Tokyo to Kyoto

This post is being written in early October from Okinawa about getting to Kyoto last month, hopefully someday I will get caught up!

After a great night’s sleep in Tokyo, we headed to the nearby train station and took the metro to the Tokyo Station (the same one we had visited on our first day in Japan) to catch the bullet train to Kyoto.

Before heading for the train though we did a quick tour through the hotel located above the station. This beautiful restoration/reuse of the original station is currently one of the Small Hotels of the World. Would be great to stay there! There are two sections, one on either side of the station’s grand entrance. To get between the two sections you walk around the mezzanine, which is also a history gallery of the station.

Since we started researching for this trip, I think has been most excited and intrigued by the bento boxes one can buy in the station to take on the train. So we arrived early to have shopping time.

Imagine the first floor of an older department store with all the cosmetic counters, except the cosmetics are now sweets, pastries, noodles and beautiful boxes with sushi, pork dishes, or rice and vegetables. Throw in some freshly steamed dumplings or buns along with a couple of hundred people and you will have an idea of one (out of five or six) of the areas in the station devoted to train food!

While making our lunch purchases, the pumpkin croquette caught my eye. Yes, it appears even Asia has gone pumpkin mad! Anyway, $2 later I had one to try. Turns out it was real pumpkin! Not a donut like I had expected at all. Almost savory.

After making our purchases we had to make our way thorough this huge and busy station. Below is a short (30 seconds originally?) time lapse video that will give you some idea of the number of people using the station. Keep in mind we were there about 10am on a holiday so not a rush hour crowd.

We were soon aboard our train (that’s it arriving in the title picture) and ready to head to Kyoto.

We had elected to buy first class railpasses at a surplus of about $125 each since we were worried how our big bodies would fit in trains designed for petite Japanese. I think we would have been only slightly less comfortable, but the real benefit was having reserved seats. One thing we didn’t like about the seat was the foot rest. It didn’t do us any good and it really impinged upon the leg room. On our older trains to Hiroshima and Osaka later in the week, the footrest was much better designed. We found it interesting that each rail employee upon entering and leaving each car, bowed to the car. We have been really impressed with the politeness and calmness of the Japanese. Our only other complaint was that they didn’t show you the speed of the train. The train’s top speed for our run was supposed to be 180 mph. The video below was NOT timelapsed.

We had reserved seats on the right side of the car in the hopes we would see Mt Fuji, alas it was very overcast so no such luck. Gives us a reason to come back! We did pass some interesting bridges and countryside.

While the countryside was passing us by we enjoyed sharing our lunch purchases. We first enjoyed an assortment of dumplings. Pork, mushroom, scallion and mushroom and a fourth that I can’t remember.

We then shared this dish if pork with vegetable and rice.

We were impressed by the nice disposable chopsticks (with matching toothpick) and the lightweight but attractive packaging.

We soon arrived in Kyoto and because we had sent our bags ahead (we had our necessities and our change of clothes packed in a small rolling underseat case we bought at Costco in Seattle) we were able to use the subway to get to our hotel with only minimal stress-why can’t they mark the subway exits better so you don’t walk all the way over there to come up and find out you basically have to retrace your steps above ground???

We found our hotel through some YouTube and TripAdvisor research and booked it through Mike’s credit card which refunds the fourth night cost to his account. It was very nice and located about 10 minutes from two subway stations so it was very convenient!

The room was a little smaller than the one in Tokyo but the beds were a little higher. However, the shower was the best we have ever experienced anywhere. The water pressure was great and it had both a rainhead and a handheld. Like the shower in Tokyo, it was in a glass enclosure with the tub. While I wouldn’t want this configuration in my house, since I wasn’t cleaning I appreciated the extra room. We had lots of amenities including nightshirts that wouldn’t fit and an even fancier toilet. It flushed itself when you stood up and had a deodorizing button!

After setting in and relaxing a bit, we headed out to explore the neighborhood and find supper.

The hotel was surrounded by shops, restaurants and there was even a roofed shopping street that started at the end of the block. A block away was the river which was an enjoyable place to walk and people watch.

We ended up having Yakitori (Grill) for supper at a tiny place a block or two away. We had to wait for some other customers to leave before we could go in. Everything we had was delicious and made and served to us immediately from the grill by the smiling chef.

We stopped at the 7-11 on our way home and got some yogurt for breakfast and I got this interesting waffle ice cream sandwich for dessert. The waffle was meh, but the ice cream was delicious. Mike bought what was basically a flat nutty buddy. He liked it because it was almost all crunch!

Hope to get a post about our Free Kyoto Tour that we did the next morning and our visit to the Torii Gates posted soon!

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