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Friday, March 12, 2010

Japan trip - day three - Kyoto

Question: How many Japan Rail tickets does it take to get from Osaka to Kyoto?
Answer: Three -- if you were me today.

Heard the alarm ring, but ignored it. Finally struggled out of bed at about 10am, the time I had actually planned to leave. Got out of the hotel at 11am and headed for Umeda station, then went straight to JR Osaka station.

Next train to Kyoto was at 11:42am, so I bought it and ran up to the entrance… and couldn't figure out which platform to use. No indication on ticket. Searched frantically but couldn't find any train with the right number of cars.

Heard a train leave and figured that was the one. Went back to the ticket counter and bought another ticket for the next train at 12:42pm, this time confirming the platform to use. Then went to look for food since I hadn't eaten anything since last night.

Found a few eateries but they were crowded. Then came across the noisiest McDonald's ever. Woman "yodeler" constantly announcing the latest burgers. Decided "what the heck" and proceeded to buy a bacon lettuce burger set. Ate at a small alcove with tables for standing only.

Went back to JR Osaka station at 12:30pm, found the train successfully. Fell asleep on the train. Next thing I knew, train had arrived at Kyoto station. I rushed out but doors had shut already… and the train started to move. Resigned to my fate, found an empty seat and cursed myself silently. Ticket inspector came along. I explained in sign language and broken English that I had fallen asleep and missed my stop. He told me to switch trains at the next station, scheduled to arrive at 2:01pm! So there goes my tour of the Kyoto palace.

At Tsuruga station, explained to the old male staff at the gate that I was supposed to go to Kyoto. He sort of understood me, but he didn't speak English and I don't understand Japanese. He directed me to the ticket office, where I bought a ticket for the 2:15pm train back to Kyoto. Thank goodness for rail pass, don't need to pay more than needed!

Tsuruga station is high enough in the mountains that there was still snow on the ground!
JR TsurugaMountains and railway buildings at JR TsurugaMountains and buildings at JR TsurugaScene from Tsuruga to Kyoto

A train arrived at the designated platform but I wasn't sure that it was the one I wanted. Saw the train conductor and asked him, gesturing to my ticket. "Next train," he said pleasantly. Whew!

Arrived at Kyoto at 3:10pm. Along the way, struggled to stay awake so as not to miss the station again. Drooped off a few times, but always managed to force myself back awake. At Kyoto, headed straight for the subway to Kyoto Imperial Palace. After exiting the Imadegawa station, walked down the wrong road for a moment. Luckily, I consulted my map in time and managed to get to the correct path without straying too far.

105 minutes after the appointed tour time, I arrived at Seisho-mon Gate. Of course, tour had already started and walk-ins are not allowed. Walked around the huge park outside for about half hour.
Seisho-mon Gate at Kyoto Imperial PalaceKenrei-mon Gate at Kyoto Imperial PalaceMuku tree just outside Kyoto Imperial PalacePlum blossom outside Kyoto Imperial PalaceClose-up of plum blossom outside Kyoto Imperial PalaceWide gravel path around Kyoto Imperial Palace

Went back outside Imadegawa station, but couldn't really find anything worth seeing/doing. Lots of small, convenience-type stores. Strange, would have expected more cosmopolitan feel since there are several schools and colleges in the area.

Consulted map and decided to go to Kawaramachi, the shopping area. Turned out to be pretty much the same as Shinjuku, same mall streets with lots of fashion stores, except this place was less crowded.

Craving for a hot chocolate as comfort food after the sucky day. First coffee shop had menu in Japanese. Dreading not to go to Starbucks if it's the only one with English menu. Then saw Cafe Lucca -- with English menu! Quaint little two-storey, "hole in the wall" place.
Outside Cafe Lucca at Sanjo-doriThe owners of Cafe Lucca at Sanjo-doriHot cocoa at Cafe Lucca at Sanjo-doriKamo River in KyotoSanjo-dori at dusk

Browsed the shops looking for any nice gift, but decided to wait till Osaka or Tokyo. Getting late, so went back to Kyoto station to catch the JR train back to Osaka. At first, ticket seller said I could just show my rail pass without needing a ticket, but that was news to me, since all along I had got reserved seats. So I asked for that. He said the next train was at 9:09pm! But he corrected himself quickly and meant 7:09pm (clocks run on 24-hour format). So I took that, even though still had 20 minutes to spare.
Office workers at train platform at JR Kyoto

Arrived at Osaka station without falling asleep (though my eyes closed a few times) nor missing my stop. Went to ticket office to buy rail ticket from Osaka back to Tokyo for 15 March. Incidentally, same ticket seller who sold me my first Osaka-Kyoto ticket! Then went to Daimaru basement to buy sushi and sake for dinner.
Sashimi with rice and sake

Back at hotel by 9pm. Ate dinner while watching TV. Sake must have made me sleepier than normal, so got ready for bed.

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