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bmttokyo May 26th, 2008 02:21 AM

Reporting Live from Kyoto
Hi folks,

Am writing live from our Nijo Castle view room here at the ANA Kyoto. KT celebrated his 47th yesterday & we spent that at our friend's wedding where we were asked to provide for the reception entertainment. Had a late dinner at our Sizzler ( nothing like the US franchise) where we had our fill of really good salads which the Tokyo Sizzlers still have. We are also celebrating our 20th anniversary this coming Wed so we decided to go away for a few days. This is actually the first time we are away from our kids without being on business.

We left Tokyo Station at Noon time after getting the kids off to school, KT wrapping up a few things at the office & reconfirming on our teens' care arrangements with 2 family friends. Got there a little early so after picking up our Nozomi shinkansen tix for 2 reserved seats at Y 13,500 @ we ended up in the underground to pick up our obento for the trip. We skipped brekkie today so we each got a salad at Dean & Deluca, a shrimp avocado croissant, a couple more pastries for "dessert" which we thoroughly enjoyed. Had more time to take photos of the exquisitely prepared desserts, pastries of all kinds that they were selling. They looked too good to eat- reminded me so much of the plastic food that we saw in Kappamachi Dori.

Had a nice ride down to Kyoto with a couple of stops in between & got to the massive station by 2:15. We had booked at the ANA Kyoto since we are PC Plat. members & were offered an upgrade to their Castle View rooms. They had a complimentary shuttle at the Hachijoko exit but we had a little difficulty finding it since they were working on the station & the street view was boarded. It is in front of the McDonald's.

ANA is a 10-15 minute shuttle ride away. We were greeted by a phalanx of kimono clad hostesses. I had initially made phone arrangements with the Reservation Manager who was concerned that the non smoking floor was only on the 5th floor & suggested that I check out a higher smoking floor to get a better view. Upon check in, hostess was given 2 keys to take us to both rooms so we could pick which one we preferred. Both rooms had a great view of the Nijo Castle & thankfully the one on the higher floor was a non smoking room or at least this one did not smell like smoke at all. It is about 30 sq meters with lots of bathroom amenities, slippers, bathrobe, pants press, shoe dryer and most importantly, FREE internet access. The hotel is rather old but well kept & the staff are constantly wiping down the marble floors. Oh, I did see the fake deer by the waterfall. If they took Bambi's sibs away, it would really look a whole lot better. It must be there as homage to the Nara deer.

At 3 PM & we were told that the Nijo closes at 4:30 so we hurry across the street & get the audio tour guide for Y500 @ then walked through the massive castle. We were able to walk through the Ninomaru Palace, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. This palace had numerous rooms for the shogun like the ones we see in their television programs. We walk through the hallways they call Nightingale Floor which were built to detect interlopers. There is no photography allowed here to protect the antique hand painted walls. We moved on to the Honmaru Palace & walk through the immaculately kept gardens where we find a whole troop of gardeners up on their ladders lovingly pruning the pine trees that surround the palace. HP is only on very special occassions. There are 2 moats in this palace & it was interesting to imagine that this place was truly used by the shogun & the samurai in the olden days. Appreciated the audio guides quite a bit. We walked by the waterfalls & it was cooling after our walk by the castle.

KT decided he wanted to use the Fitness Center which you could use for a fee even for hotel guests. That's why I'm here trying to get our evening schedule together. It was quite pleasant this afternoon so we are looking forward to a nice evening at the Gion area & dinner by the Kamo Gawa river.

More later........

DonTopaz May 26th, 2008 02:39 AM

Sounds wonderful, bmttokyo! And who would have guessed about Sizzler?

Looking forward to further reports.

hawaiiantraveler May 26th, 2008 08:36 AM

Kekkonkinen bi omedeto!!!

Thanks for the live report bmttokyo!

I remember looking at the ANA across the Nijo.

If you do Kinkakuji, do it right after they open or before 10:30 or so and you'll miss all the crowds.

Sanjusangendo Temple is an awesome sight!

Don't forget to walk the Pontocho at night and check out the Gion area

Don't miss the Nishiki market which is close to your hotel area. It's Kyoto's answer to Ameyoko in Ueno......I'll take Ameyoko, lol

I love the train station for all the different restaurants and venues to eat(I think over 80), especially the ones upstairs.

Can you tell I am jealous? Have fun!


bmttokyo May 26th, 2008 10:36 AM

Hi Rizz & HT,

It's 2 Am but I'm still awake- thanks for the good
wishes HT !!! I'm thinking more about KT being able to survive being with me these past 20 years. He's a neat guy. A real keeper if I should say so myself. CCN in English is keeping me company reporting about continuous news about Sichuan, China's earthquake & its repercussions.

I will not hesitate to buy you a meal in our Sizzler, Rizz. They have wonderful fresh produce, frequently replenished & very neatly arranged fare incuding (frozen) fresh lychees which you hardly ever find here in Japan.

We head out after KT emerges fresh from his visit to the gym & sauna. We walk out of our hotel & down to the subway about 4 minutes away. Senjo Keihan Eki is our destination so we could get to Pontocho. We cross a bridge which really reminds me of Chiang Mai's Nawarat bridge. I must have taken dozens & dozens of photos as we walk down the very narrow street with its very interesting tea houses & restaurants. I am hoping to spot my maiko (geiko in training) so I can get her photo. I soon hear squeals of laughter & what do you know, 3 maikos briskly walking down the alley but as they walk pass me, it was by some trees & it was so dark, the first pic I took did not take. I run after them as KT watched me from afar but these ladies can walk really fast in their high heeled gettas. I managed to take a picture of 2 of their painted napes.

CNN just quit on me so I am listening to BBC's sports news. We walk down to the Gion area & are fascinated by the different feels of this neighborhood. One street was closed to traffic then as walk pass a certain tea house, we find out why. A big shot being picked up in his Black Sedan is being sent off by the house's okaasan (no folks, no AO sighting, sorry !) & her numerous assistants. There were lots of security people talking into their mini 2 way radios. As soon as Big Shot speeds away, traffic resumes.

I will have to say that I got a good photo of my maiko tonight- well sort of. We happened to walk into the set of a local TV show. The actress had numerous takes of the same scene & I managed to take her pic in between takes. Soon, a distinguished gentleman is making conversation with KT then I realize that it was the older man the "maiko' just finished her scene with. He was explaining to KT that they were shooting the TV show called Dan dan or was it Don don. Whatever it was, he was soon called to do his scene but I forgot to ask him for a photo op with KT. Zannen !!!

We walk through the different areas of Hanamachi while we were appreciating the well kept ancient structures that were preserved by the government. By 10PM we decide to have dinner & find a nice looking corner ramen shop. It's called ITSUYA & they make real good tonkotsu ramen & we order the sets with kara age & hito kuchi gyoza. They truly were bite sized, the smallest ones I've ever seen & very tasty.

We walk back the street leading to Yasaka Shrine where KT finds his Starbucks. He orders a Volcano, a chocolate cake with a crater where you pour a shot of espresso in & a small cup of house coffee. I think that cost him about Y700. They don't have decaf options so I decline. It's now 3 AM . Can you imagine what time I'd be asleep if I drank coffee?

KT is tired from all the walking plus his workout this PM so we get in a cab this time. We notice that unlike TKY where the cabs now have a Y710 drop fare, we saw different prices on cabs here- from Y500 to the Y570 which our smoke smelling cab showed. It seems like the taxis are not as new as the TKY ones. In no time we were back in our hotel.

It's time for bed- we have a long day tomorrow- OK, HT, as bright & early as I can to Kinkakuji before 1030 to beat the crowds & keep cool then to Ryoanji. Kiyomizu dera then KT's request - Kyoto National Museum. If we have time, we'll do Fushimi Inari as Shrine. We'll see what we can finish since we still have most of Wed to see other spots.

travelinwifey May 26th, 2008 10:59 AM

Yea! I'm bookmarking this, have a great trip!

Mara May 26th, 2008 11:19 AM

bmttokyo - I am so enjoying your trip - thanks for sharing!

DonTopaz May 26th, 2008 12:39 PM

bmttokyo, by any chance did you pass by the Shinbashi bridge area, very close to Gion? It's one of the loveliest city streets that I've ever known -- traditional old houses along a quiet stream. Often several maiko in the area, as well.

Looking forward to returning later this year.

bmttokyo May 26th, 2008 03:19 PM

Bright up & early & getting ready for our good day. Nijo is beautiful in the morning !

Yes I did Rizz. I got a picture of the beautiful stream against the rather strong lighting of a restaurant. Maiko must have been busy by then since the only (few) people I saw there were maiko "hunters' like me.

More about our hotel room- I've long heard about the newer models of Japanese "hot" toilets seats which include as a safety feature its ability to stop its spray function if it senses the user is not on the seat anymore. Well, I found out the one in our toilet sure is. We also slept on a very comfortable bed called Tempur, it is has memory & so does your pillows. Makes for a very comfortable night. How can I complain/ We're used to sleeping on the floor so this is really good. They have this shoe dryer which could make marshmallow too. Just kidding !!! It

KT has to wait till 1 PM to use the Fitness Center so he's now busy trying to coordinate with our friend who just arrived from LAX over Skype.

Our rate includes brekkie so we'll have to choose between the Japanese set or the buffet served in seperate restaurants. Better gas for our long day. More later.

Ittikimasu !!! I'm on my way out.........

KimJapan May 26th, 2008 03:26 PM

Enjoy your day!

bmttokyo May 27th, 2008 02:15 AM

When I went to fetch the newspaper this AM, I didn't find any on the floor, instead it was tucked in neatly on a sleeve attached to the wall. Must have everything to do with the Japanese not wanting to put anything on the floor or ground as they may be perceived as dirty. Now watching CNN on our flat screen TV.

We chose to have have breakfast at the Buffet instead of having the set Japanese brekkie & we were not disappointed. Thankfully I did not have to pay for the Y2,300 (I think) rate as we got the room & brekkie rate since I think it was a little too expensive for what we got. There were plenty of choices as Japanese hotels go. No egg station but there was lots of fruit (lychees too !), pineapples, kiwi, oranges all very sweet ! KT had to special order his fried eggs since they only had prepared( dried out) ones. Eggs came in no time.

How in the world did I miss mentioning the batallion of young Japanese students we found at the Station when we arrived yesterday? They are usually all in an orderly line even when they walk. We found a whole lot of them again all over town today including the bus stop across from our hotel. I am always impressed at how well behaved they are when they move as a group.

A Y500 bus all day ticket is the best buy here in Kyoto. We found that out today as we plied the city via the bus . Normally costing you Y220 per ride , we managed to go to many places using the bus card. Absolutely a great buy !!!

We're off to a nice dinner tonight. No keiseki since KT does not eat raw fish so we're targeting the crab & steak place called Kaniya. We're jazzers so we asked around for a Jazz live house in town & will hit the Gion area again tonight. I bought an outfit at the Inari Shrine & will use that this evening. I better get going before KT gets back from his workout. Day's report coming when we return this evening.

bmttokyo May 27th, 2008 06:57 PM

Looking at the steady stream of students & busloads of people entering the Nijo jo since this AM.

We had a real full day of sight seeing yesterday. We were able to visit Kinkakuji, Ryoanji, Yasaka, Kiyomizu, Toji Temple & Fushimi-Inari. I really enjoyed the sites & would highly recommend them.

Had a wonderful dinner at Kaniya <> for my King Crab sukiyaki & KT's steak. Enjoyed live Jazz at Sting <> at the Gion area. Suzuki is the owner/piano player who makes his own arrangements & is a real treat to listen to.

Gotta head out to the Museum now. Kyoto awaits.

DonTopaz May 28th, 2008 03:53 AM

Thanks for the updates! Kaniya looks like a wonderful place for dinner.

bmttokyo May 28th, 2008 10:36 PM

I had another report typed out but the computer ate it !!! I'm getting wiser now & typing this by segments so here it is ..............

Kinkakuji <> and Ryoanji <> Temples

As I look out of my bedroom balcony, I no longer see the famous walls of the Nijo Castle but my neighbor's home which is only a few meters away. I'm back in TKY still relishing the great 3 days we had in Kyoto.

Armed with our Y500 bus pass for the day, we cross the street from our hotel to the front of the Nijo castle where we take Bus 12 to the Kinkakuji Temple. I wait alongside a lot of school kids. The ones i spoke to live in the next town & are in Kyoto for a 2 day trip as part of their school curriculum. They already started their long day & just completed their Nijo Castle tour. We attempt to heed ht's advise to beat the crowds & the heat by making it early to the Golden Pavilion. Either I was really late or the rest of the world was thinking like me since there was a throng of people at the temple when i get there. After KT secures our tickets, we were greeted by a throng of people by the Chinese gate. The sight of the pavilion is pretty amazing this sunny, pleasant day. The reflection of the building on the building was a sight to see. People were taking their spots to have their photos taken. I offer to take a couple of girls' & they return the favor. There's a waterfall, a pond , a tea house that you walk by. There's an English speaking guide taking her guests around & we hear her spiel every so often. We walk around & up the hill where there is another nice spot to take pictures. Soon after that we head out to the gate when I realize I forgot to take a pic of the Mirrored Lake. KT waited for me at the Visitor's teahouse as I rushed back into the entrance past the ticket collector we encountered earlier. He was very busy with new arrivals. I found a very quiet spot (!) away from the crowds & got my shots. I can't ever sell them but they turned out OK!

Both Kinkakuji & Ryoanji are in North Kyoto & is only a short bus ride away from each other. We return to the same bus stop where we alighted for the Kinkakuji & join a big group of school kids awaiting their bus. They must have been waiting for another bus as I was the first one in line. As the bus approaches, the bus driver tries to straighten up his bus but is held up by another car in front of him, he is met by a large group of foreigners a few meters away from the bus stop. They were probably hoping he would open the doors for them. In true Japanese fashion, Bus Driver moves on motioning them to move forward toward the bus stop then very gracefully parks right in front of me.

Ryoanji is as expected full of tourists coming & going. I noticed the pond on the left was dry. They must have been doing some cleaning to it but the water lilies they had there were still seen at the bottom. We head for the Main Building of the temple and it feels like the Nijo Castle with its genkan lined with shelves of shoes. You take a left turn & see the temple bell then on to what appears to be the famous garden. Fifteen rocks in a simple garden with some moss, no trees- from ancient times , the 15th century acknowledged as one of Japan's masterpieces. You sit down, alongside the 25 meter garden on wooden steps together with dozens & dozens of people taking photos, some talking, still some keeping out of the sun, others just sitting- meditating or at least trying to. There is much activity but there is a calm in the air. A little infant cries & its a welcome sound. Behind you is a meditation hall with old painted panels. KT wonders aloud if this gardener who designed this masterpiece which reportedly cannot be seen completely- you cannot see ALL 15 rocks no matter what angle you try take, purposefully did so or if the missing rock came about by accident ;-). We follow the hallway & find the famous stone wash basin with its inscription " I learn only to be contended." Sounds real noble & very familiar. A man named Paul in the First Century wrote this words to his friend Timothy 1Ti 6:6 "But godliness with contentment is great gain. " You pass through a moss garden which has a real calming & cooling effect as it was getting a little warmer by now.

We walk down the hill past a stone quarry where they make & sell Ishi-doro, Japanese granite lanterns. I've seen places sell them before but never this many- saw a whole lot of different sizes & styles. We wait in front of a University Off to our next destination- Kiyomizudera. I better post this now & get back to yo

Statia May 29th, 2008 04:39 AM

Bookmarking so that I can enjoy in my leisure time at home. Thanks for sharing your days bmttokyo! :)

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