We flew from Sapporo to Osaka and took a 50 minute coach ride from Osaka airport to Kyoto station, then a short cab ride to the Kyoto Tokyu hotel, which is almost next door to the huge Nishi Hongan-ji temple, and a ten minute walk to the nearest subway station, or twenty minutes back to the main railway station. The hotel was clean and comfortable, and gave us a good base, though it would have been nice to be closer to eating places,
Kyoto railway station almost deserves a blog post to itself. It's a huge, airy steel and concrete structure that rises eleven stories above the railway itself with an internal atrium from top to bottom and long flights of escalators to carry you up and down. It incorporates department stores, a couple of performance spaces and two food courts (one on the eleventh floor, the other underground) where we ate each night. Bustling crowds whenever we were there, traveling, eating, shopping or watching the light show created by hundreds of computer-controlled lights on the risers of the wide flights of steps from levels five to eleven.
Kyoto Station. The trains are hidden somewhere down below.
Kyoto Station by night. Note the light show at the far end. We watched the blood moon from the roof garden.
Getting around in Kyoto was a little bit more complicated than in Sapporo. There is a subway, like Sapporo with two lines that cross more or less at right angles, but it only serves part of the conurbation, and doesn't really get you to the foothills to the east and west where most of the temples and gardens are. Several railway lines increase the coverage, or you could try the bus, but I never quite feel in control when taking the bus in strange places; something that doesn't run on rails seems less determinate, as if the driver might suddenly decide to whisk you off to somewhere that's not on the map. So we stuck to the certainty of the subway and the railway.
Even in downtown Kyoto there is a nice mixture of old and new, so behind the biggest Daimaru department store is the Nishiki arcade market with a long series of stalls selling vegetables, fish, tea, ice cream, ceramics, etc etc. The arcade ends at a small temple and side streets on both sides had older houses, and overhead a spider's web of power cables. Why, in tidy and efficient Japan, all these cables are above ground I don't know. Perhaps it's something to do with earthquakes.
Nishiki Market, downtown Kyoto.
Downtown Kyoto side street. Is that wiring safe?
Nishi Hongan-ji. Not even the main gate.
Nishi Hongan-ji. Quiet corner round the back somewhere.
Nishi Hongan-ji. Chinese pilgrims (?) cheerfully polishing the floor.
Buddhist monk at Senko-ji temple.
Bell at Senko-ji. I wished I had rung it; there was a limit of three rings per person.
Tenryui-ji gardens. World Heritage for sure.
Tenryui-ji gardens. Every vista a picture.
Bamboo grove, Arashiyama.
Narrow streets in Arashiyama, but still used by cabs!
Gio-ji moss garden.
Giant salamander, Kyoto Aquarium. No points in the beauty contest.
What's the collective noun for giant salamanders?
An unusual pair of soft toys.
And why not?? (He said, defensively).
Nanzen-ji, sanmon gate.
Water for ceremonial washing.
Water sometimes delivered in spectacular fashion.
Autumn colours, Eikan-do.
The Philosopher's Path. How often did he fall in?
Temple in Gion. Pulling the ropes rings the bell. Clap three times and pray.
Geisha in Gion district (she was posing).
Nijo-jo castle. The outer moat and walls.
School group, outside the main gate of Nijo-jo. Yellow caps off for the photo. Note smaller, private school group to the right.
Nijo-jo main gate, detail.
Main building, Nijo-jo. No photos inside!
Nijo-jo, inner moat and walls. The building was well-protected!
Venerable muku tree, outside the Imperial Palace, Kyoto.
The shinkansen bullet train took us from Kyoto to Tokyo in about three hours. I suppose we could have flown directly to Narita, but I couldn't miss the opportunity to ride on such an iconic train. And it is fifty years since the first bullet train! I had imagined that it was some sort of special service, but in fact they shinkansen trains were leaving Kyoto at about 15 minute intervals and with the number that we passed in the opposite direction there must be a huge number on the track at any given moment. Very fast, comfortable and smooth, even though our JR pass was only good for the second tier of shinkansen services.
Bullet train coming, ooooh!
And that's travel: bullet train at 200kph, or just standing, waiting.