Hakone to Kyoto, Thursday 27-Oct

Time to go back to a big city. We left the quaintness of Hakone for Kyoto and had time to visit a temple, a mausoleum, and a shrine before settling in for the evening.

From Hakone to Kyoto

Since the front desk at our hostel opened at 8am, we packed and ate breakfast before that so we could check out as soon as they opened. On the walk between the hostel and the train, we cross two rivers. This morning, Melody spotted a crane sitting in one, as if it were saying goodbye to us.

Since it was barely 8am, many shops weren't open yet, but the manju shop we went into the other day was busy making confections for the day.

We were going to take a train from Hakone to Odawara, then get reserved seats for the Shinkansen to Kyoto. The first train runs pretty often, so even though one had just left, it wasn't a long wait until the next one arrived and we were on our way.

Upon arrival at Odawara, we went to the JR counter to reserve seats on the next train, but they were sold out. We'd have to try our luck with unreserved seats.

On the platform, we were early enough that our train wasn't even on the reader board for upcoming trains, so we took a seat. It was fun to watch the express trains barrel through the station. The train before ours arrived, and we saw several people queued up to board. Passengers exited the train, but no one was getting on. Doors close, train leaves; guess that train didn't pick anyone up at Odawara. We scrambled into a line, and it wasn't long before our train arrived. We went into a car and started hunting for seats; we didn't see two together, so we split up. At the first stop (the longest leg between stops on our trip) the men beside each of us left, so we were able to sit together for the rest of the ride.

Kyoto Station was vaster than we expected. The first item on our checklist was to find the tourist information office, but it took quite a while and a bit of help from a passerby to get close, then we got to the point where we were able to follow signs. The woman who assisted us was extremely knowledgeable and helpful. Then, it was time to make our first voyage onto the streets of Kyoto.

Higashiyama

After dropping off our bags at the hostel, we decided we had enough time to do at least part of a walking tour. But first, lunch at one of the places recommended on a handout at the hostel. It was essentially fast food, but quite good. We ordered at a kiosk, gave the tickets to the woman at the counter, and a few minutes later, were eating oyakodon.

The walking tour started not too far to the east of where we were, so we decided to get there by foot. The first destination was Sanjusangendo Temple, which is almost 400 feet long. It houses 1,001 golden life-size images of a thousand-handed Kannon or Goddess of Mercy. In the middle is a seated Kannon from the mid-13th century which is over 10 feet tall.

Temples and shrines have you remove shoes before going into the actual buildings of worship, and have cubbies for you to put your shoes. This was the first place we've seen which handed out plastic bags so you can carry your shoes, then provide trash bins where you put your shoes back on. No plastic bag bans around here.

Bypassing the Kyoto National Museum (slated for another day), we took a quick look at the Kawai Kanjiro Memorial House. He was a potter who made much of the furniture in the home; again saved for another day.

We did a quick spin through the Omani Mausoleum but didn't walk through Toribeyama, a huge cemetery with about 15,000 tombs. We were about to turn to go towards there but then heard a guard telling a couple other people that you couldn't go that way to Kiyomizu Temple (our next destination) since it was closed off for security reasons. We took a different route up the hill and arrived at the temple.

Kiyomizu is built on the side of a mountain, and the current incarnation dates to the early 17th century; it was rebuilt by Iemitsu, the third Tokugawa shogun (whose temple we saw in Nikko).

You can't tell when you're at the temple, but if you walk below, you can see the huge pillars holding it up. Also popular is Otowa Falls, where you reach out with a cup on a long stick to get a drink of water. There was a very long line; the groups of kids who were there were especially excited to try it.

Once we left the temple, we strolled through Kiyomizu-zaka, a shop-lined street going down the hill. They also had manju, but the popular kind seemed to be thin sheets of rice folded over a small dab of filling, sort of like a sweet wonton.

I had noticed it to a lesser extent before, but once we neared the Kiyomizu area, we saw lots of women in kimonos and men in yukatas. The women weren't Geisha but were busy taking selfies and each others' photos.

Another quiet evening

We found our way back to the hostel. The person who checked us in was, as we have come to expect, extremely helpful. He took the time to point out not only things to see and do, but which bus lines would work best, and where we could use our JR pass for free rides to further sights. He seemed astonished that we had walked all the way to Kiomizu and back.

We got to the room, another Japanese-style room. It's much smaller than our Hakone room but roomier than the room we had in Tokyo.

It was time to check out the grocery store, and this one was huge compared to others we've been to so far on the trip. They had a great selection of produce, take-out food, and other things a traveler would want. Dinner and breakfast were procured (no surprise) and we went back to eat, set up the futons, and turning for the night.