I started my first morning in Japan by taking a very nervous Japanese-style public bath. The neat thing about Japanese hotels is they give you Samurai robes and slippers to wear. Usually the slippers are too tiny.
During breakfast I watched Japanese TV. They had a My Melody show on.
I really took a liking to the bad My Melody (who I later found out is called "Kuromi")
My first breakfast? A rice ball I kept from the airplane.
We decided to take Johnnie Hillwalker's walking tour of Kyoto. But before that we explored Kyoto station as we waited for the tour to begin. There's some connection between Kyoto and the work of Osamu Tezuka. He was probably from Kyoto or something.
Also at Kyoto station? A Mister Donut.
This coffee is the Boss of everyone.
At the station there were all these stairs
This is what it looks like from the top of those stairs
Happy Terrace! (I suppose that's me trying to look happy?)
Look how Happy everyone else is!
The Kyoto Station Helipad. Helicool!
Then it was time to go down and meet Johnny Hillwalker. On our way over there were these kids . . . (mostly I include this picture because I feel the blog has been lacking in the Pictures-of-Japanese department, I was in Japan, afterall)
Mr. Johnnie Hillwalker himself. They say he is treasure of sorts and the giver of Kyoto's finest walking tours. I just liked that he spoke English. Plus, I hear that whenever you watch an informational TV show about Kyoto, it's certain to include to Johnnie Hillwalker. So keep an eye out for that the next time you're watching a PBS documentary on Johnnie Hillwalker.
Johnnie gave each of us an intricate, hand-drawn (yet photocopied) map detailing our day's 5 hour tour.
The first thing Johnnie did was take us underground. (Kyoto Tower!) . . .
Underground he collected our money (I suppose it's dishonerable to be seen accepting money above ground in public?)
Then we walked to the gigantic Buddhist Temple (Higashi-Honganji), across the street from my hotel.
Much of the Temple was undergoing roof-reconstruction (but we could still go inside)
I think I'll go easy on the captioning of interior Temple shots. You get it, right? There was a temple, this stuff was on the inside?
Except I need to tell you that this is a huge rope made of hairs and that lots of ropes made of hairs like this one were used in the construction (but, fortunately, not the renovation) of the Temple.
We're still inside the Temple complex, this is just the modern part.
Then Johnnie took us down some sidestreets to see where they made Japanese prayer beads
The family that owns this shop has been making beads for 17 generations! (400 years!) That's probably the fact I remember best from the tour.
And then we visited a fan-making shop.
Then we went to a garden that used to be a Samurai's house.
Seriously. You do not want to mess with the bee.
Back to the streets of Kyoto . . .
We next visited a little Shinto shrine where Johnnie explained the intricacies of the religion, or at least as much as English-speaking tourists needed to know.
If you see a bull statue at a Shinto shrine that means its a shrine for (in Johnnie words) "good head." If a shrine has statues of foxes, its a shrine for good money.
Johnnie is a dutiful patron of the shrine as he's always visiting it with his tour groups.
Back on the streets, these students were not minding their studies
And then we visited . . . uhm, I can't remember what this place was
But there was a graveyard there and we learned about the sticks with writing on them
This is a flower. I think.
We ducked into the Kyoto Community Center for a lecture on Geisha. By this time it was raining pretty strong off and on. This weather pattern would remain a theme through the day.
Completely Unexpected Kyoto Bestness: A visit to where Nintendo (the company) was invented.
Johnnie gave each of us one of the playing cards that made Nintendo famous over 100 years ago (remarkably, along with GameBoys and Wiis, Nintendo still makes and sells their old card game)
We crossed a bridge. Johnnie told us it was an important and well-known bridge.
Across the river Johnnie fed us vegetarian sushi. I can still taste its vinegary goodness.
And took us to a pastry shop (I'm American, so rice + beans doesn't necessarily equal "pastry" in my mind)
And we visited one last Shinto shrine. It was a Fox Shrine, a Money Shrine. Johnnie said a prayer for more tourists there.
Buddhist shrine in a parking lot.
We poked our heads in at some pottery place
This is the oldest Western-style home in Kyoto.
And then Johnnie's tour ended. His map included further, even more famous things to explore so Cheryl and I tried to find them. Problem was, while Johnnie's map was quite detailed in detailing the places we visited to him, the "further adventures" portion of the map sort of dissolved into an array of arrows and X's without any scale.
Just when the rain, our hunger, our sleepiness, and our lostness were about to become more than we could possibly stand, we found a noodle place. I had either soba or udon noodles, you tell me.
During lunch I looked at my papers and discoverd Nijo Castle, home of the famous Nightingale Floors, would be closing shortly for the day. So we hopped in a cab in hopes of making it there.
This is what I look like when I'm realizing that we're probably not going to make it and my trip to Kyoto will be a near-waste
And this is what it looks like when, in fact, we don't make it and the castle is closed.
If it weren't for the pleasantness of our hotel (represented by this photo of the dog that lived by the door) I surely would have wallowed in despair
That night we walked through the more modern portion of Kyoto in search of the Internet.
Later supplemental posts will detail the bestness of Japanese Internet Cafes and Japanese McDonalds and the magnificence of the Ebi Filet-O. So don't quit reading Steady Mobbin' just now. Quit in a couple of weeks, instead.