My trip so far has been extremely busy and I am now painfully behind on my blogging, so as I write this post I am sat on a bus to visit the Great Wall of china. However, this post is about my wonderful 3 days in Kyoto, and the second half of my Japanese experience.
On my last day in Tokyo I awoke early and packed up my bag (how is it that luggage always seems to expand as you travel?). I had planned to take the Shinkansen (bullet train) down to Kyoto in the afternoon, but before I left I wanted to check out one last shrine – the Sensoji shrine about 30 minutes walk from my hostel. So I stowed my main bag at the hostel and headed out. The walk was fairly straight forward and soon I found myself at the end of a long narrow street lined with stalls, and decorated with the beautiful orange and red Japanese maple leaves that make Tokyo so beautiful at this time of year. The street was absolutely rammed with people, and it took a further 10 minutes to get through the crowds to the shrine. It was Saturday, and it felt as though everyone in Japan had come here. Amongst the ornate buildings were large incense burners which are used as a form of prayer to make wishes for luck and prosperity. Inside the temple itself people followed another Japanese prayer ritual practised at many Buddhist shrines – you first offer a small monetary donation, then bow twice, clap twice, bow and then clap again. This also is thought to be a way to make wishes. Around the temple were many other forms of entertainment, including a group of around 20 girls doing gymnastics.
First stop on my Asia adventure was Tokyo – land of technology, anime, and sushi. I arrived at 9am after an 11 hour flight in which I achieved a grand total of 3 hours sleep, exhausted, confused and desperate to find my way to my hostel and my bed as soon as possible. After a fairly smooth passage through immigration, I managed to find my way over to the train station where I was confronted for the first time by the Japanese rail (JR) and subway system. Thankfully, two years living in London prepared me well for following the transport system and I have subsequently found it pretty easy to get around, but in my sleep-deprived, jet-lagged state it was all a bit much. Eventually I found a manned ticket office and the lady there was able to sort me out with a ticket and pointed me in the right direction for my train. Which I missed by about 30 seconds (typical!) and had to wait 40 minutes for the next one.