Hehe as you know, I did some sightseeing myself this past week in Kyoto. Kyoto is the old capital of Japan from 794 AD to 1868 until the power was transferred to Edo (present day Tokyo) during Imperial Restoration. Bearing over 1000 years of history, Kyoto is a city rich in tradition, culture, magnificent architecture and beautiful gardens. It is especially well known for its picturesque scenery during the cherry blossoms (March) and fall foliage time (November). Well, yours truly of course is so ignorant and always assume that we are the only people travelling in the world, therefore leaving my hotel reservation till the last minute. After cloudnine told me that Japanese people usually book their rooms for 'same time next year' when they check out of their hotel, I know then my chance of finding any decent lodging in Kyoto for fall colour is almost nil :( Well, I've determined not to let this tiny disappointment set me back, take it as a lesson learned and an excuse for next time, right? Haha, so the family set out for Kyoto ……
It only took the Nozomi (Shinkansen SuperExpress) 2 hours 20 minutes from Tokyo to Kyoto. The Shinkansen is super fast, quiet and comfortable (and has a super cute front end too). It makes me wonder why there isn’t such efficient rail system in North America with the vast land and population?
During the train ride, while hubby was planning the route for the next few days, he suggested that I could study the Kyoto transportation system so we knew how to get around once we arrived. Oh yeah right! Reading those tiny prints on the cobwebs of subways and buses VS stretching out and continue my sleep on the train, you know what I picked :)
Kyoto station is the hub of all railways lines – Shinkansen, JR and local subway systems. The gigantic complex houses hotels, department stores, shopping arcades and many restaurants. So after a good 2 hours of deep sleep, of course I had no idea which direction to steer except to the ladies room maybe? No no, I am not that irresponsible, I headed straight to the Tourist Information Office, hehe :)
We wanted to cover the must-sees first. Well, in Kyoto, what else? Palace! The staff told us that 1 day advance booking is required for the Imperial Palace tour. I looked at the clock and a tour was about to start in one hour. I thought "Hey, why not try our luck?" So we made a mad dash out of the station, scrambling for the right subway to board (my punishment for not doing my share of planning), managed to jump on a train and frantically ran towards any structure that resembles a palace. Phew, lucky that after the complicated Tokyo subway, any subway system in the world is a breeze to us now! Hehe, we barely made our way to the Palace office, registered ourselves before swarms of tourists starting pouring in for the same tour. You see, you are not allowed to roam around the Palace ground by yourself, so all visitors have to register for the guided tour (which is free and in English too!)
Gekkamon Gate where foreign heads of state are received nowadays
The Imperial Palace had not been occupied since the Meiji Restoration, but the coronation of the Taisho and Showa Emperors took place here.
Because this is still a ‘live-in’ palace for the Imperial Family when they visit Kyoto, so all buildings are fenced off and heavily guarded.
You can see, but no touch!
The beautiful gardens
The tour lasted one hour and it sorted of wetted our appetite for Japanese history . Since Nijo Castle is close by, we really wanted to see more. Technically, you can walk there (and technically, you can also walk from Tokyo to Kyoto :), but with more walking anticipated inside the Castle, we opted for the taxi. Nijo Castle was built in the 1600 as the residence of Tokugawa Shogunate. It is equally elegant as the Palace but has more of a fortress feel with its outer and inner moats.
During the Imperial Restoration, authority was returned to the Imperial Court and the Cabinet was installed here in 1867.
The inner moat
Very serene, eh? (I just have to add my own imagination of red and orange foliage :)
Hehe, my boy's favourite mochi balls, he kept going back to get more :) Poor boy must be starving!
Well, we decided to go to Gion - the geisha district at night hoping to catch a glimpse of geisha going to 'work'. It was dark already when we got there and we were getting wet, tired and hungry; so we decided to call off the day.
Hehe, seems like this handsome guy doesn't want me to forget him. I passed by these posters while heading back to the hotel :)