Saturday, May 15, 2010

The trip over to Tokyo

Fly from Sydney 6.00 am yesterday. A couple of hours in Cairns and then on to Tokyo where we arrived at 7.30 pm

We had our first 'rail' experience -there is a cable car that takes passengers from the 'satellite' terminal to the main terminal. Clever!

We had decided to hire a mobile phone for the month and I had reserved one online to collect when we arrived. What I didn't realize was that we arrived at Terminal 2 but the phone company was at terminal 1. One short busride later we had the phone, made contact with Paul and Joss and then waited for our busride to Shinegawa.

We arrived at the Hearton Hotel Shinegawa at 10.30 pm - a long day. However room is perfect. Thanks Rumi!

I'm having trouble uploading photos to the blog so this revised edition has no photos. Hopefully I can sort this out and post the rest of our episodes with suitable visuals.

-- Post From My iPhone

Day 1 in Tokyo

We have all slept in - the room is sooo quiet! I have used the digital toilet with some success. This is definately an improvement over our somewhat crude approach to toilet hygiene at home

Notice the control panel on the right.

Just across the road from our hotel there is a Jusco department store and the food court became our 11.00 am breakfast destination. Gyoza followed by doughnuts and coffee. We are really going to eat healthy on this trip!

After eating we browsed the department store above. The toy department allowed Laura the opportunity to drive an electric train. Note the video display showing the 'driver's' view from Laura's train

After browsing the department store we headed to Tokyo Teleport via the Rinkai Line and discovered Venus Fort, a very impressive outlet mall. You can see one happy shopper with minder.

Lots of girlie shops in a setting that doesn't bear much resemblance to DFO!!

And it's all undercover despite appearances in the photo above

Day 2 - off to Kyoto

After leaving the hotel we took a taxi to Shinegawa station and booked our seats on the Shinkansen to Kyoto. We had some time to wait and watch- every few minutes as one of these bullet trains arrived or departed Shinegawa. They have 15 carriages so when full about a thousand people per train are being whisked along in fast, quiet, clean and efficient comfort.

More Shinkansen photos

Two and a half hours later we arrived at Kyoto station which is an impressive futuristic structure that might seem a bit odd for this ancient city but is well suited to the advanced railway technology using it

More Photos of Kyoto Station

The lower levels contain a variety of restaurants - we found a great one that specialized in different types of Tonkatsu which is breaded deep fried pork. Fortunately there is absolutely no resemblance to any Aussie deep fried food!

We caught the Karasuma-Dori subway to the Hearton hotel which is right in the centre of Kyoto. Another excellent choice - very quiet, well appointed and conveniently located - thanks Rumi, a perfect choice again!

We spent the afternoon checking out the parrallel Teramachi and Shin-kyogoku shopping arcades. Interesting fashion and craft shops being patronised by lots of seriously fashionable locals

After these adventures some snacks and an early night for the weary travellers.

-- Post From Geoff's iPhone

Day 3 - Steam action in Kyoto

Another quiet and comfy night but a cold wet and miserable day. After breakfast a subway ride to Kyoto station and then an increasingly damp walk to the Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum. This is located in a huge half circle roundhouse and is home to 15 steam lomotives.

Of these, seven operate on a regular basis including the one below (a 2-6-0) which hauled a couple of carriages for a short ride.

The Non operating locos are all beautifully presented with accessible cabs.

The museum also contains some interesing displays including a cab with working controls and a movie of how to drive a loco - useful for our trainee driver

Check out more Umekoji Photos

-- Post From Geoff's iPhone

The rest of a wet day 3

After a morning of steam action we headed back to Kyoto station - an amazing structure that incorporates shops, a hotel, department stores, restaurants and of course the actual station. We spent some time exploring this interesting structure.

Time for lunch - today it's tempura!

After this we decide to head out to Arishiyama to ride the Sagano Romantic Train. I'm not sure how romantic it would have been but it was cold and wet when we arrived and as we had some time to wait before the next service we headed back to Kyoto Station for some retail therapy and then afternoon tea

I can recommend Sencha (green tea) Cappuchino, seen at lower left.

After this effort, we went and booked our seats for the return Shinkansen then back to the hotel for a quiet evening

Day 4 - Nara - Todai-ji

Fine but freezing. After breakfast took the subway to Kyoto station then via JR 'rapid' service. Definately rapid, also fast, comfotable, efficient. Travel by train in Japan is so easy - all main singage shows English translation.

Arrived in Nara then via bus to the Todai-ji temple. The main attraction is the Great Buddha Hall, which houses a huge statue of the Buddha. The hall, constructed in 1709, was built after fire destroyed an earlier, larger structure. Nonetheless it is the world's largest wooden building.

Even though half the school population of Japan seemed to be there as well, the hall didn't feel crowded (this also due to very good student behaviour!)

The great Buddha statue was cast in bronze in 752.

It is the world's largest image of the Buddha

After Todai-ji we continued through Nara Park to the Kasuga (Shinto) shrine which is surrounded by around 3000 or so bronze and stone lanterns. From this point we walked down to the Naramachi district which contains older style buildings.

More Photos of Todai-ji

-- Post From Geoff's iPhone

Day 4 - Nara afternoon

Lunch provided a new surprise - Okonomi-Yakima, which is probably best described as a cross between a pizza and a Chinese style pancake. Just the thing for a chilly day and big appetites!

They are cooked on a hot grill and stay that way as you eat them because the table also has a hotplate!!

From lunch it was a short walk to check out the Kofuku-ji temple which includes an impressive five-storey pagoda dating from 1426.

After this, some window shopping in the Naramachi district, then back to the station for the return trip to Kyoto.

After that a little window shopping then time for dinner.

-- Post From Geoff's iPhone