Kyoto Day 1 – Traveling to Kyoto

This afternoon we left Tokyo behind and jumped on the Shinkansen for Kyoto. It had been a great week in the biggest cities in Japan with a lot of sightseeing and shopping, but it was finally time for some R&R.

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It would be about two and a half hours by train to go from Tokyo station to Kyoto station, which is pretty impressive considering the 300+ mile distance between the two cities. We got to the station a little early, so we ended up looking around for food and generally taking it easy. Eventually, the train did arrive and we got on. This is my first time on the Shinkansen, so I was pretty excited and grabbed a window seat.

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Inside, it was fairly comfortable and quiet. Even at speed (200+ MPH), there was little sense of motion and the ride was extremely smooth. I took this opportunity to break out the bento box I bought at the station and have a little lunch.

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The lunch box consisted of some teriyaki chicken, rice, potato salad, and vegetables. I’m still amazed at how well the Japanese can package food and make it taste so good even when in a portable form factor. Unfortunately, there really wasn’t much to see out the window. The train spent a lot of time going through the tunnels dug into the mountains of the countryside. It was nice, however, to have a change of scenery from the big Tokyo megalopolis. The mountains in the distance was a welcome sight!

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After what seemed like a short ride, we arrived into Kyoto and checked into the hotel. It’s a pretty nice little place that I found online, and is certainly a step above where we stayed in Shinjuku. The hotel is right across from Nijo Castle, which was used by the emperor as a home away from home. Once settled, we decided to go wandering and went down some back streets around the hotel. Eventually, we stumbled upon a neighborhood street festival, which featured a lot of food and activities.

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It was nice seeing something so traditional shortly after arriving. While I do enjoy going to nice establishments, I think street festivals like this (catered to the locals) are a great way to experiencing local culture. We were pretty sure we were the only foreign tourists there, and we took comfort in seeing the “real Japan.” ^.^

Once we’d had our fill, it was back to the hotel. Nijo Castle had been lit up by now, so I decided to snap some nighttime shots of the building. We may visit it tomorrow morning prior to heading out to Fushimi Inari-Taisha shrine.

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At any rate, it was a great day! I’m going to try to take it easy tomorrow and may end up returning to the in-house bath and spa in the basement of the hotel. It costs about 1500 yen to go in, but is well worth it for soaking in the big hot bath and using the sauna. Good night from Kyoto!

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