For these posts in Japan I actually wrote the bulk of the text during downtime (train/plane/bus journeys and late evenings mostly) so I could have a nice way to properly look back on my honeymoon.
I was sad to leave Hiroshima. Although I was only there for 3 full days I had really fallend for Japan’s 10th largest city (10th largest yet still has over 1 million residents, as a Brit this astounds me). It’s been the perfect host for the first leg of my honeymoon, as has the Sheraton Hiroshima.
I know that since seeing one of these on Blue Peter many years ago I have always wanted to ride on a Japanese bullet train. By the time I leave Japan I may have been on seven different trains (including two return journeys).
In order to get to Kyoto from Hiroshima (using our JR Pass) we needed to make a change at Osaka. In retrospect, I wish that we had time to spend in Osaka since it does have some gorgeous sites. Looks like I have another reason to return to Japan!
I can not emphasise enough just how luxurious the bullet train between Hiroshima and Osaka felt on the inside (better than Osaka to Kyoto, but that train was still jolly nice). The seating alone feels like British first class. All the seats recline, there are neat foldaway cup holders and coat hooks. Each pair of seats comes with its own power socket. Needless to say, the cumulative two hours between Hiroshima and Kyoto just flew by whilst I stared at the scenery.
That is, apart from we broke open the ekiben! Now, the ekiben are something that hubby really wanted to get whilst we were in a Japan, and boy are there a whole mess of choices. The big one is his, I had some real ekiben-envy when he opened up his official Hiroshima Carp (local baseball team) ekiben up. In the end though, that would have been way too much food. My box, aka the smaller one, really filled me up (it had chicken, rice, red cabbage and something that I assumed was puréed Japanese yam salad). It’s actually quite amazing at how good the quality of the food in the box lunches was.
We arrived at about 14:00. The differences between Kyoto and Hiroshima became evident by the time we got to the hotel room. Firstly, the smell if different. When you are in Hiroshima the air feels just that bit fresher because of all the rivers. Then there is the pace, Kyoto is a lot faster and a bit more impatient than Hiroshima. Where previously I would rarely see someone cross a street without a green man being shown, here I have already seen it a number of times. However, the most profound difference is age – the population of Kyoto feel a lot younger.
We freshen ourselves up at our hotel room, which is done in a more traditional style with tatami flooring, a futon and sliding windows. I mean sure it’s all capped off with a toilet that warms up the seat and a scary looking shower, but the thought was there.
By the time we left the hotel it was nearly 16:30 and I was getting hungry. Luckily, since I have done some research, I had a place in mind. It meant heading back to Kyoto main station (some 30 minutes away from where we were staying in Shijo), so,etching I was more than happy to walk seeing how I’d spent two hours sitting down on trains.
As we got close to the station we suddenly see a massive temple complex come into view – the Higashi Honganji. Sadly a lot of it was under renovation works (which will be done by the time this blog post goes up. According to a sign in the main temple, this is the largest wooden building in the world. It is also one that demands that you take your shows off in order to enter the temple… which is fine if I hadn’t chosen today as a day to wear my pink ‘raveasaurus’ dinosaur socks.
It was pretty spectacular on the inside. I grabbed a few photos and then had a guard rushing towards me gesturing that no photos were allowed. I suddenly became very aware of my pink dinosaur socks and that I had not seen any signs saying not to take photos. We scarpered pretty quickly because I became all British and felt rather embarrassed.
Soon we arrived back at the mammoth building that houses Kyoto railway station. Since we previously went straight to the subway I hadn’t been able to take it all in, but with over 11 floors in some places, it is huge. The restaurant that I wanted to get to was on floor 10, which meant riding up a fleet of escalators and appreciating the cool light up steps on the way.
There are six main foods that I wanted to get whilst in Japan. This is second one achieved after Hiroshima oysters and Kyoho grapes. A Kobe beef burger. Easily one of the best burgers I have had in my life. When you bite into it a lot of fat just oozes out, something to be expected since Kobe beef is highly marbled. The thing with the beef having such rich marbling is that as you bite into it the burger just seems to melt in your mouth. I don’t think that is a mouthfeel that I had ever quite had before, but I wish we had ordered a second one each. We didn’t order anything with it, so we were still hungry.
Before going on the hunt for more food we roamed the station a bit more and found our way to the Skyway walk which gave us some amazing views of Kyoto being lit up at night. Especially Kyoto Tower, which just dominates the skyline.
We went into the department store located in Kyoto station in order to scout for an extra snack. Since it was getting late a lot of the food was getting discounted and there was a lot of hubbub as differs stalls tried to get rid of their wares. Poor hubby was getting a bit overwhelmed by all the shouting and the choice so we just got three random croquettes (turned out to be one kelp, one shrimp and one that was chicken, ham and cheese) and some other things.
I am trying not to be too western with my food choices out here (Pepsi Ghost is just too good for me to not have), but we both really fancied ice cream after the burger. The Baskin Robbins on the way home was a god send with it’s ‘Trick or Ice Cream’ which was with dark chocolate chips and an orange syrup that I guess is meant to be pumpkin. It’s amazing how much you can get in a store with smiling, pointing, nodding and quantitative hand gestures.
Food item: Shizuoka Melon
Now, this melon is the fourth of the six foods I really wanted to find. In order to get a whole one I have seen prices ranging from 1800¥ to nearly 5500¥. If you ever play a Japanese computer game with a melon featured you will know what it looks like, perfectly round with a neat stem cut to form a capital ‘t’. This is a melon they people gift each other, I’m guessing more as a ‘get well soon’ or housewarming gift rather than at a child’s birthday party.
The fact that we were able to find some pre-cubed that been discounted down to 390¥ just blew my mind. This saved me quite a bit of souvenir money! As we opened the plastic box the smell of the melon just hit us. It has such a strong fragrance of, well, melon. Taste wise… I was hoping to be able to slander it, but it was just too delicious to even start. Think of a regular melon from a supermarket. Now take that essence of melon flavour and remove all the watering down that regular melons have. Slightly honey the flavour and then at is what you have. It made me annoyed that all melons are not like this.
Tomorrow is our first full day in Kyoto. We are not here for long so we are going to make it count.