Kyou wa, Peter-san wa Doko?

Where's Peter Today?

11th Oct 2004: Day 5-- Kyoto

We departed from Mikawa-Anjo and headed on down the Shinkansen line to Kyoto, a short 50 minute trip at a recorded speed on the GPS receiver of 151mph on the Kodama type train. This isn't the fastest train either…

They are also unnervingly quiet. Because the rails are lap-jointed, there is no clickety-clack sound and the trains just sail along as though almost flying. The British Intercity trains now seem somehow very pedestrian and the Japanese have no need for our notice boards that tell you how late your train is going to be because they aren't.

The countryside on the steady climb up from the coastal area of Nagoya to Kyoto is very beautiful and we wished that the train would go a bit slower as you had no time to photograph anything really. It was a case of "Oh, there's a nice picture -", but by the time the camera had locked focus, it was gone. The near countryside was just a green blur.

Today was a bank holiday (as Sunday was National Sports Day) so there were plenty of local people out and about in Kyoto city and in the main rail terminal there were shows and a massive model railway display, complete with scale speed models of the various types of trains. Unfortunately, the track wasn't banked like the real Shinkansen lines so the trains had a habit of derailing if the controller pushed his luck too much. The events appeared to be sponsored by JR (the national rail company).

As you arrive at Kyoto station, you are immediately confronted with the immense chasm of the station hall and mall. Outside is the equally huge Kyoto City Hotel with the Kyoto Tower literally bolted on top of it. For a small fee you can go up to the observation platform and take in the panoramic views. On a clear day (like today) you can see all the way to Osaka Castle.

We decided to stop in the tower canteen (it wasn't really a restaurant) for some food. It's a "classic" 60's design in the style of a East London greasy spoon café. The food was good though (it always is in Japan) and the two old men who chatted to us were friendly, if slightly inebriated. The really drunk one offered to set us up with some Geishas but his mate whisked him away before he could really embarrass himself…

The Imperial Palace was shut for the holiday today so we pottered about town and checked up on the map where the Household Agency was. As a foreign tourist, you can apply for a free pass to go on a guided tour of the walled Palace grounds and bypass the months-long waiting time that Japanese people have to sign up to in order to visit.

In the evening we returned to the rail station to photograph the mall and the tower in darkness. Architecturally, the Kyoto rail mall is a cross between the orbital space dock from "Star Trek - The Motion Picture" and "Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back". In particular, they seemed to have accurately recreated the gantry from which Luke fell after having lost his hand in a fight with Darth Vader… The feeling that the place was a spaceship dry dock was sealed when we were looking around and thinking what kind of spaceship they kept in here when all of a sudden it became obvious.

Disaster! Because of the bank holiday, there are virtually no bars open in Kyoto!!! We stumbled around town for a while and eventually found this shots bar (where they basically just serve cocktails and shots) but as we were the only ones there we made our excuses and hunted some more. We tried one bar but it also turned out to be a shots bar and the only customers were the owner and his staff. One of them guided us to another bar upstairs that was open properly for business and we camped out there, consuming grilled bar snacks and beer followed by a fuzzy quantity of local Sake…

The plan to get up early to visit the Palace kinda went West after that.

Jump To:


Prepare For Take-Off

Day 1 -- Tokyo

Day 2 -- Mikawa-Anjo

Day 3 -- Nagoya

Day 4 -- Suzuka F1

Day 5 -- Kyoto

Day 6 -- Kyoto

Day 7-- Himeji Castle

Day 8 -- Kurashiki

Day 9 -- Hiroshima

Day 10 -- Nagasaki

Day 11 -- Nagasaki

Day 12 -- Kagoshima

Day 13 -- Kagoshima

Day 14 -- Tokyo

Day 15 -- Tokyo

Day 16 -- Tokyo

Homeward Bound

View the day's photos