During our walk around Kyoto the first night, we did manage to find a little tourist information office. There we bought bus passes for the Kyoto city bus system, and picked up a map that had the bus routes to all the tourist sites. Between the bus passes and the JR passes, we could get to just about anywhere that we wanted to go in Kyoto. We planned to see as much as we could the next day.
Monday, March 12
I actually slept until after 8 am for the first time since arriving in Japan, and woke up feeling pretty normal. We went down to the hotel restaurant for the breakfast buffet and had our meal while poring over bus routes and our Lonely Planet guide to Kyoto. Plan set, breakfast eaten, we set off to find our bus stop. First on the itinerary – Kyoto Imperial Palace.
It did take us a little bit of time to figure out where we needed to be – and by we I mean Cory who kept a firm grip on the map, poring over it and muttering to himself; most of the time I was following along not knowing where we were going – but it really didn’t take too long to find the right bus stop, then we had to wait. It was chilly, but not too bad in the sun, as we stood and waited for the bus with local Kyoto-ites (Kyotans? no idea).
The bus was nice and warm, though the seats were small – not so bad for me, but definitely a tight fit for Cory. We didn’t have a terribly long ride though, so it was not bad.
The young man at the tourist office had pointed out Kyoto Imperial Palace Park on the map and said there were two entrances we could go in. The park is quite large and our informant had not recommended one entrance over the other, so we picked one and went for it. Of course it turned out to be the wrong one, and on top of that we went in the exact wrong direction when we got into the park. So we didn’t make it to the palace this day, instead we had a wander around the park.
In warmer weather, I can see that this park would be a lovely place to spend some time. This time of year, on a chilly day, it was pretty quiet. We did see a few people walking or biking through, and a group of people walking their dogs. Small dogs – all the dogs we saw in Japan were small, which makes sense where most people living in a city don’t have much space.
It is a beautifully laid out park, with wide gravelled walk ways and benches. I very much enjoyed walking around and would love to see it a little later in the year when everything has come to life. At the same time, it was nice to have it almost to ourselves, chilly though it might have been (there were actually a few snow flurries while we were there).
We did see some palace walls and gates from the outside.
Eventually we did find the main entrance. We took a little break there – restrooms and water from the vending machines, sat down at a table under the trees, then went to the office and bought tickets for an English tour on Wednesday morning.
Then we went and wandered around a bit outside the park, looking for a place to have lunch. Going by the pictures/plastic food/descriptions displayed outside, we chose what turned out to be quite the dingy hole in the wall on the inside. It was a place that has obviously been around for a long time, it was quite cluttered and crowded, but it was clean and the food was tasty. We ordered one of their ‘set’ lunches, which started with a soup (by taste we identified it as a corn chowder, it was blended to be all smooth and creamy and was quite delicious); then the main was a piece of fish and a prawn, both battered and deep fried, a potato croquet, salad and rice. I couldn’t eat it all, but it was good.
After lunch, we were off to catch a bus to Nijo Palace.