Before coming to Japan, I had been warned that jet lag would be a problem and that many people had complained about waking up at crazy hours due to the problem with their time clock.I had no doubt this would happen to me as I tend to get jet lagged when I move ahead, but for some reason not so much when I go back.Well, it happened and I was up by 4:30AM.I knew I had not gotten enough sleep in the past few nights and begged my body to go back to sleep, but my head told me, “No way!”I knew it was about 3:30PM back in NYC and there was no way I was sleeping in more.It truly sucked!
So, I began the process of pulling myself together, until Noah finally woke up at the late hour of 5:30AM.
Yeah, buddy!Welcome to the world of messed up time zones!We decided to check out the neighborhood and try to see if we could get some cheap breakfast as we didn’t want ramen for two meals in a row and things would be open in the next hour or two.
We knew that we would be able to see the TokyoTower from where we were staying if we walked long enough, so we headed in the direction which would be more towards the city center.It was a nice sunny morning and few people were on the street as it was too early for work.I found the walk to be an interesting contrast as we were passing tall corporate buildings on one side of the street, but on the other side of the street were more traditional looking homes.Then there would be block apartment buildings and more traditional homes tucked back on side streets.
The thing that made me happy was that there were Cherry Blossoms blooming in various places.
Before we left we had heard that they were almost in full bloom which was upsetting because I was afraid I would miss them and that was one of the reasons I was here!I had hope after seeing many trees that appeared to not be loosing their bloom yet and continued happily knowing I would soon be in Kyoto.
We continued walking until the TokyoTower came into sight.I had a feeling it looked a lot better lit up at night, but unfortunately, we never found out.This little walk was the closest we ever got to it.There just was too much to do and not enough time.
After a few photos, we headed back to our hotel.
By this time the business people were in full swing and the streets were getting crowded.We had decided now was the time to eat as we would be on the bullet train for 2.5 hours and wanted to actually do some things in Kyoto before sundown.
After breakfast, we headed to the Shinagawa Station with our luggage in tow after a quick visit to the JR Station to book our seats.We would be taking the Hikari Shinkansen train to Kyoto, but before we boarded we headed to the local Starbucks to get coffee.Yes, Starbucks is all over Japan along with McDonald’s.Everywhere!I had made the mistake of buying regular coffee for a tiny cup of coffee on the trip that tasted of yuck for 300 Yen.In the end, I learned that Starbucks was the better value for your money and stuck with it.After hardly any sleep on this trip, Starbucks would become my friend on this trip.
Mt Fuji From the Bullet Train to Kyoto
I got my first look at the Bullet train on the track and had to admit it looked pretty sleek.I was even happier to see that it had happy cushioned seat with plenty of legroom once you got in, not that I really need it but still.There also was plenty of room for luggage which was a plus.I have to be honest when you are on the bullet train it doesn’t feel like you are going all that fast.The only reason I knew it was cruising was when I tried to take a picture of Mt.Fuji on my camera and the whole bottom half was blurred.Yep, we were going pretty damn fast!
The thing that I noticed about Japan was that there were barely any spots where it was just greenery with no houses or businesses.
Maybe because people like to build around trains is why, but every ounce of land was being used for something which surprised me as I have taken many train rides in various countries and have never seen that before.Everything is so condensed.The only really pretty scenery on the ride was Mt.Fuji, so of course everyone who was on the opposite side of the train ran to the middle cart where the bathrooms were to get a shot as it was a clear day.It truly is a beautiful mountain!
We arrived in Kyoto safe and sound, grabbed our suitcases and a map from the visitor center and we were off.On the map, it appeared that the hotel was a lot closer than it was.Lets just say that the streets are not to scale, it took us 45 minutes to get there dodging bicycles on the way suitcases in tow.
Let me say this now, I adored Kyoto.
I mean I really loved it, but the bicycles?I am still cursing their names.They are nuisances because unlike many major cities in the US, bikes have to remain on the street.In Japan?Nope, they ride all over sidewalks in both directions so every 5 seconds someone is ringing their bell at you to move even if you are single file.That is the one thing I really disliked about Kyoto as it makes the sidewalks too chaotic.None of the other cities we went to were as bad as Kyoto and they had tons of bikes too.I have never and hope to never see that many bikes again.Okay, scratch that, I saw more in the Netherlands, but they stayed on the street!Oh, one last note, nobody locks up their bikes in Japan.They just leave them there with the kickstand up and go into the store, job or restaurant.This would never happen in the US, at least not in the places I have lived.
House Near Imperial Palace
Those puppies would be gone within 5 minutes as freebies!You really have to give a hand to a country that doesn’t worry about theft and has no problem with the honor system. Amazing!I just wish I hadn’t been plagued by them in Kyoto, argh!Okay, back to my happy place…
We ended up staying at the Hearton Hotel in Kyoto which was quite nice.It was actually a decent sized room for Japanese standards and had many pillows with pretty red accents; I was in love.The view, eh, but I wasn’t in Kyoto to stare out a window all day!
There were two problems we did encounter while staying at this hotel, which was one, the toilet seat was not heated.
Noah was crushed and couldn’t stop talking about it.I explained he had lived his whole life in the US without it; a few days wouldn’t kill him.He gave me a look that chilled my blood and walked into the bathroom to take a breather.I flipped on the TV as I like to watch local TV and encountered problem number two.Word of the wise to those staying in the Hearton.Please, use the actually numbers on the remote, not the scroll arrows as porn appears if you scroll.Yep, four channels of porn including all anime porn.Yes, they do blur out the kibbles and bits, but you do see boobs and you definitely know what is going on because it isn’t blurred all that much.My reaction?I laughed, but if you are with kids you may not be ready to be having that discussion quite yet, so just avoid it.
After our stop at the hotel, we decided we wanted to go sight seeing as we hadn’t done much yet.So we decided to go to the ImperialPalace as it was close to the hotel.
The ImperialPalace has not been in use for a while as the Emperor Japan likes to hang at the one in Tokyo, but this one is kept open for tours, but they must be booked in advance.The grounds though, are open to the public.
The grounds are quite nice though there is gravel everywhere which can be uncomfortable after a while, so many people walked on the grass to avoid it.On the grounds you will see a small shrine, flowers, trees and even a kitty or two.It was here that we caught our first glimpse of a grove of Cherry Blossoms.It was insanity as everyone in the area had Cherry Blossom fever!It was very difficult to get a picture without someone in it.They really are quite spectacular and I had to admit I was pretty giddy, though this would definitely not be the best display, but I am getting ahead of myself.
After spending a few hours on the grounds Noah sensed that I was ready to jet and see something else.
Shrine Near Imperial Palace
So he directed us over to Shoko Temple.I have to admit, I really liked walking through the grounds of Shoko Temple as there was hardly anyone there and it was my first taste of Japanese architecture.It was beautiful and very quiet which made it very relaxing after our last 24 hours.
After Shoko Temple we decided that it was time to eat.We had been told that there would be a lot of options by Sanjo Street which is a big area with a lot of stores.It is kind of odd because it reminds me of a of strip mall.I saw many of these in Japan, so they appear to be pretty popular.
Near Imperial Palace
Here you kind find anything from groceries, to coffee houses, to clothing and finally restaurants.
We were so hungry that we stopped into a place called Lipton Restaurant.Looking at it, it reminded us of a chain restaurant and not exactly what we wanted, but we were desperate so we thought why not.There was a good mix of locals and tourists here and it was busy so we figured it couldn’t be too bad.Noah had beef with some potatoes and vegetables (hard to mess up) and I had primavera shrimp pasta.The pasta wasn’t so bad as far as flavor goes, not spectacular but fine.The only thing that was bothering me was I kept hitting shells and there appeared to be a lot of pepper though it wasn’t spicy.On closer examination, I realized that the shrimp where very tiny and still had their whole body attached as they were too tiny to clean, so they had feet and all still on them.Also, the pepper I was assuming was on there were actually eyeballs.Oh yeah!I am a picky eater and was done at that moment.
Whole Baby Shrimp
I had eaten three quarters of it, so at least I had gotten my fill.It wasn’t bad, I just have a thing about eating eyeballs, I don’t like food looking back at me.
After dinner, we stayed to have one of the big parfaits that are displayed everywhere is Kyoto.I had seen them online and was pretty giddy as I am a huge fan of sugar.I learned quickly that the US is a huge fan of things being overly sweet while in Japan sweets are more subtle.The parfait I choose, Lemon Tea, was interesting as it had real tea at the bottom, fruit, gelatin, lemon peels, granola of some sort with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.Not quite what I expected as it also had black pepper on top with a sprig of parsley.Was it bad?No, just different and the tea was STRONG.Noah had the chocolate one and he fared much better with it then my lemon tea one.
Lemon Tea With Parsley and Pepper
Though we learned that chocolate is not popular in Japan, as they tend to prefer fruity flavors.
Our first day in Kyoto was our real first experience with Japanese culture.We learned quickly that learning key phrases was a life savior.I would suggest when coming to Japan to learn the basics such as thank you, yes, no, hello, goodbye, I’m sorry, I don’t understand, do you speak English and be able to count to 15.Also, bowing is your friend.If you bow, you will be forgiven a lot for your lack of knowledge of etiquette in Japan.As, a westerner, it really is a completely different experience and one that everyone should experience once.The Japanese must think we are total animals, especially in NYC.
After dinner we decided it was time to head back to the hotel as we were exhausted as we were still on Eastern Standard Time.
It kind of sucked, but there was no way we were staying up past 8:00PM that night and we both fell asleep within minutes of hitting our beds with the TV on in the background. The sounds of some wild game show helping us drift off to dream land.
Haha! I love bicycles! They were just everywhere. And you would hear, "ding, ding, ding" every five seconds and we were single file and walking in the designated walking lane. It was crazy! But I loved Kyoto. I still hear the "dings" in my sleep late at night...