May 10th, 2019

tetsujin de kuma

To Kyoto

Got a pretty decent night's sleep at the Hotel Nikko. The breakfast buffet was large, varied, and tasty, and a nice indulgence to start things off with. We took our time getting ready, but having woken up around 6, we were still ready to head out by mid-morning.

We have J-Rail passes for the trip, but we had to stop by the office at the train station (which is also right there at the airport) to turn in our vouchers for actual tickets. After that, we made our way into the station -- oops, no, it's the other side of the station, because there are multiple train systems here -- and discovered that the limited express to Kyoto was leaving in just 3 minutes. Hooray! Also, it's a Hello Kitty themed train. Double hooray!

We didn't have reserved seats, so we had to stand for the first couple stops, but happily some seats opened up as people got off, so we were able to sit for most of the way. I enjoyed watching the city go by until my eyes got tired, and then I went back to reading my book. Japan has a very distinctive architectural style, which I recognize more than anything from playing EDF (the video game where you blow up giant bugs with a rocket launcher), so there was a part of my brain going "okay, that building is probably three boost jumps to get up on top of, and would make a good vantage point for dealing with a big wave of enemies"...

We arrived in Kyoto around lunchtime, where we're staying at Dozen Ryokan, which is a medium-short walk from the train station. (That's not "do-zen", it's dozen as in twelve, the number of guest rooms.) We dropped our luggage off, then decided to get lunch at the little attached restaurant. Jerry had curry and I had a salmon poke bowl, and they were both very tasty. And then we discovered that the restaurant was cash-only, and we had forgotten to change any money. Whoops!

So we wandered off to do some sightseeing and find an ATM. We found a little shrine next to the river and an unused playground with a slide made out of concrete (that might have something to do with it). Found the ATM at a convenience store, and it turns out the ATM fee was 100 yen (less than a dollar) plus a very small (~1%?) international visa fee, which is a way better deal than you'll find at any currency exchange, so just pulling the money straight out is definitely the way to go.

The train station across the river turned out to be the wrong rail line, so we headed back and stopped at Shoseien Gardens, which is all of a block away from the ryokan. It's a little run-down, but still pretty. There were several cranes, and the azaleas and water lilies are in bloom. Got back to the ryokan and paid off our tab, and by now our room was ready and we were able to get settled in.

We still had a couple hours of day and now we had cash for the bus and suchlike, so we decided to go visit Kiyomizu-dera. I'm pretty sure I saw it with my Dad when we visited Japan when I was in middle school, but we didn't actually go in, we just had a look at the outside front parts. (Which there are a lot of, and they're pretty nifty.)

This time we went inside and had time to go check out all the different buildings and sites. It's a big tourist site, but it's also a functioning temple, so there are lots of places to make a donation and write down your wish and have the priest pray for it to come true on the first and third Sunday of the month, and stuff like that.

At the entrance to the main hall they have a pair of iron shoes and two big iron staffs that legend says an arrogant monk was cursed to wear/carry. Some people can manage to lift the smaller staff, but not the big one. We did, because we lifted it together. :) We also stopped by the shrine of achievement and did the walk from one stone to another that gives you a happy love life if you do it with your eyes closed. Then we went along the trail to go see the pavilion that you can see across the little valley and managed to miss the turn and walk off the temple property along a dirt road a quarter mile toward some entirely different temple that was closed. ("This is how I accidentally climbed a mountain last time," says Jerry.) But we saw some kitties, so it was okay. We also ran across a fox spirit shrine behind one of the temple buildings on our way back. I like being on a lax enough timetable that we can just poke around all the interesting nooks and crannies we come across.

For dinner we decided to just stop by a supermarket and get some prepared stuff to take back to the room, and that turned out to be entirely satisfying. Took showers, lounged around the room, caught up on internet, found out that we walked 9 miles according to Jerry's phone, and went to bed.