Kyoto – Day 10, April 3

Not an Ordinary Day

I got up early at my amazing Highland Hotel in the Mt. Fuji area. I was nervous about catching my bus on time. But while I waited for my bus to arrive, which was seven minutes late, hundreds of people, mostly kids, arrived on various buses to visit the Fuji-Q Amusement Park. And BTW, to those of you who think I should have ridden those epic coasters, you’re probably right, but I can’t risk a strained back or twisted neck right now. A little girl had a tiny backpack on that read, “Ordinary Day”. Like that’s kind of funny, right? We don’t want ordinary days, but I’m sure whoever translated that had something else in mind. Already I knew that this would be no ordinary day for me.

Just then, Mt. Fuji came out completely from the clouds. Sorry, not sorry, if you’re tired of looking at pictures of the mountain. It’s just so impressive up close that I still can’t stop taking photos. So that’s how things started.

My bus came and I had both seats to myself. The 2-hour trip was serene. We hardly stopped moving, even when we got to Tokyo. Compared to the fiasco of getting there on two trains, it felt like a secret. We rode slowly past beautiful Hibuya Park, which I had wanted to see before, and in just two days’ absence, most of the cherry blossoms are gone and bright green leaves have suddenly appeared. So let’s say I started at point B today (Mt. Fuji). In order to get to point C (Kyoto), I had to go back to point A (Tokyo). That’s why you’re going to hear about Mt. Fuji again after we left Tokyo.

So arriving at Tokyo station, which transfers slightly fewer passengers per day than Shinjuku Station, but has more trains running through it, is a marvel. I thought I might walk around Tokyo a bit since I had three hours till my train, but with the chilly wind, my heavy suitcase, and my backpack, I decided to go inside.

Tokyo Station was absolutely #$%^@&% amazing. For some reason, previously I had only made a quick subway switch there before, but walking around the full extent of it was just awe-inspiring. Grand Central Station in NYC is nothing compared to Tokyo Station. There were restaurants and shops galore. There was an extra special hallway of shops called First Avenue, focussing on kid stuff. There was a Harry Potter Shop, a Paddington Bear shop, anime stores, and families waiting in line for access to a store that was selling some stuffed animal line. There are a few full-on malls and department stores. There was a crazy delicious public market thing. I bought my lunch for my first bullet train ride. I’ll say it again – unbelievable, unparalleled, and vast. Consumerism to the max.

The train ride on the bullet train was awesome. I had a reserved seat on the right side of the train so if by any chance Mt. Fuji was showing itself, I’d have the best view. And boy was it on view! If you have been on a high-speed train before, you know how fast stuff flies by. Well, Mt. Fuji was there in view for about 10 minutes. That’s how big it is. The train ride was perfect and so fun.

I arrived in Kyoto and directly made my connection to a subway line that took me to a stop 10 minutes walk to my hotel. This is all thanks to Google Maps. If you plan to travel and don’t know how to use it well, I suggest you learn it. It gives you all the options for getting someplace.: train, bus, taxi, and on foot. Select your method and click start. It can be hard to know which direction to walk. A lot of people are walking in one direction and abruptly do an about-face.

The hotel was nice. But it was pretty spare compared to my other hotels. Not so many frills, but it was fine. I loved the neighborhood it was in. Small streets that weren’t exactly pedestrian, but only taxis and delivery vehicles came down. And lots of bikes. I wished I had a bike in Kyoto. The neighborhood had some hotels, so there were some tourists, but it was really a place to see local folks from Kyoto going about their lives. There were grocery stores and bakeries, coin laundromats and computer stores, acupuncture, and shoe repair.

I got settled in, found some dinner, bought some groceries, and did my laundry,