Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Kyoto - day 1

Hi Hi sisters .... long time no talk, it was a very quiet week, eh? Seemed like I haven't missed much other than our prince did some travelling himself in this place called Wido. He is really taking this travel guide book to heart, huh? Instead of just driving to these places, scans the area and snaps up a few postcard-type pictures. He actually stayed and experienced what an average traveller would do in Hahoe Village and Wido Island. I just can't wait to see the product of his diligent efforts :)

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 :)


Anonymous said...

Dearest Jaime:
Thank you very much for taking us on a journey of Kyoto. I retraced my footsteps with you because I also remembered fondly a similar trip I made with my own husband in 1981. Your story is very heartwarming and the photographs are very artistic, specially the landscapes. My husband and I also took the Shinkansen then, but on the way back to Tokyo we took the ordinary train, which was slow and took all night, and the seats were hard wood and too small specially for my tall husband. Would you also go to Nara and write about it one of this days. You are doing a travelogue on Japan as much as Bae Yong Joon is doing it to Korea. Congratulations.
Sarang Hamnida,
josephine pasricha

Anonymous said...

Hi Jamie

Happy to see you back online, coincidentally the same day as bb! Enjoyed your first day in Kyoto and looking forward to the rest of your trip!

Thanks for sharing!


bb said...

hey jaime!
actually i love love love kyoto from what little i had seen of the place when i visited it twice. and... hehe, i went once in autumn, and another time in spring... the perfect time to see kyoto!

gotta say kyoto in autumn is just pure beautiful :)

thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jaime

Okaeri nasai! Omo, your first destination in Kyoto was Imperial Palace, to which I have never been!! I've only been to Sento Palace that is very close to the Imperial Palace.

At Nijyojyo castle, the sliding doors painted by Kano school artists and decorative transam windows were just magnificent, weren't they? Did your son like the nightingale corridor?

cloud nine

gosijo said...

Hi Jaime,

Thanks for retracing your footsteps for us, virtual travellers and memory seekers alike.

Lovely pictures, especially the landscapes!

BTW, we saw snow in T.O. this morning.

vegas said...

Hi dear Jaime!

What an awesome adventure! I love how you explain each of the places you visited, along with the wonderful pictures. It's almost like being there with you. I'm sure pictures don't do justice to the magnificent palaces.

I can't wait to hear more!
Thanks for sharing!!

jaime said...

dear josephine,

thank you for your comments and sharing your experience with me. You know, for a developed country like Japan, I find that things do not change as fast as some of the developing Asian countries now. I actually found many familiar places back this time after I landed in Tokyo.

Yes madam, your wish is my command. I will make Nara one of my destinations next time I head back to Kansai.

regards .... Jaime

jaime said...

Hi touched,

thanks for writing to me. Hahaha, it's really such a coincidence. I know princess bb has been super busy, she holds a very important job. For me on the other hand, I am just slow and very slow. now how can i improve on that? So sorry for being always MIA.

regards ... jaime

jaime said...

Really princess, you've been to kyoto twice, in spring and autumn too! Then next time, you got to try winter when it's covered in snow, hehe maybe plus hot springs to keep yourself warm (oh well, or just simply bring HRH along for cuddling :) I saw the pictures of the Winter Lantern festival and it's just breathtakingly beautiful!

Take care in your travel, is China now, right?

love .... jaime

jaime said...

Oh my dear cloudnine,

nightingale corridor? painted sliding doors? transom windows? omigosh, where did I go? how come i didn't know any of these places?? or maybe I went but didn't even know about it? now i realize how important a guide is :)
Thank you always for pointing out these details to me.

love ... jaime

jaime said...

oh ear gosijo,

really?! TO has snow! It is too early, it's not even November. My son is still wearing T shirt and shorts in Tokyo, or maybe a sweater. glad you like the kyoto pictures. Please take care in this winter.

love ... jaime

jaime said...

hi hi vegas,

so nice to hear from you. happy to know that you enjoy reading this. have u been to kyoto? i am sure it means more to you as the history reminds you of your heritage. I have a deeper appreciation of the culture and makes me want to study more about the Japanese past.

Please take care!

love ... jaime

jenny said...

Hi jaime

Nice to hear that you are back from your trip. Really miss your blog. Wah what a beautiful kyoto was? Thanks a lot for bringing me there alhough I have not been before. Hope I have the chance to visit kyoto and other part of japan. Early waiting to hear the balance of your trip reports. Have a wonderful weekend.



Anonymous said...

Dear Jaime

Enjoyed your write-up. I've been to Kyoto and loved it.

I'm a "gardens' person and really enjoyed looking at your pics. So well taken.

S'pore fan

jaime said...

hi jenny,

thank you for writing to me and so touched that you said you missed my little blog. I hope you will visit Kyoto someday and also all the places that Yong Joon had visited :)

love ... jaime

jaime said...

dear s'pore fan,

So, you are a garden person, I guess you must had a wonderful time looking at all the beautiful Japanese gardens in Kyoto. Is there a temple or garden that has left a more distinct memory for you?

love ... jaime

Anonymous said...

Dear Jaime

I was in Kyoto in 1999 for a short while and only managed to see Heian Shrine, Kiyomizu Temple, Ryoanji Temple and of course the Golden Pavilion. I enjoyed Heian Shrine and the Golden Pavilion mainly because I just love gardens. I love Butchart Gardens.

S'pore fan

jaime said...

Hi S'pore fan,

Wow, you've been to all the big and famous temples. thanks for letting me know about Heian Jingu. The Tori gate is huge, huh? I think I missed one of their biggest festival of the year by 1 day :( The Japanese festival parades are spectacular. Hehe, you must have a lovely garden.

regards ... jaime