Monday, May 28, 2012

Other interesting things about Kyoto

So today's post is my iphone dump from Kyoto Japan for all non-Temple related things. Before I get to the i-phone dump, let me give you 5 things that surprised me in Kyoto.

1) Kyoto is a HUGE city.  I don't know why I didn't realize it was so big before I went.  It has a population of 1.5 million people.  That is more than twice the size of Washington DC.

2) It is wicked hot in Kyoto.  I had no idea.  It was about 80 degrees on the day I was there and very humid.   I got a pretty bad sunburn on my arms.  Silly me.  Why wasn't I prepared???

3) Kyoto has the largest train station I've ever been in.  It is 238,000 square meters which is 58 acres.  To give you a comparison, this train station is the size of all the shopping in Disney's Lake Buena Vista area.  I thought Grand Central Station was big.  Grand Central Station is 194,259 square meters.  Wow.  I had no idea, until I stepped off the bullet train and was hit with an extraordinary overwhelming feeling... and everything was in Japanese.  But I survived!  There was pretty good signage with English.  Can you imagine a train station 15 stories high!!! Holy Cannoli.

4) Kyoto has a whole lot of temples, roughly 2,000 temples and shrines.  And some of these temples are gynormous.  I've seen temples before but never temples so large. The ancient temples in Kyoto were multi-level, multi-building structures..  Talk about gorgeous.  Many of them have ornate details with a simplistic architecture.

5) Kyoto is a huge tourist destination.  Okay, I did know that, but what I did not expect (and found kind of charming) was that most of the tourists are high school kids.  They were there in droves.....and all wearing a neat and tidy uniform.    Kyoto receives over 30 million tourists annually.  Washington DC receives about 17 million tourists a year.  Again, I had no idea and that meant the city was full of walking tourists and large tour buses.  It made bicycling around the city pretty interesting.  Oh and remember that in Japan they drive on the other side of the road.  I had to keep my wits about me all the time, just to stay alive.

Okay, how about an iphone dump....

So first, here is the bullet train.  I was on-board the Nomoni express. It was expensive - about $300.00 to go from Tokyo - Kyoto, but it was fast, efficient and quite comfortable.  It took 2 hours 20 minutes.  The countryside that we passed was very industrial.  I saw lots of signage for companies I know:   Wacoal, Panasonic, Nissan, Sharp, Toyota, Sony oh and Nestle too.   Where there wasn't a factory, there was housing and rice fields.  There wasn't any part of the ride where I saw just green.  Everything was developed.

We passed Mount Fuji on the ride.  Yup, it looked big.

And here I am in Kyoto station.   There were thousands of kids like these.  All dressed in their matching uniforms.  They were adorable.
Here I am at the market.  The school kids were having a blast looking at the items for sale and buying sweets.  I'm sure it's no surprise that even in Japan they sell soft ice cream at places like this.  Yup, soft ice cream is universal.
Here is a view of the streets.  It had a carnival feel to it.... vendors, food, entertainment, tourists.  Except none of the tourists were American.  I spotted a few European tourists, but mostly they were Japanese or Chinese.   I felt like saying 'we're not in Kansas anymore' but realized no-one would get the reference.
So here I am at the store called 'LOFT.'  This can probably best compare to Target in the US.  They sell everything - at discount prices.  Since this is a city store instead of being one big box building, it is several floors high.  I found a few new copic markers.  Are you surprised???

So on the papertrey forum someone suggested buying old used books in a foreign language to use for card making.  I found this fun little used book store and bought 4 books for 200 yen (that comes out to about 2.50.)  I was happy with that purchase.  I just hope I can find room in my luggage for these treasures.
So below is a typical street scene in Kyoto.  Pretty greenery with bright colored flags and lanterns.
During the evening on Saturday night, I went to a show that was sponsored by the Kyoto cultural arts dept.  It was kind of cheesy but very entertaining.  It had several parts.  There was a formal tea ceremony, a puppet show, the Geisha dance, a comedy skit and a traditional music performance.  The puppet show photo didn't come out well, but notice how it was 3 puppeteers wearing black who made the geisha girl move.
And here are the real live Geisha girls dancing.  They had the most interesting 'far away look' in their eyes.  They were very elegant and formal.

Here is a photo of a similar puppet up close.  It really was amazing how life-like she became under the masterful hands of the puppeteers.
When I first saw Japanese women wearing Kimono's I thought they were Geisha's.  But then I realized that many Japanese women wear a Kimono for an event or for fun.  I think you needed the fancy hair, white face make-up and other special things to make you a geisha.  I saw lots of woman in Kimono's but only 1 or 2 Geishas.  Everything I know about Geisha's I learned from the book 'Memoirs of a Geisha.'  I hope the book is accurate...They had stores in Kyoto that were called 'Geisha experience centers.'  For about 8500 YEN (95.00 dollars) you could be made over as a geisha and wear the rented kimono for a day.  All I could think of is some young husband fulfilling some childhood fantasy having his wife made up like a geisha.  It's probably also something women like too - kind of like being made into a princess for a day.  I saw one young lady come out of one of the places and she was having a hard time walking in the narrow long skirt and slippers. Isn't that little bear in a kimono cute?  I am still looking for a souvenir of 'hello kitty' in a kimono.  If all else fails, I hope to find it at the airport.  I love Kimono clad girls.

So look how cool this is.  Baseball in Japan.  these young boys were playing a game on Sunday morning.  I just love a culture that appreciates (and plays) baseball.

So of course I have to tell you all about the food in Kyoto.  For dinner Saturday night, I followed the recommendation of the hotel and tried Tempura at this little family run Japanese diner.  In Japan, they eat on these low tables with mats on the benches.   I sat cross legged and left my shoes under the wood platform.
 The cute little condiments at my table.  The tempura is batter dipped and fried foods.  Usually it's a variety of vegetables and fish.   It was yummy.
For breakfast I headed to this coffee shop.  they had pancakes on the menu and they were pretty good.

And of course, every tourist town has a Starbucks.  I enjoyed a Green Tea Frappachino.  I know, not very adventurous but I love me a good frappachino.
 Oh, and below is a photo of this AWESOME bike I rented.  I knew that many of the temples I wanted to see were spread out in the mountain areas outside the city.  I knew it was too far to walk and the subway system didn't seem optimal for visiting them either so when I heard that you could rent a bike I decided to try that.  What an awesome thing.  The bike I rented was incredible.  It was an electric Panasonic bike.  It wasn't a scooter, it didn't propel itself, but when I pedaled, I got this added boost. Think of it like peddling on a bicycle built for two and letting your partner do the heavy work.  Since Kyoto was hilly, I REALLY appreciated that boost going up those hills.  I also appreciated the boost since I was on that darn bike from 9am till 2pm.  If it wasn't electric, I don't think I would have survived, since I'm not much of a biker.

This trusty fellow served me well.
Well, that pretty much wraps up my Kyoto experience.  Thanks so much for following along with me on my trip.  Sunday evening I headed back to Tokyo and it's back to work, work, work for Mon-Wed, then home on Thursday.

If you ever get a chance to visit Japan - Go.  and be sure to find time to visit the wonderful ancient city of Kyoto.

1 comment:

Karen said...

Wow, you are quite adventurous, riding your bike around Kyoto... It looks like you had a lot of very lovely and interesting experiences. Mount Fiji appears spectacular and dramatic. The temples are certainly beautiful and awe-inspiring. And leave it to you to find some cool crafting goodies!