Tokyo, it’s been real. We learned so much from your mystical shrines and temples, futuristic skyscrapers, beautiful people and inspiring ways of life. However, the time has come for us to embark on our next adventure: the historic capital of Kyoto.
Tokyo: 1, Us: 0
After one last breakfast in Tokyo, we met our guide in the lobby at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. As we prepared to leave for Kyoto, some students were in a bit of a temporary panic due to misplaced items including a passport and a wallet (just the two most essential items to have while overseas, it’s fine) but soon the group marched on to Akihabara Station – suitcases, backpacks and Tokyo memories in tow.
From there, the plan was:
- Walk as a group to Akihabara Station
- Ride the subway to the shinkansen (bullet train) platform
- Board the shinkansen
- Arrive in Kyoto and walk to our new hotel
Well, not quite. It turns out that pouring rain, a (more than) slightly confused guide, lost suitcases, backtracking, navigating the already crowded and chaotic Tokyo subway system during rush hour in a group of 18 people carrying luggage and umbrellas, and juggling separate train tickets is more than enough to throw off even the best plan. Still, by some miracle, our entire group made it to the shinkansen gate with time to spare.
Kyoto Here We Come
We boarded the bullet train and found our assigned seats. Some students who had picked up food at the station began to eat, some went right to sleep, and some eagerly awaited riding one of the fastest trains in the world. One student, Emilee Hall, said that she really enjoyed the shinkansen because it reminded her of the exhilarating acceleration of a roller-coaster. We traveled at a speed of 185 mph through Nagoya and into Kyoto, with beautiful views along the way of Japan’s countryside whizzing by. Amazingly, we traveled about 300 miles in less than two hours. After getting off of the bullet train, we met with Mari Ohara, our Kyoto guide, who was dressed in a kimono. A couple more subway rides and one last walk through the rain brought us to our new home in Kyoto.
We briefly convened in the lobby while the hotel checked our passports and prepared our rooms. Then, we headed up to check out our new digs, which we were excited to find came with a smartphone for our personal use, a huge mounted flat screen TV, energy-efficient features, and excellent views of Kyoto’s Shijo district. The rest of the night was free time, so small groups broke off and ate dinner and some scoped out the open-air Nishiki Market, which featured long corridors of shops, restaurants and grocers. A few of us even participated in karaoke.
Although we were sad to leave Tokyo and enjoyed our time there immensely, I think I speak for all of the SJMC Japan crew when I say that we are very excited for the next phase of our journey through Japan. We are already learning the dialect here, like using “okini” for “thank you” rather than “arigato gozaimasu,” which Dr. Martinez compared to saying “howdy” in Texas, rather than “hello.”
So, howdy Kyoto; we’re ready to discover your secrets.
(The featured image at the top of the post is by Dr. Gilbert Martinez. All other images were taken by author unless otherwise indicated.)