Tue, 29 Apr 2008 11:40:53 +0000

Tokyo Index Too Many Temples

I had booked my train for Kyoto to leave at 8:00 in the morning, so that involved getting up fairly early. My first ride on the shinkansen bullet train. They have quite a nice efficient system going here, with signs on the platform for every carriage, so you can stand in exactly the right place. Better than trying to figure it out from a poster like in Germany. I'm a bit disappointed that there aren't any power points on the train though. I expected more from the Japanese, of all people.

It's quite a convoluted route from Kyoto train station to the youth hostel. In fact, even finding the subway was quite a palaver - it isn't well signposted at all. But I got there. Unfortunately, the hostel is closed between 9:00 and 3:30, so I had no option but to put my bag in a locker at the train station and go touristing.

I decided to go to Nijo castle, since it's central. And very nice it is too. There's still a little cherry blossom clinging to the trees. The "nightingale floorboards", which are specially constructed to emit musical squeaks when you tread on them, are pretty fun. I spent some time trying to make a recording of the sound. The paintings are beautiful too. Palace life in 17th century Japan seems to have been even more spartan than in Europe.

To follow up I thought I'd try walking to the Imperial gardens, which Wikipedia described as "central". Since my GPS map is in Japanese and completely incomprehensible, I unfortunately set off in completely the wrong direction. Never mind, it was an interesting walk. I even stumbled across a random temple along the way: Higashi Honganji. This is supposed to be the largest wooden structure in the world. Maybe: it's certainly stunningly large.

But having had my fill of wandering around, I headed back to the hostel to check in. This was a HI youth hostel, and they take after the Deutsche Jugendhirberge, in that they're rather less fun than the hostels I'm used to. This one has a curfew of 10:30! Not that I'm planning to stay out late or anything, but still. It also has a Japanese style bathroom, where you clean yourself before getting in the bath. Not sure how I'm going to cope with that. And it has these wacky Japanese toilets with a built-in bidet and who knows what else - all the controls are in Japanese. They also do dinners, which I'd signed up for when I made my booking over the phone. This turned out to be fried fish in some kind of sweet and sour sauce. The Japanese lady next to me pointed out that it was too salty. It was too salty, but then how am I supposed to know how salty it should be? The Japanese like some strange things. In general, I wasn't too impressed by the food. I'd rather wander the streets and find my own meals.

Tokyo Index Too Many Temples