Day 5: With a bullet

4:58 am on Thursday, October 20, 2011

Today is the big day, we get to ride the Shinkansen. Otherwise known as the Bullet Train. We are heading to Kyoto for three days of sightseeing. It looks like the weather isn’t going to cooperate though.

We didn’t eat breakfast before we left Tokyo. We didn’t because we knew by the time we got to Kyoto 300miles away that it’d still be breakfast time. You read that right. 300 miles and into Kyoto by 9:30am. Let me say that the Shinkansen is a marvel of technology. From a stop to 150+ mph in about 1.5 minutes. It’s quieter at 150mph than an average American commuter train at 40mph. It’s smoother, more comfortable, and the service is awesome. A cart with everything from candy to sake comes by every 10-15 minutes. The countryside flies past so fast that it’s hard to focus on the passing scenery sometimes. Before we knew it we were in Kyoto. And we didn’t even take the fastest train. We _need_ these things in the US. Too bad the polititians won’t stop bickering long enough to do things right.

As we were in Kyoto so early we really had an entire day to explore. The sky was dark and cloudy so we wanted to make the most of it before any rain started.

The first place I wanted to visit was the Fushimi-inari taisha shrine. If you’ve ever seen promos for Kyoto or even Japan this place shows up often. Finding what the name was and where it was actually located was the trick. Many guide books show pics of it but don’t tell you where it actually is. It’s like it’s some sort of big secret. 🙂 What it is is a shrine with walkways lined with thousands of Shinto gates. They are bright orange and range in size from about 6′ to 25′ tall. The gates are lined up one after the other nearly touching. There are about 4km of trails through the shrine and all over the mountain are decorated thusly. It is stunningly beautiful even though it was just starting to rain. I think that made it all the more mysterious.

Now I get to preach a little. Whenever we travel we try to respect our host country’s culture and history. We take time to learn their rituals and will even perform them if allowed. We may not believe what they do, but we appreciate the dedication needed to build the shrines and temples. Near the top of this shrine we were taking pics and enjoying the quiet when a large group of Chinese tourists walked in like they owned the place. Loud, obnoxious, walking through your pics like you weren’t there, blocking the trails to take their pics and so on. We couldn’t get out of there soon enough. Sadly, that also meant we left sooner than we’d have liked.

From there we decided to walk down the road about 1 kilometer to another nearby temple, Tufukiji Temple. Going to this place was kind of an afterthought, more a ‘let’s ditch those Chinese folks’ move. We were glad we did. The complex was huge and ancient. It was founded in 1236 and contained the oldest Zen gate in Japan. A slight rain started to fall as we explored the well matured grounds but it didn’t slow us down. We also found there the oldest communal toilet in Japan where as many as 100 monks could ‘do their business’ at once. Um, okay.

From there we walked down to the train station and boarded a train back into Kyoto. Or so we thought. I made a rare mistake when it comes to map reading and we ended up on the wrong side of the river. No worries, we’ll walk back. And we did. We wandered through southern Kyoto back to our hotel a couple miles away.

Our hotel was right across the street from the massive Kyoto train station. In there we found a bakery that sold these delicious rolls filled with cheese, ham, and wasabi. Yum! We don’t know what you called them but we sure had our fill. This was only the first of our ‘adventurous’ eating for the Kyoto trip and it was very tame compared to others.

After eating, we decided we were wiped out from all the walking and waking so early. Also, the rain was starting again so we called it an early night. Tomorrow was going to be a fun day and we needed our rest.

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2011/10/22 @ 10:34

[…] See the Day 5 trip report on Tony’s blog here: Day 5:  With a bullet […]

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