Wednesday 14th November 2012
It was our final day and we only had one big thing left to do, and that was to ride the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto.
During our break at the Skytree yesterday we went to Tokyo station to buy tickets for the Shinkansen. Tickets are quite expensive at around £105 each way, and we’d swayed over whether we should go or not, but in the end we decided that it would be a shame to come all this way and miss it.
I love going on the train, so this was pretty exciting for me! Tokyo to Kyoto is approximately 370km/229miles and it took just over 2 hours at speeds of up to 300km/h. The Shinkansen website is pretty confusing but I found this handy guide which tells you everything you’ll need to know. We opted for a reserved seat ticket because of the distance we were going but you can buy unreserved tickets for slightly less. The cars are pretty spacious and it’s a nice smooth journey with some great views, including Mount Fuji.
There’s a handy tourist information in Kyoto station and a lovely English speaking lady gave us a map and helped us organise our day.
We got the subway to Imadegawa Station which is right next to Kyoto Imperial Palace. There are two tours in English daily at 10am and 2pm and you have to apply at least 20 minutes in advance by filling in a form and showing your passport at the Household Office on site. Entry is free.
After registration, we took the train to Shijo Station to grab some lunch beside the Nishiki Food Market. We couldn’t find the restaurant we were looking for and although the market is great there was still nothing for a veggie meal here! I did get some awesome geta and socks to match!
In our search for food (which resulted in us sharing some dried mango and a little bag of chocolate digestives) we ended up running late for the Imperial Palace tour. Well, part of that was because we couldn’t find the entrance and ended up walking right around the outside, which is a long way especially with aching feet. And it had started raining. So starving and broken, we arrived at the gate and were quickly ushered in.
The tour was really interesting and the life of an Emperor seems pretty sweet! You get carried about everywhere (Emperor’s are not allowed to set foot on the ground outwith the palace), your family has to stay in a different part of the residence, you get your own beautiful garden and you get to take naps in a cool tent thing! Ok, that’s a simplified version of it, you have to do proper important stuff too but it sounds pretty good to me! This hour-long tour is definitely worth taking.
The office were able to give us information on buses directly from there to our next destination, Kinkaku – ji Temple.
This temple is also called the Golden Pavilion and is covered in real gold foil and is just beautiful as it reflects in the Kyokochi pond.
The ground also have a few other hidden surprises, but they do pale in comparison!
At the end of the tour we both lit a candle with a specific prayer written on it and placed it with the others, which seemed like the perfect ending to an amazing and possibly life-changing trip.