Note: You can view Mick’s photos & video for this day here.
It being April 1 here in Japan, I’m obviously a bit behind in blogging since Mick’s birthday was on March 28. Still, I don’t think I’m doing too bad a job keeping you all up-to-date on our trip. That said, this will probably be my last post until we get back to the U.S. on Monday. We leave Japan tomorrow (April 2) at 5pm and arrive in Los Angeles at around 12pm the same day. On with the post!
So, today was the day Mick turned 40, and we began it by checking out of our hotel and walking to Tokyo Station to catch the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto. Read Mick’s thoughts about buying the tickets.
We arrived in good time for the train and went to wait on our platform. Navigating train stations in Japan is really pretty simple since most of the signs are also in English. The most confusing part is actually figuring out what fare to pay since quite often these signs have no English translations. It’s not a big deal though because if you pay the wrong fare you can just go to the fare adjustment window when you get to your destination and pay the correct amount to leave the station.
Here comes the train!
We found our seats, which were very comfortable. I love train travel so I was looking forward to the trip. Almost immediately after the train left, an attendant came by with a cart selling snacks and drinks.
Since the ride to Kyoto was about 2 hours, I decided to use the time to get some of my blogging done. In this picture, I am blogging about our day in Nishi Nippori and Ueno.
Even though blogging this trip has taken some time, it has been a wonderful way of recording everything we’ve done. We are doing so much that it’s easy to forget this thing or that, and writing about it along the way has made it easier to remember. I don’t regret the time spent at all.
When we arrived in Kyoto, we took a taxi to our ryokan (which I will blog about in excruciating detail in my next post). We couldn’t check in until 3pm so we left our bags and began our sight-seeing.
Our next stop was at a small shrine, where I purchased an offering. They came in all different colors and I chose a white one because I thought my writing would show up better. I wrote "World Peace" and a peace sign. I also wrote "Santa Monica, CA, USA," and the date.
I tied up my offering like the rest of them (all of the ones I saw had Japanese writing on them).
By this time, Mick and I were both pretty hungry. We stopped at a traditional restaurant that served tofu. I was particularly interested in it because they served yuba, which is made of tofu skin. My friend Tracy had mentioned how good it is so I wanted to try it. It was very good, but you had better like tofu if you want to try it because otherwise I doubt you’d like it. Mick ordered another tofu dish. Both of our meals included tempura. Japanese tempura is simply delicious–much better than any I’ve had in America (I think I might’ve already said that somewhere else). I’ll miss it.
Despite the look on his face, Mick really was enjoying his birthday lunch.
After all that worrying I’d done about having to remove my shoes in Japan, would you believe that this (day 5) was the first time we had to do it? The restaurant had tatami mat flooring, so we had to remove our shoes at the bottom of the stairs and leave them on shelves. This is me, putting my shoes back on.
Our main sight-seeing spot on this day was to be Kiyomizu-dera, one of the most visited temples in Kyoto. The walk leading to it was full of interesting sights itself, however.
They weren’t kidding when they said it was one of Kyoto’s most visited spots. There were tourists everywhere.
Kyoto is known for its shopping, particularly its traditional crafts and sweets. One of its specialities is Japanese fans, which is one of the traditional crafts that originated in Japan, not China (unlike pottery and dolls).
Kyoto pottery is some of the finest in Japan:
For Mick’s birthday, I bought him a beer glass, and then later I bought myself a tea bowl.
Another specialty of Kyoto is sweets:
You couldn’t walk two feet without seeing one of these sweet shops. Even a sumo wrestler needs his sweets!
Kyoto, particularly Gion, is known for its geishas. I’m not sure if these women were real geishas, but they looked pretty anyway:
One option for those too tired to walk: a rickshaw.
When we finally got to Kiyomizu-dera, we turned around on the steps and Mick got this picture, which I love:
Here we are at the entrance:
Kiyomizu-dera is beautiful and unique among the temples we’ve seen, as it is built into a hillside with 139 giant pillars supporting part of its main hall:
Mick purifies himself, above, while I ring the prayer bell:
I took a moment to rub the Buddha for good luck. The woman ahead of me took it very seriously. She was rubbing that Buddha like there was no tomorrow, then rubbing parts of herself–her hair, shoulders, back–even her bottom! I settled for a quick rub on my hair.
On our way back to the ryokan I was lucky enough to see some corgis. I’m actually surprised by the number of purebred corgis I’ve seen here.