Kyoto (August 19 - 23, 2001)

Hiroshima & area

New Zealand

The shinkansen is incredible. We left and arrived exactly on schedule (to the minute!). Even Mark was impressed with how fast they go. We were on one at 200km/hr, but the fastest trains reach 300km/hr. 

We discovered that the tourist office (where we hoped to book a hotel) was closed on Sunday's. However, Sarah called around and we found a great hotel - The Kyoto Century Hotel. It was relatively inexpensive (under $200/night) and within walking distance from the train station. It was much bigger and nicer than our Tokyo hotel. Happily in our new room, we arranged to stay 4 nights.  

Golden Temple

Heian Shrine

Kyoto is famous for its temples, shrines, and gardens - with more than 2000 temples in the area. We started out on the first afternoon to see them, only to hear Chloe say "I'm not going to see another Temple" after the first one. We ate dinner at the train station. Train stations are actually great sources of good food in Japan, and the Kyoto station is outstanding with a hotel, convention centre, arcade, and shopping mall attached. 

Chloe found a great game at the arcade - she had to beat a drum in time with music. She could both hear the music and see the score (with drum marks on it) on the video screen. At the end, she was given a mark for accuracy.  It was a huge arcade, but this game seemed to be the most popular. Most of the 'american style' racing and shooting games went unused. 

The next morning, after a quick visit to the local tourist information office, we went off to see a few more temples (we described them as 'gardens' to Chloe). It was a shame that it was summer time as the gardens were all green. Apparently they are best viewed in Spring or Fall when the colours come out.  The amazing thing about the gardens is that everything is tended- even full size trees are pruned with care all the way up to the top. In both big and small trees, wayward branches are propped with long poles into position, rather than cut off. We saw Kinkaju-ji (the Golden Temple pictured above) and Roanji where the renowned rock garden is. 

Sushi Conveyor restaurant The second day was to be in the company of a volunteer student guide, but we postponed it by a day because of typhoon Pabuk. The Japanese news had almost constant coverage of the typhoon (the first to hit the mainland in two years). While it seemed at first that it was coming straight for Kyoto, it veered to the north along the coast. We got heavy rain and a strong (but not dangerous) wind instead.

After doing some administration (laundry and shipping about 30 lbs of extra books and clothes home), we took the opportunity to experience a Japanese tea ceremony at the Miyako Hotel, and then had sushi for supper at the train station. The sushi was served by conveyor belt - the food went by us and we simply picked what we wished to eat. The waitress counted the plates to determine our bill.

On our last full day in Kyoto, we had a double treat. Our student volunteer guide, Taro,  showed us around a few more temples and gardens (Heian Shrine and garden, and the Nanzenji Temple with the Leaping Tiger Garden) and then had lunch with us. Then after supper, we then went to the home of the Fukuoka family - a home visit arranged through the Kyoto Information Centre. The Fukuoka's have 4 children ages 6, 10,  12, and 15, and a bunny, much to our children's delight. The kids discovered a language in common ('Nintendo') and it was a nice end to a great day. 

We left the next day for Hiroshima by Shinkansen. After our success in Kyoto, we went without reservations expecting to be able to find a room like we had in Kyoto. 

On to Hiroshima...