We….OK I…..had decided we needed to go to Kyoto for a few days to see a different side of Japanese life. I knew this was going to be a hard day. I had bought seven-day Japan Rail Tickets back in the states because you can’t buy them in Japan. They are a bit pricey, but the Kyoto trip itself almost covered the fare. Plus I wanted (needed?) to go to Hiroshima….and since it is closer to Kyoto we will travel there from here. If we figure out somewhere else we want to go in the train in those 7-days, we travel for free on the pass. Anyway, Kyoto and Hiroshima were my idea,.,,I admit it. I did plan it during the week so we could spend weekends with Maggie’s friends in Tokyo, however,
We go have been waking up at 3 or 4 a.m. Maggie usually goes back to sleep for a while after this. We had to check out if our Airbnb apartment by 11, but dreading this trip I decided we needed to leave by 10. Around 8:30 I woke Maggie up. She wasn’t quite ready to be awake, so I did feel a bit guilty….but there were a lot of steps to our day and I figured she could sleep on the 3-hour train ride to Kyoto. We had a couple of different options for stations where we could redeem our rail passes. Maggie mapped it out and we set out. She is quite the expert.
While we planned luggage pretty well in one sense (big bagpacks and a carry on), they are still rather heavy and they are getting a bit heavier as time goes on. Especially with the million subway stairs you walk up and down while carrying it all. We maneuvered the subway, then had about a 15-minute walk to where we redeemed the voucher. Keep in mind that Maggie had not had a full meal since lunch the day before because I wasn’t feeling well that night….and Maggie likes her three meals a day. And I woke her up before she was ready. We knew the walk to the next station wasn’t too far, but the map wasn’t good. It started to get stressful. We definitely didn’t need extra steps. There was a line of cabs there, so I decided it was time for Maggie’s first cab ride ever. Definitely money well spent. The route would have been a bear to walk with luggage.
We take the taxi to the service center, and find the place where they give us our vouchers and a ticket for a trip to Kyoto. Problem was it was getting ready to leave. No time for lunch. Maggie agrees it will be OK (and I verified there were McDonald’s in Kyoto and there were none close to the station where we were), so off we go. We headed through the station, but there us absolutely nothing on our tickets that match up with the signage around us, We keep asking folks and each advances us a bit more. The last was a fare agent, so I felt fairly confident we got on the right train, but without sugn confirmation I wondered. I only confirmed it about an hour into our journey.
The train was great. Clean, well maintained, racks overhead for our large luggage. It was quiet and peaceful….conversation is really frowned upon on public transport here, especially loud conversation. We passed some beautiful scenery and some big farming and industrial areas, The three hours flew by and it actually was a very enjoyable experience. Maggie caught up on some sleep and re-gained most of her zen.
We arrive in Kyoto, and by then we just want to dump our luggage and find Maggie her McDonald’s. Neither of us felt like thinking at that point (and finding your way requires your full brain here), so time for our second cab of the day. We arrive at our third accommodation of the trip and it is a definite upgrade from our first two. Our room is beautiful, The staff is attentive. It will be a wonderful place to rest for a few days.
As I checked us in, Maggie is getting directions to the nearest McDonald’s from another staff member. We put our things in our room, and set out to find it. It was about a 10-minute walk away. We are almost there (the Golden Arches are in our sight) and I am greeted by five children, one who solemnly tells me they are junior high students studying English and asks if I would answer some questions for them. They take turns asking me questions. “What is your name?” “Where are you from?” (North Carolina was a bit advanced….I quickly added USA, America. I think America made the cut.) “Why are you here?” “What do you like about Japan?” They took turns and all were excellent in their delivery. They asked if they could take a picture of me at the end. I said if I could take a picture of them. We told them they were speaking English very well, and their giggles were precious. As we left I said “Come to the USA and visit us sometime and they looked like they liked the idea of that.” (And for my UNC Model UN’ers….no, I didn’t tell them where I lived. Oops.) It was a wonderful encounter and they made my day. I wish their teacher had been around….they were obviously very good at their job and I would have loved to tell them.
But then in a few steps we were in a Nirvana….also known as McDonald’s. As we ate (and it admittedly was good!) Maggie contemplated whether she should get an extra burger to eat later. I talked her out of it. Cold McDonald’s? Ick. But I suspect we may see McDonald’s again. Along with the Pizza Hut that is just a block away from our hotel. But really….she is trying Japanese food, too, so I’m going with it. And she is loving the Japanese chocolate and finding her favorite snacks Shino sent her over the years and eating plenty of them….that counts!
Walking home we went into two different grocery stores. One didn’t have the snacks she sought, but we found a bargain there on water (33 yen per bottle). At the other store I waited outside while she collected snacks for Kyoto. She came out with a filled bag. She’s afraid I am not going to feed her!
When we got back to the room I drew Maggie’s attention to our fancy Japanese toilet (really….I have to bring these up each place we stay because they are all different and fascinating.) Her squeals when she pushed buttons had me laughing so hard I cried.
Then Maggie decided to try the in-room massage. This tiny little Japanese lady came, and she packed some power! Maggie said it hurt at first, but then started to feel good. The foot massage especially looked awesome. I’m trying to hold out for Diana time when I get back (Diana is my friend and awesome massage therapist), but yeah….if tomorrow brings as much pain to my feet as prior days have, I just may cheat on her!
Tomorrow (Tuesday) we will visit Hiroshima….at the top of my list to see in Japan since reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich in high school. It’s a two-hour train ride there and back, but worth it, I think. Of course we have made no real plans, so if we wake up too late or logistics seem too burdensome, we will tour Kyoto tomorrow and wait until the next day. We’re flexible…we’re on vacation!