Having arrived safely at the Kyoto station, let me take a moment to speak about Japanese train stations. During the 10 days we were in Japan, we ended up taking dozens of trains of all sizes and flavors. All the way from the small local trams to the finest, high speed express shinkansen. It is an amazingly effective means of travel. And every single one runs exactly on schedule. If the schedule says a train leaves at 3:17 PM, it leaves at 3:17 PM, not a minute earlier or later.

We will spend the next three days in Kyoto, much of it in this general vicinity. The Central Post Office had international ATM machines, so I was able to withdraw several 10,000 yen bills directly from my American checking account at the current exchange rate.

We stayed in the Rihga Royal Hotel. I had to pay for an extra day since we arrived early. I can tell you that it was much more then the rate I received arranging the travel through JTB. I don't have a photo of our room, but it was just a standard Western style room.

The service was phenomenal. From the greeter at the main door to the concierge, every service was eagerly and gladly presented.


As we wandered the streets of Kyoto, we came across this small shrine just a short distance from the hotel (in fact, you can see the Rihga just behind the shrine). On the mouse over picture, you can see a temple we discovered on our walk around the back of the hotel to find a pharmacy.

While Tokyo is the capital and houses the Imperial Palace and the emperor himself, Kyoto is considered the cultural center of Japan. Before Tokyo, Kyoto had served as the capital of Japan for over a thousand years. Because of that long history, there are countless shrines and temples to be found here.

OK, while we had planned to totally immerse ourselves in the Japanese culture for the duration of the trip, we had finally grown a little weary of the raw fish diet. We felt that we deserved a little break today <grin>


We had occasion to walk through the Kyoto train station many times during our stay there. We discovered that Kyoto must host thousands upon thousands of school field trips. Entire classes of students were endless arriving to and leaving from the station. The shrines and temples we visited over the next few days were teeming with students taking the same tours. In the background is a class of students sitting on the ground waiting for the next step in their trip and to the right are school girls in the traditional Japanese seifuku, a school uniform based on a sailor's outfit.

We were quite fortunate to find a free Internet cafe just a block or two from the hotel. Finally, we were able to check our email. That's Jennifer sitting it the foreground as we wait for our turn at a computer. Next to her is a flattened cardboard box and some shipping tubes to the other side of her we purchased from the post office. We were planning to ship some of the stuff we didn't need like these thick coats we brought for Mount Fuji and those darn flag staffs home. Unfortunately the shipping costs ended up like 30,000 yen for air mail or 8,000 yen for 4 - 6 weeks ground, so we decided to hang on to the stuff and just carry it with us.


Due to the high level of pedestrian traffic, part of the traffic light pattern is to stop cars in all four directions and allow pedestrians to cross diagonally as well as directly across. 

Some of the most charming things were also the smallest. Just a random pair of parakeets sitting in a cage and a few flowers set outside a store. Even in downtown Kyoto, you can find little touches of nature.


Finding something to eat was a cinch. Many restaurants display their food with plastic models. All you need do is point out the dish you want and the waiter will take care of it from there.

For the first time since we arrived in Japan, Jennifer and I split up for an hour or so. She shopped for clothes while I checked out the bookstore. It was an interesting study of human nature. In Japan, it is quite common to read magazines right off the rack as these folks are doing. And the demographics was sharply delineated. Teenage girls in front of the shoujo (girls comics), teenage boys in front of the shonen (boys comics), young adults in front of the fashion/contemporary mags, businessmen in front of the sports mags, geeks in front of the gaming mags. Adult magazines were predominately displayed, but everyone seemed to avoid that section ^_^