Japan Day 7 – Kyoto

Thursday 12 January

Bullet Train to Kyoto

We wake up to a pretty special view of sunrise without even having to get out of bed. There’s so many things I’ve loved about this hotel. I don’t understand why there’s nobody else here.

View from Wisterian Life

Today, we descend from our ghost hotel in the mountains to catch the bullet train from Odawara to Kyoto. I check the route; the bus (which is included in our Hakone Free Pass) stops just round the corner from the hotel and can get us to Odawara in 38 minutes. Unfortunately, the old man announces that he ‘doesn’t trust buses’. So we must walk a mile to Kowakidani Station, then catch two trains. Total time to Odawara; one hour 38 minutes.

Waiting for the Hakone Tomane Railway

The plus side of our convoluted travel arrangements; I can stop and pick up breakfast at the 7-11 (an epic sandwich combination of egg mayonnaise and chicken teriyaki). Plus we get to ride one more time of the little switchback mountain train, this time going downhill.

Bullet Train arriving

The bullet train takes just over an 2 hours to cover the 234 miles to Kyoto. That works out at average speed of over 112 MPH. I follow the route on Google Maps and the blues spot is really motoring along! For the first 18 miles, we skirt around the outskirts of Mount Fuji, with some great views interspersed with telegraph poles and factories.

Mount Fuji from the Bullet Train

Bullet Train toilet report; rather compact with the tiniest sink I’ve ever seen.

Bullet Train sink

Kyoto

We reach Kyoto Station, which looks like a space ship landed on top of a shopping mall.

Kyoto Station

We are staying at the Kyoto Tower Hotel Annex. The first thing we discover about the Kyoto Tower Hotel Annex is that it isn’t actually annexed to the Kyoto Tower Hotel. As usual, we get lost in the huge underground sprawl of the station. This time, bearing in mind that the Kyoto Tower is 131 metres tall, we figure it should be easy to get our bearings. It is indeed and we make a beeline for the tower, only to discover that the annex is a further 5 minute walk along the road and round the corner.

Kyoto Tower reflected in Kyoto Station

As it too early to check in, we leave our luggage and head off for some sightseeing, starting with Ginkaku-ji.

This requires catching a bus. Ironically, having just covered 234 miles in 2 hours, it takes us over an hour to cover the 5 miles to the temple. Someone needs to invent a bullet bus. The bus station is so close that we can see it from the hotel, but it is on the other side of the road, so we must take the underpass, which doubles as the entrance to a huge underground mall. Somehow, we manage to come back up again on the same side of the road! After a second attempt, we reach the bus station and board the bus.

Kyoto Underpass

It is supposed to be a 43 minute journey, but takes over an hour, almost all of it standing. Each time the bus stops, more and more people get on. Nobody ever seems to get off. Maybe they can’t – they’re probably stuck. Or dead. In Bournemouth, when a bus is full, it skips stops. None of that namby-pamby nonsense here. At every stop, more people get on and everyone has to squeeze tighter and tighter together. At particularly busy stops, there is a man to help shove people into the ever decreasing space.

Contrary to my suspicions, we make it to Ginkaku-ji without being crushed to death and squeeze out of the bus and walk to the temple.

Walk to Ginkaku-ji

Ginkaku-ji

Ginkaku-ji, ‘Silver Pavilion’ is a pavilion in a traditional dry sand garden. The temple dates from 1482 when it was a retirement villa for shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa, who desired a place to retreat from the turmoil of war. The temple is called the Silver Pavilion because the shogun planned to line the roof with silver, however he never got round to it (typical man). After his death, the villa became a temple.

Ginkaku-ji

You can’t enter the pavilion. Entry to the garden costs Y500.

Ginkaku-ji Garden

Walkways lead through the gardens of meticulously raked sand. I can’t help wondering how the poor gardener feels when it rains and he has to start raking all those patterns again.

Ginkaku-ji Garden

You can follow the path (what am I saying – this is Japan, you must follow the prescribed route) up the mountain to a viewpoint over the city.

View from Ginkaku-ji

Path of Philosophy

To reach our next destination , the temple of Nansen-ji we take the Philosopher’s Path, which follows a stream (Lake Biwa canal) lined with trees and plants. It ranks as one of Japan’s top 100 best walks.

Philosopher’s Path

The entire trail is 11 miles long and there are a number of shrines and temples along the way. We are covering a mile section to Nansen-ji Temple.

Philisopher’s Path

Nanzen-ji

Nanzen-ji is one of the most visited temple complexes in Kyoto, and I can see why.

Sanmon Gate

The first building you come to is the enormous Sanmon Gate. This is more like a building with some doors in the middle than a gate. For Y600 you can climb to the second floor for views across the city.

Sanmon Gate

As we are short of time and it involves taking your shoes off (the old man is wearing boots which take him ages to get on and off), we admire the gate from the outside and proceed up the path to the temple.

Sanmon Gate
Nanzenin Temple

Nanzenin Temple is located just behind the rather impressive aqueduct.

Aqueduct

It includes the mausoleum of an emperor, a temple hall and a garden centered around a pond. For Y400 you can enter the garden. To be honest, we hadn’t intended to go into Nanzenin, but paid the entry before we realised we weren’t actually at the Hojo we were aiming for.

Nanzenin
Hojo

The Hojo is the former head priest’s residence. Entry costs Y600 and visitors enter through the former temple kitchen. Here, you must remove your shoes, put them into a plastic bag to carry and don a pair of leather slippers.

Hojo

The old man looks rather foolish trundling around in his slippers. This may because he accidentally took two left shoes.

Two Left Feet

The Hojo has a pretty impressive garden running around the outside.

Hojo Garden

It is most famous for its rock garden where the rocks allegedly resemble tigers and cubs crossing through water. To be honest, they just look like rocks. But they’re very pretty rocks nevertheless.

Hidden Tiger

Temple toilet report; at the entrance to the toilet you must remove your leather slippers and replace them with plastic ones in case you piss on your feet.

Temple toilet slippers

We leave the temple just as it closing. A helpful monk gives us directions to the bus stop and we return to Kyoto on a even more crowded bus.

Kyoto Tower Hotel Annex

After a brief stop at a convenience store (a friend has recommended I try some Japanese alcoholic fruits drinks – not wanting to disappoint, I purchase pineapple, cassis and grapefruit flavours) we check into our hotel for the next few days.Most of our accommodation in Japan has been quite expensive, but at £175 for 5 nights, this one is worryingly cheap. I remember watching an episode of The Goes Wrong Show where a courtroom drama turns to farce because the set creator thought the dimensions were in feet, not metres so made everything a fraction of the size. Everyone is trying to be serious, but can’t actually fit into the courtroom. That about sums up our hotel room. It’s clean and has all mod cons, just in a rather compact form.

View from Tokyo Tower Hotel Annex

It certainly has a view of the not as close as expected Kyoto Tower. Especially at night when it is illuminated in red, white and blue.

Alcoholic fruit beverages

Hotel toilet report. Compact (obviously). The toilet has a special ‘woman’ setting where you can turn the bidet to oscillating?!

Lady bidet oscillate function

Dinner at Ippudo

We return to the food court in the underground mall. The old man has selected a Rahmen bar called Ippudo. I’m over Rahmen – they’re so messy to eat and I’m fed up of either having to do extra laundry or wander round in clothes with food stains down the front. There aren’t any other main course choices, so I go for two starters instead. The old man is not impressed and accuses me of causing a fuss. How ordering two starters is causing a fuss is beyond me. He orders the Rahmen, which ends up all down his jacket. I rest my case!

Rahmen from Ippudo

Author: Jane's Midlife Journey

Stopped work, started travelling. Sometimes I run - combining the two with some parkrun tourism.

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