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.
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.
This trusty fellow served me well.
If you ever get a chance to visit Japan - Go. and be sure to find time to visit the wonderful ancient city of Kyoto.