Japan Day 14- Mizumaki to Kyoto...
This morning's excitement was that Brendan, who fell asleep pretty early yesterday (& fully clothed), woke up at around 2:00 am & was wide awake. Charlie had the presence of mind to park him in the spare room with the Kyoto guidebook, which he read for about 2 hours. At 4:00 he called out to us, so I went & got him back to bed & he fell asleep quickly. He slept till almost 7:30, thank goodness!
We had our last yummy breakfast at Nobuko-san's. We will really miss them! And her!! She's an amazing hostess...
We finished packing after breakfast & Nobuko-san brought her car to the front door around 9:30 for the trip to the Mizumaki station. We started saying our goodbyes in the car, in halting japanese, & by the time we were at the station I was in tears. I will really miss Nobuko-san & Tomoko. I felt like I was at home the whole time we visited with them. It was such an amazing experience. Tomoko came all the way to Kokura station with us, a half-hour trip on the train, to help us navigate the station & also help Charlie get our tickets to Kyoto. We'd decided to buy a Japan Rail pass for this part of the trip, because it's less expensive to travel (you can only buy a pass if you're not in Japan at the time of purchase). We had our pass vouchers, but needed to actually get the passes & tickets. Brendan & I parked with all of the luggage (now considerably lighter, but still daunting) on a bench while Tomoko & Charlie went to get the tickets. Brendan was somewhat ticcy, but we read one of the japanese Kamen Rider Den-O books we'd bought in Mizumaki & the time passed very quickly. They weren't gone for very long & things went just fine. The other issue was money- we hadn't counted on it being so difficult to cash traveler's cheques in Mizumaki & were running low. We needed enough for the taxi in Kyoto, to the hotel, & for obento on the train. Tomoko suggested getting drinks at the station, since it's less expensive. We decided we had enough (y)en (the "y" is silent) to make the trip & Charlie had already figured out where to get cheques cashed in Kyoto.
Then it was time to say goodbye to Tomoko, too. I ended up in tears again. When she gets back to our town in August it'll only be for a couple of days, since she's moving to Minnesota to start her doctoral programme. We are going to miss her so much!! We promised to email her when we got to Kyoto. Then we found the platform & waited about 15 minutes (in the company of Buddhist monks carrying omiyage in shopping bags :) for the train. It was a shorter trip than the one from Tokyo- only about 3 hours. We had to change trains about 20 minutes short of Kyoto, but it wasn't very difficult, except for lugging the bags. The time passed quickly & we had yummy obento again. Next thing we knew, we were at Kyoto station. Brendan & I again parked ourselves (on an out-of-the-way stairway this time) to read our book, & Charlie went to cash traveler's cheques. In no time he was back. We found a taxi pretty easily & the hotel was just about 15 minutes away.
Kyoto looked a lot like New York city to us- very urban & busy. Not many signs (except for the occasional temple :) of the much older, historic Kyoto we've read about. At the hotel we were greeted by women in kimono who spoke english, although we peppered our conversation with japanese as much as possible. After checking-in, we were guided to our room by a kimono-clad woman who answered any questions we had (Brendan & I were particularly interested in getting hooked up to the internet :). We settled in for a bit & let Brendan play Dragon Fable for half an hour, then decided to walk around the neighbourhood. We are right across the street from the Nijo-ji Castle, which we plan to visit while we're here. Charlie had found some possible restaurants in our Kyoto guidebook (we have been using the Lonely Planet books, for here & Tokyo, & they've been great), so we asked the concierge on our way out if any were within walking distance. She marked a map for us & also suggested a couple more saishoku (veggie) restaurants for us to try, plus marked the closest convenience store on our map. Good thing, because it started to sprinkle when we got outside, & we decided we didn't want to be outside when it really started to pour (the sky did not look promising), so headed for the convenience store for onigiri & bowl-noodles to bring back to our room for dinner (there is hot water & tea in the room). We found a great place for breakfast, too- a coffee shop with yummy bread & pastries.
We managed to get home without getting soaked & ate dinner sitting on the beds (Brendan had his noodles at the desk). After dinner Charlie got Brendan into the shower, since he hadn't bathed in days uncounted... Then we watched a slapstick comedy show on tv (you didn't really have to understand much japanese to get it...). We turned the tv off around 8:00 & Brendan was asleep very quickly. I have spent the evening posting these last 7 days of travels... Tomorrow- explore Kyoto!