Ohio means good morning. And I am in Kyoto, so good morning from Kyoto!
Yesterday we had hoped to go to the Tokyo fish market, the Tsukiji Fish Market. Turns out Tuesday was a national holiday so we scrapped that idea and had breakfast at the Hard Rock Cafe instead. It’s there that they serve the American breakfast: an egg, ham, hash browns, and toast (or rice), or a hotdog! Susan had the latter, I the former, with rice. And I am here to tell you the hash browns were the best I’ve ever had! Crispy and brown, just how I like them.
Then back we went to the hotel to gather our belongings to head back to the train station for our shinkansen ride to Kyoto. We had planned (and prepared for) the 11:03, the non-smoking train to Kyoto on the Hakari line. But after a snafu with our own realization of where on earth we were, we were made late by our frantic running around figuring things out. We were departing from Ueno, intended to get on the shinkansen. But one can only embark the shinkansen at Tokyo station – – not Ueno. But having asked the attendant which platform we were to stand on for shinkansen, we transposed that to the Ueno station and therefore were hugely confused. Finally realizing our error (at almost exactly the same time) we rushed to the correct gate to head to Tokyo. And all this with a huge pack on our back and a smaller but heavy pack on our front. And about 70 extra pounds because of the packs. But we pressed on.
Two Americans approached us and talked about how we were carrying our packs. Seems that one of the girls (from LA) is traveling around the world via ship and ther other friend (from Chicago) decided to meet her at her port of call in Japan. Not unlike Susan and I! We happily chatted for awhile and shared experiences and got some advice about Kyoto (it’s hard to navigate, we should get a bus pass, and we should visit the Golden Temple if we do nothing else) then parted ways. It was fun to run in to them and to talk a bit about home (the one from LA goes to Ohio State and mused that “they” had played “us” recently…).
Susan and I were off on a foot race to make it to our platform – – or what we thought was our platform. Turns out we were wrong. Our train had “departure” the guy told us and we must wait for the 11:33 (a smoking train) or the non-smoking one that left after noon. That gave us some time to get reserved seats on the new train and to have a few minutes to relax, take our packs off, and have a Royal Milk Tea – – or in this case, a Georgia Milk Coffee (they were out of milk tea). We continue to ooh and ahh over these warm coffee/teas in a bottle from a vending machine. Absolutely amazing and delicious!
We boarded our shinkansen with glee and immediately settled in comfortably for the 2+ hour ride to Kyoto, stopping in between at a few towns to gather more riders. We rode along the countryside often with the ocean on our left and some low mountains (Mt. Fujis all, we assume) on our right. Absolutely beautiful!
Our train station woes did not end when we left Tokyo. No, they continued to Kyoto. So we arrived in Kyoto and figured out where we had to go in order to make it to our ryokan in the city. But that train and its platform did not look like a JR platform so we worried we might not be able to use our JR passes. With no attendant at the post of our entry, we squeezed passed the closed gates – – this is probably never a good idea but what was done was done. Therefore, when we arrived at our stop and were faced with a decision to go to the exit to the left that was staffed w an attendant, according to the sign, or go to the right, where it was unstaffed, we chose (slyly) the one that was unstaffed. Again, we had to squeeze through the exit as it had no attendant. But when we got through and I realized that I had to climb a vast staircase in order to leave the station, I was like ‘no way!’ I was overly heavy-laden, exhausted, and couldn’t face so many stairs – – especially when Susan spotted an elevator! Of course I went toward it like a moth to a flame, ignoring all reason and logic. Seeing that the lift was only accessible through the other side, we found orselves suqueezing back through the unmanned gate again and severely pressing our luck. Coming back through was where things went wrong. Realizing we couldn’t use the elevator after all, we attempted to go back through the closed gate again. Oh no we didn’t! ‘NO’ yelled the loudspeaker. Yikes! We jumped back and looked all around: up, back, left, right as if wondering where this harsh yelling was coming from. Susan was halfway through and stood still for a few moments before just coming back through again. We were not on a JR line and had not bought a ticket and therefore had no right to exit the station. We were now in conflict with The Law. Deciding to just act stupid (not difficult for us after this day!) we proudly showed our JR pass at the next exit only to be halted again. The look on our faces was as innocent as we could muster as if we were really saying we’re-just-two-Western-girls-trying-to-make-our-way-through-a-strange-land. We finally understood that we had to pay 210Y each for the ride we had just taken. We coughed it up and headed on our way out of the train station – – and up a huge flight of stairs. My bad.
Out of the station we headed one direction hoping we were headed the right way. After seemingly going upstream for quite a ways on a busy street, I started feeling like we were going awry. I do have a strong sense of direction and when I rely on it, it generally steers me right. This time was no exception because it turns out we were heading the wrong way. So we trudged back to the station and turned a different way and proceeded again down a path unknown. Tiring quickly in energy and patience, I asked to stop and figure things out before proceeding. I’m all about taking walks and exploring but not with huge packs on my back whilst trying to reach a specific destination – – after an already long day of running around crazily. Plus, we are each armed with more electronics than NASA that we were not tapping into. We Google-mapped our location and found we were about 8 blocks away so continued our hike. I had originally wanted to hop in a taxi and let them figure it out but knowing we were now within reach of our destination and that we knew where we were going, I was willing to rally on.
We walked down quintessentially-Japan streets and I was in awe of the world we had stepped into! It was beautiful and quaint and bustling! We finally found our ryokan and got settled in our room. I will continue with the story in the next entry…