By this point we were pretty much ‘shrined out’ and although the buildings were beautiful – I think either of us would rather have been sleeping.
In Kyoto, we neglected to notify the tour company that we needed to be picked up at the hotel and so the bus never came. After some nervous waiting, I asked the hotel clerk to call the company and he then informed me they weren’t coming. We had to take a taxi to fly off to the tour departure location. We got there just in time and as soon as we got on the bus it took off. We were both exausted from the previous week’s travel. Combined with the fact that our tour guide was new and her english was not super, this resulted in us not really enjoying the morning portion of the tour. We were just coasting through it, looking forward more to getting back on the bus than seeing the sites.
The tour started at the house of the Shogun. We had to figure out what a Shogun was because the guide forgot to tell us that part. A shogun was the samurai leader of Japan. A neat part about this place was the security system. All the floorboards were nailed down in such a way that every step caused a high pitched squeak. I couldn’t get it to squeak because I’m too tiny, but Wes had no trouble getting it do it. Ninja’s would have had a really hard time sneaking into the building to kill the Shogun. The rest of the place had nice paintings and tapestries and would have been really cool to visit if we’d had energy. The smell inside the building was wonderful!
The next stop was a golden pagoda type building out in some water. We largely didn’t know where we were or why thus place was important. The guide may have mentioned it when we arrived but we couldn’t understand her. We definitely understood that if we weren’t back to the bus by 11 o’clock (11 O’CLOCK, ELEVEN O’CLOCK!) or we’d be beaten in the street and left there while the rest of the tour moved on. We wandered a bit in a energy-deprived stupor and bought some ice cream. We went back to the bus and fanned ourselves and wished for sleep.
Stop number 3 was the great imperial palace. We had rushed through everything in the morning because there was a very specific time we were to tour this imperial palace. We were warned about not wandering from the group and to be very careful on the grounds. We even had to line up in sets of four for the guards to count us. The palace itself was ultra dull. Even if we’d been energetic and ready to be inspired, this place still would have been boring. The palace itself is fairly new, and the grounds were mostly just gravel. There was a small pond with trees and a bridge that was attractive, but that was hardly worth the time invested.
We went back to the bus and proceeded off to lunch. Boy was this a lifesaver. The food was decent. It was some sort of fried pork tenderloin with rice, fat soup, tasteless jelly slices, hardened semi-sweet pudding slices, and lemonade. We ate and chatted with a guy from Wales who used to live in Japan. Fortunately they provided roughly an hour between lunch and when the afternoon tour started, so this gave us plenty of time to recharge.
The afternoon tour was worlds better than the morning one. We got a new guide who happened to be the teacher of the morning part guide. We clearly saw why she was the teacher and the other was the pupil. We understood her much better and she was more interesting. She even made jokes.
Our first stop in the afternoon was another temple. Kyoto only has around 5000 temples. This one had a very nice garden with a pond and a bridge over it. We walked through the garden and then sat on the bridge. This was the location where the memoirs of a geisha movie was filmed. Wesley noticed and was enthralled with a bunch of turtles in the water. He took a lot of pictures and video of them. They were used to humans watching them and feeding them, so wagging your finger a little made several of them come swimming over hoping for food. I really liked a little cute one that made noise while he swam, it was adorable.
Stop two of the afternoon was another temple (called Sanjusangendo). While we were growing very weary of temples, this one had reason to be awesome. On the inside there were 1000 wood carved statues of some god named kanon. They were human sized and extremely intricate. Pictures were expressly forbidden, so the one below is from the internet. They actually threatened to take your camera away from you if they even saw you holding it, so we didn’t chance sneaking a picture. Suffice to say though, 1000 carved statues all standing next to one gigantic carved statue is an impressive site.
And finally, our final stop was a shopping street beneath a temple. This temple had an impressive view of the city. We went up the hill to get a good view and then abandoned the guide for a while. She was probably going to talk about the temple and how it’s a temple. We instead went down to the shopping street where we had Honey-Sesame ice cream (it was grey!). Wes had his swirled with vanilla and was pleased he didn’t take the full plunge. We shopped some more, bought some trinkets and went back to the bus.
The bus took us back to the train station and we went and waited for our Shinkensen train back to Tokyo. We watched some Olympic Judo on a tv in a waiting room. We were entertained by the seemingly random scoring rules in that sport, but that’s a different story. The people waiting with us were very happy because the Japanese man beat the Uzbek man. The train ride was fairly quick and once at Tokyo, we boarded another train over to another station and took the Monorail back over to Haneda airport.
Since my flight to Sapporo wasn’t until morning, i went over to the airport hotel and got a room for the night. Sapporo was not terribly interesting (there was a botanical garden, a beer festival, and some underground shopping) and since I doubt most of your are interested in the details of my conference, this will end my account of this journey.