Sofies on tour: Tokyo to Kyoto

Today was the first “real” day of our holiday so to speak, meaning that it was time for us to explore!

We started things off by having our last “western” breakfast at the restaurant downstairs and jumping on the hotel bus to Tokyo station. We had forgotten to exchange our rail pass the day before, so before we could jump in the train we needed to first find the rail office.

What…a….mission.

We thought it would be as simple as finding a Japan Rail office and swapping it. Not so. The first place we tried directed us to another, then the second sent us into some scary tunnels that looked like we were leaving the country. It turned out it was just a lot of renovation work they were doing, and thankfully we kept going to discover it popped us right out in front of the office we needed. Third time lucky we exchanged the passes, reserved a seat of the train and made our way to the platform.

Catching the shinkansen

I can’t get over how fast and yet quiet the trains are! I looked down for a split second and the train pulled up, I didn’t even have time to take a photo! We will be catching a few over the coming days though so I will get a picture soon enough. What a lot of fun though. To summarise my thoughts:

  • The amount of leg room you get is insane. I fit my luggage in front of my legs and didn’t feel squashed. Shortly after sitting down we moved it to the overhead section after we realised there was someone else sitting in our row, as we didn’t want to get in their way. After flying the day before the room in our seats made us feel like royalty.
  • The train has the same effect on me as cars on a highway, meaning I fall asleep really easily. We are talking head back, mouth is a fly trap style of sleeping. I was out of it!
  • The bathrooms are fantastic for public transport! There’s a button to lift the seat up and down and the taps are sensor operated. You nearly don’t have to touch a thing!
  • Buttons for the toilet – always a crowd pleaser
  • They have powder rooms – whaaaaaat?
  • The seats were pretty comfy and recline quite a fair bit
  • There is a food lady who sells food onboard, and if you purchase a coffee from her you will get a black one. First time I’ve ever drunk black coffee, not as bad as I expected
  • Research which side to sit on before reserving your seat, we only saw Mt Fuji by peering over someone’s shoulder (I felt slightly creepy).

When we arrived it started spitting lightly with rain, and it was cold. Thankfully we found our accommodation easily due to Mario’s brilliant navigation skills, and my ability to make him feel useful by leading us in the wrong direction.

Our accommodation

The room we had booked to stay in for the next 4 days was booked through Airbnb. It’s tiny, but it’s fantastic. The location is amazing. From the train station it’s literally a couple of minutes walk and there are restaurants and convenience stores everywhere.

The room itself is basic in facilities, but it has everything we need. It made me laugh when we first came in, as Mario, being 6ft 4, looked like an absolute giant! Here’s the front hallway with Mario for comparison (there’s a step down just at the front door, but you can still see the height difference based on the cupboard doors):

The main area has a couch which pulls out to form our double bed, a tv and clothes rack, and most importantly, reverse cycle air conditioning. It’s keeping things comfortable inside with the crazy cool temperatures outside! The kitchen is essentially a sink and the smallest amount of bench space, but it has all the essentials. For the price that we have paid, this place is perfect.

The last picture is of the front doors to each apartment – they remind me of closet doors!

One of the most handy things for the room is that it includes wifi at home, but also a portable wifi unit for us to take with us. That means that when we are out and about I can use google maps on my watch and make sure we know where we’re going – brilliant!

Exploring Kyoto

Today we have explored the immediate neighbourhood a little bit, and made some pretty cool discoveries:

  • There are two underground shopping malls directly next to each other (Cube and Porta), with the most amazing food halls! We had some lunch at one place (fried rice for me, some noodle soup thing for Mario with sides of spring rolls and gyoza – WAY too much) and wandered the halls. There’s an Italian place there that says tuna and corn pizza – yuk! When it was super cold at night we discovered walking through the shopping centre kept us much warmer than the streets above. As Mario put it, we got our Aussie on and headed down under. A brilliant ninja tip for anyone visiting in the winter.
  • The food recommendation site/app Yelp paid off today when it delivered on the most amazing ramen I’ve ever eaten. We were warned we’d spend 20mins outside in line waiting, and we did, but I have absolutely no regrets. If you look carefully in the pic below you will see the line to the right.
  • My sister and I have a game we play when we travel, which is to find the worst tourist gift you can possibly buy, and gift it to each other. Right now she’s winning based on some infamous bike pants purchased from Italy with the Statue of David’s penis on them, which made an appearance at my hens. Well, I’m not sure I can top the dirty factor of that, but I’m sure I’ve struck gold on the scale of the most “what the heck??” object. I haven’t bought it yet as I have a gut feeling I’m going to find some other pretty awesome things. Japan is just brilliant for this game!
  • We had to buy beanies for both of us today, and a pair of gloves for me. It’s cold, and the wind chill factor is pretty crazy. Tonight we wandered the streets when it was 9 degrees, and tomorrow its meant to reach a max of 14. It will be a three layer day tomorrow I think. I’ve also tested the theory that red wine helps to keep you warm. Truthfully, I think red wine just makes you forget you’re cold *wink*
  • We happened across a beautiful temple and took some pictures, but the wind was blowing a gale and my face started to turn numb so we left. It was pretty funny, my top lip stopped moving properly so I couldn’t pronounce the letter “m”, I started to sound drunk! Admittedly, that’s what then gave me the idea to buy the red wine so that I wouldn’t have to fake it (I only lasted two glasses, we’ve now put it away as we are about to head to bed).

Tomorrow will be some more temples and more walking. I’m hoping to cover both the Philosopher’s Walk and the Fushimi Inari Taish, plus the golden temple/palace place. I’m also about to research a place that Mario is keen to visit too, so that we can start to put together our action plan.

Over and out, look forward to checking in again soon! I hope you’re enjoying the stories of our travels!

  • Marilyn Grogan

    Looks like you are enjoying your trip and the many memories you are making. I sense a book could be in the making even if it only for family history records and any children you might have down the track. Wonder what they would think of their ‘parents’ or ‘grandparents’ in the future. I’ve just made some good discoveries over the past few days by looking at documents from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s and boy can I start to see where a lot of this family’s traits come from.
    Keep enjoying yourselves. We have just had our second evening/night of showers in Brisbane and I am finding I have had to put jumpers on – definitely cooler than Townsville weather. Cheers, Marilyn.