Friday, September 15th, 2017
It is still hard for me to believe I’m here. I never thought I would come here. I gave up on this dream a long time ago. Now that I’m here and it still feels like it’s a dream and none of this is real. I’m still waiting for myself to wake up. But I’m really here and this is really happening.
I got up around 5 am. The rule in the hostel is you can’t use a hair dryer till 7 am because people are sleeping. So I just lay there waiting for 6 am. Once 6 am came around, I got up, took a shower and cleaned up. The hostel has a coffee shop downstairs and I asked the guy that was working at the counter what time they serve coffee. He said they start serving drinks and breakfast around 8 am. It was only 7 am. So I went to 7/11 that is just down the street from the hostel. The 7/11 here is really nice. It has a lot of choices for sushi, rice balls, and so much more. I saw the rice ball and just had to have it. Checking out was a little different for me. They have a tray that you need to put your money on. They will ask you if you want a receipt, and they give you a bag for free. You have to understand. I’ve been living in Taiwan for four years. The 7/11 in Taiwan you just hand them your money in there hands, you have to take the receipt, because they have numbers at the top of the receipt that is used for the lottery every month, and they will charge you if you want a bag for your stuff. So going to 7/11 was a little different for me.
I went back and ate my breakfast. By then it was 8 am and I could have some hot coffee. My friend Abby that I just met yesterday came down to eat breakfast from the coffee shop. We talked about our planes while we ate and drank coffee. Then we were off.
On Our Way
We decided to take the local train. Their trains look similar to the subway but its above ground. Also, it’s a bit tricky to get the right rail line or subway line. Some trains will say on small print that this is a local train. That means they will stop at every stop location. Or it will say express. That means fewer stops. Also, some subway/train lines don’t connect to other lines. You will have to leave the subway/train station and go above ground and go down a block or two to get to the other subway/train line. It’s a beat confusing for me and even more confusing when you don’t have internet on your phone. But luckily I was with Abby and we both could be confused together and work on figuring out wish subway/train to take.
When we got to Nijo-Jo Castle we were early because it wasn’t opened yet and there was already a line of people at the ticket booth. The ticket booth wasn’t opened yet. We walked on over to the ticket booth and got in line. We didn’t have to wait too long before the ticket booth opened. We bought our tickets for 300yen ( about $3) and got inside the castle. The castle is a beautiful place with reconstructed buildings and an open space garden area. There is even a guard tower that you can climb and get a good view of the castle grounds. There is another area that you get to go inside the castle building and get to see all the artwork on the walls in each room and the layout of the palace. They even had a few wax figures to show what there day to day life is like in the palace. Most of the wax figures would be bowing down to the king on one side of the room, with there weapons on the floor. The king would be on the other side of the room, sitting on his knees and seating upright, looking at his servants. But you can’t take pictures inside because of the artwork on the walls.
After we were done walking around the palace, we walked over to the Kyoto Imperial Palace. It was a long walk to get there. We got lost a few times and made some stops along the way. The stops that we made were at different shrines that we saw. I find the shrines here beautiful. I love learning about different religions and why they do what they do. I see temples and shrines as artwork. It always has beautiful designs on the temples/shrines, an amazing layout of the area, and the attention to detail to each building and entryway. It’s just amazing to look at every day.
Kyoto Imperial Palace
It took about an hour but we finally arrived at Kyoto Imperial Palace. When we first arrived there, I didn’t see anything but a park. We walked through the park and then we saw the wall that is surrounding the palace. We had to go to the palace to get to the main entrance. This place was free to explore which is always a good thing. When you go in you have to get in line and pick up a visitor’s tag that you put around your neck. Then you can walk around the grounds freely. It was another beautiful palace with beautiful gardens and building structure. You’re not allowed inside the building of the palace which I was sad about. But it was still worth it to see.
After we were done with the palace, we started walking towards Gion area. That’s the area where you can see Geisha in the evening. I was looking forward to that. 🙂 But our next stop before Gion is a pig shrine. Yes, I said a pig shrine. A whole shrine detected for a pig. It makes me laugh. My friend guided us there and it was an interesting shrine. They had these paper charms with a picture of a cartoon pig on it that you would hang up and make a wish. They also had a few statues of pigs there and a small description about how this pig got a shrine. It was very interesting to see and highly recommend seeing the pig shrine.
Now, on our way to Gion district. We got there in the afternoon and it was very busy. There are lots of shops and kimono rental stores everywhere. You can see a lot of tourist people wearing kimonos up and down the streets. The kimono looks very beautiful but I don’t think I will wear one. To rent a kimono it cost about 30-40 dollars just for one hour. Most people do it just for the experience and get their pictures taken in traditional areas. I sneaked in some pictures of a few tourists that were wearing them that day. We also saw several rickshaws in the area. That is where a guy is pulling a rickshaw with one or two people inside the cart. It’s really neat to see and watch them pass by you. There were a few shrines that we visited and also a traditional looking tower. We also saw a couple getting there wedding photos done in the area. There was a photographer and his assistant taking a lot of photos of the couple that were dressed up in kimonos. Then we saw some high schoolers, about six of them, dressed up in kimonos and they where standing along a bridge. Their teacher was taking photos of them and a small crowd started to form. After the teacher was done taking their photo everyone in the crowd wanted to take their photos. The students looked surprised but went along with it. One after another, a tourist was coming to take pictures of them. One of the tourists asked their teacher, not realizing that they are students if they are geishas in training? The teacher explained that they are not geishas in training. They are students and are just on a school field trip. The only sad thing about going to Gion area is that I didn’t get to see a geisha because they only come out in the evenings. I will have to go back there in the evening and see if I can see one before I leave.
We decided to head back to the hostel but we needed to find the right train or subway. Just because you see a station doesn’t mean that’s the one you need. The first station we went to was not the right one. We only figured that out after we were already down in the station and looked at all the different signs and maps and realized this was not the one we needed. We had to go all the way back up to the street and walk about two blocks to get to the right one. (I don’t remember the name of the stations very well though out my trip. I was always going to different train stations or subway stops and could never remember the names.) We finally found the right train that we needed and headed back to the hostel.
It was a great day of walking and exploring the area. Even though we got lost but that’s part of the fun. Its how you find new things that you wouldn’t have found if you stuck to your map correctly. Hope you enjoyed the read. More to come soon when I’m not too busy or exhausted from walking all day. Remember, if you want to see more pictures from my trip, just click on my Facebook blog page below.