Kyou wa, Peter-san wa Doko?

Where's Peter Today?

12th Oct 2004: Day 6-- Kyoto Imperial Palace

Having emerged from our hotel somewhat late after the excesses of last night's drinking in town, we strolled down the main thoroughfare in the direction of the Imperial Palace. Our hotel is conveniently placed just opposite the ancient temple of Higashi Horiganji, which is currently under massive wraps as it is being restored. We passed on by and continued up towards the Palace grounds. From the Kyoto Tower it didn't look to be too far away but on foot it suddenly seemed much further and the sun was beating down on us. Spotting several locals riding around on bicycles with umbrellas opened to ward off the sun, I decided to follow suit. Antony had neither hat nor umbrella handy so just opted for the cooking his brain option.

After a while we decided that maybe we would get the metro there after all and descended into the subway. We're getting quite good at figuring out various vending machines now and the metro ticket machines proved to be quite easy to use.

Arriving at the Palace grounds we walked up to the Imperial Household Agency building and were just in time to book our permission passes to visit the interior of the walled compound. As foreigners, you are allowed to skip to the head of the very long waiting list that Japanese nationals have to wait for a ticket to visit the Palace. Despite this, it is actually free to obtain a ticket and English guides are available.

We had some time to kill before the tour so we decided to eat a belated breakfast at the visitor centre. While there I had another amazing dish. It was called Kitsune Udon (lit. Fox Noodles) and had the unique property of being a dish that changes as you eat it. The top was a thick goo that had the consistency of wall paper paste but as you ate the noodles and tofu within, it changed into a broth, so that by the time you reached the bottom of the bowl, you could drink the remainder as a soup! Japan really does have the most ingenious foods!

After breakfast we split up for a while for Antony to sit and do some sketches, while I walked around the expansive park and took in the quiet and peaceful atmosphere. On a clear day like today you could see all the way to the mountains to the East of Kyoto.

At the start of the tour you first are shown a video about the history of the Palace and it's numerous buildings that have been built over the centuries. Then you are escorted around the grounds to view the various residences although you are not permitted to enter any of them.

On our way out of the park after the tour, we came upon a quiet walled shrine and spent the remainder of the daylight photographing that.

That night we returned to the cavernous Kyoto main rail terminal with the better night-time cameras to get some more shots of this incredible place and to check out the food in the mall. One surprise was the hall of vending machine restaurants. Japanese live and breathe vending machines. You get them everywhere. These restaurants have a vending machine outside and at first we thought they were just parking ticket machines as we were close to the car parks. Then while watching, I spotted that people were looking at the displays and pressing buttons. The machine dispensed a ticket and then they went into the restaurant… curious. Then it became clear - it saves time for the restaurant. People stand around outside while deciding what they want, rather than taking up valuable space inside. When they've decided, they pay and get a ticket for their order. The order is transferred to the kitchen by the machine and they go inside to eat.

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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