2012 - 2013

Day 9

Arriving in Tokyo

Today we are leaving Kyoto and going to Tokyo. Checkout time is 11:00AM at our hotel, but there was one thing that we didn’t get around to doing, so we did our best to fit that in this morning.
Directly opposite our hotel there is a castle! It is right on our door step and we haven’t looked at it yet, so for breakfast we finished off the last of our groceries, collected all our things, checked out of our hotel and asked the staff to hold our bags for a little while before heading over. We had yogurt and fruit for breakfast, which was better than the regular Macca’s breakfast!

The Nijo Castle doesn’t look that big from the front, but it is on a huge property! The castle has a giant wall and a mote around the outside, with another wall and mote inside, really nice gardens throughout the entire grounds and two palaces, one of which was a ruin that was currently closed. The Ninomaru Palace was open to the public, but to preserve it you have to take off your shoes to go inside and walk along a special path. There are barricades and glass blocking certain parts, but even though we had to follow the route through the palace, it was really nice to see! I wasn’t allowed to take photos, but the ceilings and walls of the palace, especially inside the interior rooms, are all covered in very elaborate artwork with gold-leaf. The floors of the castle are designed to make noise when walked on to alert the guards to intruders, but when there is a constant flow of tourists walking through, it sounds pretty cool!

After walking through the palace, we did a lap around the castle grounds to take a look at the gardens. We were a little bit rushed, but what we did see was very nice. It seems like all these old structures and areas like temples and castles require a constant effort to keep them in pristine condition. Every temple we saw had information boards explaining how the restoration process works and how recently it was restored.

We got back to the hotel to meet up with others at about 11:30AM, collected our bags from the service desk and caught the next bus to Kyoto station. We bought tickets for the bullet train to tokyo, which is a Nozomi N700. This train is one of the fastest trains in Japan and can travel at speeds up to 300km/h, making the ~500km trip to Tokyo take only about two and half hours.

Our bullet train experience was not as nice as we would have liked though. After we bought our tickets, we were a bit rushed to get to the train. We got to the platform and the train was ready to leave. We ended up jumping in the wrong carriage and the train conductor couldn’t speak English, but directed us towards the back carriages of the train, so we started walking through the train to the other side. As we were pushing our luggage through the train, it departed the station. It picked up speed pretty quickly, but we couldn’t tell. For such a powerful system they are incredibly smooth! We got towards the end and there were a bunch of people in the way, so we stopped there. We were trying to find our seats, but the tickets were all in Japanese too, so we tried asking some strangers, but they didn’t understand either. We had exhausted our options, so with the risk of being told off, we sat in the nearest seats. The seats are like first class aeroplane seats, with enough leg room that we could wheel our luggage between us and the seats in front of us.

We stayed there for about half an hour. In that time we got a great view of the snow capped mountains and Japanese country side, but the nice seats and the nice view came to an end when the ticket inspector came past!

It turns out that when you buy a ticket for the bullet train with such short notice, you don’t get a seat, just standing room. For us, that meant we needed to stand for another two hours with luggage in between the isles. Not what we had expected! It wasn’t very fun, most of us went from being excited about a bullet train to beingo tired and a little annoyed from dodging people in such a cramped space, but we got through it ok. We were kind of stuck in between carriages, so people were trying to get passed us to get to the toilet, on and off the train, etc.

We eventually made it to Tokyo and found our way to our hotel, compared to our previous two hotels, this one was no where near as fancy. The building was a lot smaller, and rooms where proportionally smaller too, but we don’t plan on spending that much time at the hotel, so it didn’t really bother us. We were just used to the fancy ones now! This hotel includes a breakfast, so hopefully that is ok and we don’t need to struggle to find some in the morning.

Another good thing about this hotel is how close it is to Akihabara! It’s about a 10 minute walk! After dropping our bags in our rooms, we walked down to check it out. There were people everywhere and we walked through a few electronics shops. I bought a new memory card for my camera and a tiny hex key set. After a little while we headed back to the hotel, dropped off our new toys, met up with my parents and found a place to get dinner.

Today is my dad’s birthday and he wanted Ramen for dinner. There was a Ramen place fairly close to our hotel, so we ended up going there. It was pretty good, the waiter couldn’t speak English, but he tried hard. We learned some more Japanese from him and he learned some English from us, it was good fun! This was the first time I tried bamboo shoots too, which weren’t too bad!

After dinner we headed back to the hotel, this hotel didn’t have wireless, just a cable socket on the wall for internet, but being a nerd, I brought a little pocket router, so I set up the power adapter and the wifi access point and managed to catch up on these blogs - I’m up to date now!