Kate (kate_nepveu) wrote,

Japan: travel, Kyoto day 1 (many temples)

Our travel got off on a bad start with my unhappy discovery, Thursday night, that the suitcase I had planned to bring had a rip in the bottom. (I haven't used it since 2002.) Much angst ensued, as well as a trip the next morning to pick up a set of those plastic bags that you roll the air out of, to make more room on the way back for souvenirs (thanks, Mom, for reminding me of those).

(For those who participated in the what-books-to-bring poll: being highly in the mood for fluff, and needing to save space, I left both Marks and Cherryh behind, and went with Huff's first three Quarters-verse books (the first of which I've now (re-)read and found it perfect vacation reading), _Stranger at the Wedding_, _Mystic and Rider_, and (for the way down to NYC) Enoch's _Billionaires Prefer Blondes_. Plus the already-planned Kij Johnson books, _Red Seas Under Red Skies_, _The Pillow Book_, some Japan reference works, and various Palm e-books. This is still more than enough.)

To Long Island, where we were crashing with Chad's grandmother, and then into Manhattan. Chad had a business meeting which I tagged along to (getting caught in the rain on the way; all hail guys selling two-buck umbrellas on the street that almost certainly fell off the back of a truck), and then we split up, him to hang out with other ScienceBloggers and me to meet coffeeandink for dinner and a bookstore browse, which was lovely.

And then on Saturday our marathon travel began. Chad had been able to upgrade us to first class for the first leg, JFK to Detroit, and to change us to bulkhead seats for Detroit to Osaka. The first class ended up being not much more leg room but much wider seats, which made waiting on the runway for an hour more bearable by far (too many planes, only one runway). The bulkhead seats were a bit more leg room, and also no-one in front of us to drop their seat back directly into Chad's knees.

We had a four-hour layover in Detroit, so the delay getting out of JFK was not stressful, The NW terminal has its own inside tram, which I think is the coolest thing ever and a water-fountain thing in the middle with comfy chairs around it. Chad & I took turns holding down the chair and stretching our legs. I also bought a neck-pillow in the mistaken assumption that there would not be any pillows on the flight to Japan, because there weren't any on the first flight. And it was the wrong size, too. Oh well.

The flight to Japan, well, it was long. And the trade-off with the bulkhead seats was that the bins in front of us were really tiny, so everything was on my lap, basically, and I constantly felt like there wasn't enough *space*. For everything, including my shoulders, and I have really narrow shoulders.

Also, there was a child behind me who was just old enough to be able to kick the back of my seat repeatedly. I am afraid I snapped a bit at her, after putting up with it for an hour.

Unfortunately only people in business class get power outlets, but I was able to get in six episodes of _Princess Tutu_ before the battery in my Palm got too low, and now only have two left. (I want to finish it before Worldcon, because it is metafictional like whoa.)

Anyway, I read, I booklogged, I watched anime, I dozed some, I stood up to stretch a fair bit, I watched dreadful movies with the sound off (the screen was on the bulkhead, so it was hard not to). It was long but it was bearable.

We landed on time and had very little trouble picking up our rented mobile phone, changing money, and getting our JR pass. If you haven't yet, I recommend splurging on the Green pass, because the trip to Kyoto from Osaka was *luxury*, especially after the plane.

Stumbled into the hotel sometime around nine, after experiencing the freaky automatic cab doors first-hand. The staff who took our bags and checked us in were both smaller than me and had to work together to get Chad's suitcase out of the taxi.

The hotel (Hyatt Regency Kyoto) is very nice--almost too nice, as Chad noted when he came back from a wander around and reported that the restaurants all had prix fixee of about $100.

I slept surprisingly well last night and hope that jet leg will not be too much of a problem--maybe starting out exhausted will help? Indulged in a shower, then a bath, then another brief shower, and felt immensely better. (Chad and I have agreed that if we ever hit the lottery we are getting a shower/bath setup like this.)

After an interlude where I discovered that I had bought the wrong kind of travel router and thus can't get Internet access in the room (I am posting from the laptops the hotel lets you borrow), we began the tourism.

We started at Sanjûsangen-dô, which is literally across the street from the hotel. This is the temple with 1001 statues of Kannon (plus 28 guardians, plus Thunder and Wind Gods), set up in row after row inside the longest wooden building anywhere. It is really impressive and slightly eerie, at least to non-Buddhists. The explanatory text in English is also pretty well-done.

Then we went to Kiyomizu Temple, which is a big complex with great views over the city. Towards the top is a beautiful wooded hillside with many small signs in the ground: perhaps a cemetery? (We have pictures for this and lots of things, but posting them will have to wait until we return.) It also has an area dedicated to a deity in charge of love (with a big rabbit as a messenger), with stones that one can walk between, eyes closed, to see if one's current partner is The One. Except that it's so crowded that no-one's relationship could survive.

(Oh, and there are large black birds that say "caw" everywhere, which look rather intimidating to someone two episodes from the end of _Princess Tutu_.)

After this I found a store selling umbrellas to use as a sun parasol, like many other people on the streets. Meandered down cobblestone streets gently window-shopping, and avoided falling down them (which is apparently three or two years' bad luck, presumably including the months you'd spend in a cast).

Next was Entoku-in Temple, which is small and pretty with many little rooms. It's an offshoot of Kodai-ji which we saw after lunch, and I don't remember much distinctive about it.

Another stone-paved street, lined with traditional houses, and then lunch. Which included a dessert of shaved ice with flavored syrup, which is the best thing ever.

Next, Kodai-ji Temple, which was founded by Kita-no-mandokoro, the widow of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. It had some really cool paintings, done just last year, which we couldn't photograph, but Chad took a picture of the poster announcing the display outside the complex and hopefully we can id the artist from that--very lively anthropomorphic animals, plants, and temple fixtures being drawn toward a Buddha, and demons fighting to get away. Also lovely peaceful gardens.

Chion-in Temple: big steep intimidating stairs to enter. Ponds with waterfowl and fish. Great big bell tower. Wandered down through a lovely park that the temple's part of and out past Yaksaka Jinja, a Shinto shrine with a big Buddhist-style gate (currently being restored).

Then we walked down to the subway and showered, debriefed, planned the next day, and wrote this up.

General impressions:

* All the temple areas are very pretty, even if I find them blending together absent pictures and guide-books to help me remember. Also, I am not very good at describing physical stuff.

* East Kyoto is not an easy place to find a cheap lunch. It also has less of the serious cognitive dissonance effect than I understand Tokyo, for instance, does.

* I attempt to cheat at not knowing the language by letting Chad deal with things, because he gets greeted in English. This doesn't always work.

* I am vastly underdressed even for just walking around, and I don't care.

* Incense still gives me whanging headaches, which makes visiting temples and shrines problematic.

* And I should spend less time doing write-ups.

Tomorrow: maybe the Philosopher's Walk, maybe a museum, depending on the weather.

ETA: my pictures from this day at http://pics.livejournal.com/kate_nepveu/gallery/0003638e
ETA 2: Chad's full Flickr set for this day at http://www.flickr.com/photos/11070535@N08/sets/72157601946542030/
Tags: japan 2007, trips
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