I’d much rather have an undine for a travel guide, but alas, Kyoto is a little short on canals.
We’ll have to settle for the HTT girls instead.
(Man, I love second choices.)
I’ve thrown in some equivalent pictures from my own trip last year. The HTT gang and myself appear to have covered the same ground in a number of cases, although they’ve also featured a couple of sweet spots I didn’t manage to visit when I was there. Add those to my checklist for this year.
On the other hand, a lot of major sights that made it into my itinerary didn’t get featured in this episode. Disappointing, but no real surprise there as it was absolutely essential to reserve at least some airtime for more important events (such as a gratuitous pillow fight, the obligatory bath scene, random acts of imbecility and so forth).
Kyoto is located hundreds of miles west of Tokyo, making a trip between both cities the perfect excuse to try out Japan’s legendary shinkansen. Travel times vary depending on the type of service used. If you’re in a hurry and money’s no object, take the Nozomi service (which stops at fewer stations). As a Japan Rail Pass holder, I had to settle for the slightly slower Hikari service which got me from A to B in under three hours.
The rail car I travelled in from Tokyo to Kyoto is quite different from the HTT gang’s . . .
. . . but the one I rode in from Kyoto to Himeji is almost spot-on.
On a clear day, about half an hour into your journey (I can’t recall how far in exactly), Mount Fuji should be visible through the windows on the right-hand side of the train.
Regrettably, the real view isn’t necessarily as clear or as impressive as the animated version. Were it not for an excited kid who screamed 富士山が見える！(or something to that effect) whilst I was gazing out of the windows on the wrong side of the train, I might have missed the view entirely.
After arriving at Kyoto Station, one of the first things you’re likely to see outside the building is the Great Daikon (in Yuispeak) – more formally known as Kyoto Tower.
I have no equivalent picture for this, probably because I headed straight for the subway upon my arrival.
Now for the first item on the HTT girls’ itinerary: Kinkaku-ji. Within the unremarkable entrance . . .
. . . we find a stunning vision of beauty. This splendid vista is something far beyond even the mighty powers of KyoAni to adequately reproduce.
The next stop is Kitano Tenman-gū.
At this shrine, desperate students can rub stone cows to increase their brain power. It won’t work of course, but the desperate will try anything.
Take these two hopeless cases, for example.
This one didn’t feature in my itinerary last year and it doesn’t seem interesting enough to merit a spot on my next checklist, but I’ll make a note of it all the same. (The fact that HTT were there should be reason enough to visit, I suppose.)
Day 2 of the school trip and HTT are off to Arashiyama in the western part of the city. The tour begins with a quick morning dash across the famous Togetsukyō.
If spoiling the local wildlife strikes your fancy, consider feeding the resident monkeys of the Iwatayama Monkey Park.
I gave this place a skip as I’m not particularly fond of animals, but I shall probably swing by this time around to take in the splendid view of the city from the park.
Enjoying a bowl of traditional Japanese tea ranks high on my list of must-dos in Kyoto.
In this episode, Mugi advises her friends to consume the sweet before drinking the tea, as this will help bring out the delicious bitterness of the beverage. (I remember coming across the same advice in a chapter of Minna no Nihongo.) It may be worth keeping this piece of received wisdom in mind as it’s awfully tempting to tuck into the sweet beans and cake the moment they’re set down on the table.
Teatime can often be incorporated into one’s sightseeing activities as some attractions offer the experience on site. The Ōkōchi Sansō in Arashiyama is one of them – a bowl of tea and a small cake are included in the price of admission (as is the refreshing view of an ancient bamboo grove from the tea room). Other places may require an additional charge.
One might also pop into an old-fashioned teahouse somewhere in the back streets of the city. I recommend Kasagi-ya in Higashiyama-ku (the atmosphere alone is worth the price of the beverage).
UPDATE (18 May 2010): Samu-kun’s trip covers additional ground (including the monkey park); click here.