Today the Gaijins almost brought Japan to a standstill. Well, a Brazilian one in particular. Andrea held up the shuttle bus from the hotel by 5 minutes, then the train to Kyoto was late, and much later, Komal and Bernard’s meeting ran over. Coincidence? I think not!

Late trains in Japan

Most of the group are leaving early tomorrow morning, but Chris and Liv are flying so early that they’re getting a hotel near the airport tonight. But before all that, we have a meeting in Kyoto University and then tourist stuff in Kyoto.

We took the train to Kyoto and then a local one along Nara line to Obaku (Shaun took this opportunity to take a lovely photo of me sleeping standing up) to meet Dr Norio Okada, who is quite important in disaster management; and apparently I’m going to a lecture by him next week.

So after meeting him, Komal and Bernard went off to Nagoya by bullet train, and the rest of us got a sightseeing bus pass for Kyoto. We only had a couple of hours so decided to get off at the Ryoanji Temple and if we split up, meet back at the station at 6.15pm.

We did indeed split up. Andrea, Liv, Shaun and I whizzed around Ryoanji and headed to Kinkakuji. It was a bit of a shame because everyone else there was clearly sitting and contemplating the simplicity of the rock garden, and we just took a few quick snaps and left. In typical Japanese tourist style (except they don’t do it here!).

It took longer to walk to the Kinkakuji than I expected and I was getting a bit concerned that we’d taken a wrong turning, but we got there. Then stood outside wondering if it was worth going in, because it was already 3.45pm. Eventually decided to go in and very glad we did, because it was awesome. Essentially it is a golden temple built next to a lake, and it’s very pretty. There is also a coin toss thing: we didn’t know the purpose of it, but I got my coin in! (and apparently it’s for good luck). Andrea and Shaun also got the chance to have a photo taken with a lady in a kimono. She was also a tourist, but stopped by quite a few people wanting photos.

Kinkakuji Golden Temple

Andrea then went off by herself and Liv, Shaun and I boarded the most packed bus in the world. They don’t seem to do doubledeckers here, and there aren’t many seats either: just lots and lots of hoops to hold. And you get on using the door in the middle of the bus, then leave using the front door and pay then. Anyway, pretty uncomfortable.

We got off the bus at the station and went into the underground shopping mall looking for tourist tat. The only souvenir shop we found was quite expensive, so we went into the ground floor of the Sky Tower building which was much more reasonably priced.

Shaun went off looking for gifts and Liv and I got a coffee in Starbucks by pointing to what we wanted. Much easier than learning another language! (Helps that the menu is in English though). We left at 6pm to go back to the station to meet the others. We chose to go the underground route, not sure if it was the mall or just underground to the station. Either way we were pretty sure we would get to where we wanted, with me saying: “the worst that can happen is we end up on the other side of the road”.

Ahem. No idea how we managed it, but we seemed to go all the way under the station and out on the other side. Anyway, it was a street we didn’t recognise and we couldn’t see anything we recognised, and all signage was useless (even those in English). Getting a bit worried as we continued to walk and still didn’t see anything we recognised.Eventually I recognised one part of the station from earlier that day and we got back to the front of the station. Still not sure how we ended up one storey above ground level though.

I’ve since checked what we did: underground at 5, straight down, and back up by the beige building at the bottom.
And to give you an idea of the enormity of Kyoto Station: Sky Tower at the top; under 5 lanes of the bus station, 10 regular rail platforms, 2 bullet train platforms; and out at the mall at the bottom. Stepped outside somewhere near the Sushi Bar, realised we were in the wrong place, walked back up past Kintetsu Railway and Isetan, and out by Hotel Granvia.

The others were there already, but no sign of Hideyuki (who had hotel details for Liv and Chris), Komal and Bernard. Liv and Chris waited a while but were worried about missing the super rapid train, so we said we’d text them the details.

Then we waited. Hideyuki arrived around 6.50pm and told us Komal and Bernard would be late so we shouldn’t wait. We headed back to Takatsuki to find somewhere nice and cheap for dinner. This was the first group meal where we sat on chairs on didn’t take our shoes off!

Komal and Bernard were at the hotel when we got back. Me and Andrea said goodbye to everyone and off to bed after quite a manic day.

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