train, when we ordered coffees, we were also provided plastic bags - for us to take our disposable coffee cups with us off the train.

We had beautiful weather. The view out the window was amazing, but if you blinked for too long it was gone. At one point I said “look there’s the water” but before Kirk could look out the window the view was gone. Luckily there was plenty of time to take photos of Mt. Fuji. We also had a super clear view of it.

I let the kids decide between visiting Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Pavilion) or Ginkaku-ji (The Silver Pavilion). They chose Kinkaku-ji. It was originally built in the 14th century. The grounds and the pavilion were beautiful. The site itself was really touristy and commercial - a little oft putting, but... we are tourists.

We wanted to visit Arashiyama Bamboo Grove but it closed at sunset, and we wouldn’t get there in time. Instead we decided to take our time walking to another train station. We stopped at Emmachi Station, a tiny little station in a suburb. When we got to the platform the kids exclaimed how beautiful the view was. It never occurred to me, but I guess all the stations around Tokyo are enclosed and you never actually see anything from any of the platforms.

Although it was too late to see the Arashiyama we had time to go to Fushimi Inari Shrine where thousands of gates lead into the forest of Mount Inari leading you on a 2-3 hour hike. We were only able to go part way up as it was getting dark and the site was closing soon. We were fortunate to see it as the sun was setting.

Food has been one of the highlights of this trip! Kyoto did not disappoint. The kids both had these meat wrapped rice balls which they couldn’t stop gushing about. They call them “heaven in a ball” - kids are so funny.

Our trip to Kyoto was pretty uneventful until the end. When we arrived in Kyoto we had booked our return tickets to Tokyo and had stashed an emergency overnight bag at the train station. We finished dinner about an hour before our train was to leave.

We left plenty of time to get our bag and up to the train platform... if we didn’t get lost in the maze of the train station! OMG talk about cutting it close. We were running all over the place. Once we finally figured out where we were Kirk ran furiously to retrieve our overnight bag and we ran up the escalators to the train platform. We were running for our designated car when we realized we were going the wrong way - that’s when I yelled "forget it, just get on the train!" We got on the train within seconds of it starting to leave. Whew.

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