I unfortunately did not make the 6:20 AM train from Tokyo to Kyoto 😦 . So I went to the JR East Travel Service Center to change my reservation to the 7 AM train and it costed ¥5740 (about $53USD). The great thing about Tokyo is their signage. Everything is clearly written out and I did not get lost 🙂 . Both of my friends were going to take a later train to Kyoto since their JR pass didn’t allow for travel on the Nozomi or the Mizuho. So that meant they were going to arrive about 2 hours after I arrive in Kyoto. I was lucky enough to get a window seat (train seating is 3 x 3). Unfortunately not on the side that has a view of Mt. Fuji 😦 .
The 2 hour ride was extremely smooth and picturesque. I would highly recommend taking a bullet train if not for the experience, than take it for the scenery. Unfortunately, I didn’t really take any photos during the train ride because it was difficult for me to take the pictures at 300 km/h (186 mph). Since neither of my friends took the same train as I did, I was seated next to a group of 8+ people. Although we did exchange morning greetings (おはようございます) and I thanked one of the guys sitting right next to me for helping me put my roller overhead. I pretty much just kept to myself and caught up on my current readings, Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet by flight attendant Heather Poole and Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality by Jacob Tomsky on my Kindle.
As I am typing this up, I suddenly remember why I miss Japan so much… it is so clean! Even the toilets on the trains were super clean. They also give you 2 options: Western (standard toilets) or Asian (squat toilets). Anyhow, back to my trip…
I arrived at Kyoto Station right on time. Once the guy sitting next to me figured that Kyoto Station was my stop, he helped me retrieve my roller and I was on my merry way. First thing you notice after exiting the train and looking for the building exit is the sheer amount of people in the train station. I seriously thought that I would never make it out of there and when I finally found the exit, there was a very long but organized line at the taxi stand. It took me about 5-7 minutes to get a taxi and the driver was super nice. He pointed out a lot of sites on the way to the hostel (Peace House Sakura).
The odd thing about the hostel was the check- in time. It had to be at 6 PM, which is by far the latest I have seen. Nevertheless, I arrived at the hostel in about 10 minutes and I was able to enter the building with the code that was provided to my friend, Kathy (she booked the hostel). There weren’t any staff members there when I arrived but a couple of travelers who stayed a few nights prior told me that I could leave my luggage in the hallway.
After making sure my roller and carry-on were secured (aka locked), I asked the travelers if they knew where the local 7-Eleven was since I was hungry and needed more money. They said that they were heading that way and could show me. As I was walking with these travelers, I found out that they were Finnish foreign exchange students who were returning to Finland after a year studying in Japan. The local 7-Eleven was literally a five minute walk from the hostel. After exiting the hostel, go right to the end of the street and then make another right and walk for 2 blocks.
After we entered the store, I made my way over to the 7-Eleven ATM to withdraw money. The great thing about the 7-Eleven ATMs is that they don’t charge you a fee to use the machine. The only fees I was charged was the 1% foreign transaction fee that my bank charged. After withdrawing enough money, I made my way over to the food area to pick out my lunch. Unfortunately there were no English translations for the onigiri, luckily the Finnish exchange student helped me with the translations and I was able to purchase lunch for ¥490 (about $4.50USD).
After waiting for 2 hours, my friends finally made it to the hostel! 😀 As soon as they put their luggages away, we split up. Kathy and I decided to go and visit the Kiyomizu Temple since it only a 15 minute walk from our hostel. Unfortunately or fortunately what was suppose to be a 15 minute walk turned into a 2 hour eating-shopping excursion! 😀 There were many cute/touristy shops along the way that sold everything from teacups to candies and chocolates. There were also tons of food stores/stalls. All so delicious, unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures (Sorry!). Oh, please keep in the mind, the road is really really narrow. Please don’t get run over by cars or tour buses.
There were a lot of people there! Mostly tourists wandering around and snapping photos of everything. After awhile, we went our own ways to explore the temple. I mostly take photos of the cherry blossoms and the crowds of visitors/tourists/locals. The great thing about visiting Kyoto is that, guys and girls wore kimonos on the streets. And some of the kimonos were gorgeous, vibrant colors and unique patterns.
Afterward, we went back to hostel to meet up with our friend Tommy and get checked into the hostel. We each paid ¥7500 (about $69USD) for 3 nights. All in all, I spent ¥15,435 (about $142USD) for Day 1 in Kyoto.