Rejoin our intrepid travelers as we haul our luggage aboard our first shinkansen.
Once we got on the train...finally...it wasn't long before we left Tokyo far behind. This was my first shinkansen ever, so I was understandably curious. It's definitly the way to travel. The view is pretty nice too, when you aren't going through tunnel after tunnel, though close things are understandibly blurred (pictures don't turn out to well either).
When we arrived in Kyoto we went looking for the ubiquitous coin lockers. We needed to stash our bags since we got there before noon and the hotel didn't start check-in until after 3. There were lots of lockers to be found, however...all the big ones were already taken. >_< After much trudging, we finally decided to cram our bags into two of the middle sized ones. It wasn't easy. It took both of us pushing on the door to close Virginia's (her bag is a couple of inches longer/taller than mine) and the door groaned ominously when we finally turned the key and stopped pushing...but it didn't explode so we went back through the station to the main entrance/exit (the shinkansen is on the far side). The main part of Kyoto station is beautiful and modern. It also contains a shopping center (like most big stations), and is very tall. This is the view from the top deck, out over the city behind the station (it was kinda misty when we got there), and back down the levels to the station floor (they use escalators, isn't that nice ^_^ you can't even see the true floor of the station here).
After getting maps, we left the station and got on a bus bound for Nijo jo ( the last "jo" means castle for those of you who don't know any Japanese), our first touristy destination. On a side note, Kyoto has to be the easiest japanese city to get around in ever, the bus system is well nigned and easy to figure out, plus the buses come pretty frequently. This is a vast improvement over Kanuma, where I am almost afraid to ride the buses because I can't read the signs (all kanji) and they hardly run at all (in fact, I missed my bus to Awano this morning because it had changed color/style so I didn't recognize it...but that's another story). Nijojo was definitly set up for tourists (mostly of the Japanese variety but there was some bilingual stuff too, and even one sign toward the end that had audio in 5 languages, depending on which button you pressed) However, we still enjoyed it. Here is the outer moat, you can see the sky is starting to clear up, here is me in front of the main door (just turn to the right from that previous picture), I loved the metal work that's behind my legs. This is through the outer walls, it's the front gate of the actual castle. This is some detail of the castle roof, as you can probably tell, I really liked it. V and I agreed later that the castle was our favorite place in Kyoto. On the way out of there, we made a fortuitous discovery when we stopped for cool drinks (it was very hot at this point) and to look at souvineers. V spotted a brochure for a textile museum. According to the map, it was just a few blocks away from the castle, and they had kimono fashion shows. We set off walking.
I've found that the small maps on brochures often under-represent the distances involved. I shouldn't have trusted this one, but by the time I realized it, it was too late...we'd already walked a fair piece (fortunatly there was a picture of the building on th brochure, so I knew we hadn't passed it). We did get there eventually and we were in time fore the show but it took longer than we thought it would. Here's a pic of the show, there were some beautiful pieces. When we were done there, after a couple of hours, we made our way back to the station, retreived our bags and found our hotel...which was right in the middle of the entertainment district ^_^
Next: A room with a view?