Perfectly starting off the trip in beautiful Kyoto

Trip Start Sep 17, 2009
Trip End Oct 03, 2009

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Where I stayed

Flag of Japan  , Kinki,
Friday, September 18, 2009

After a ten hour flight from Australia to Tokyo we didn't grand ourselves any rest but jumped on the next train early in the morning (6 am) to make a 3 hour train ride to Kyoto our first stop of the trip. Tokyo airport and station already was full on as expected, but somehow we managed to find our way to the Shinkansen that was to carry around Japan for the next 7 days. We had bought a "JR pass" back in Australia that allowed us to travel on any means of transport by Japan Rail (JR) for this week.
Our first stay right away was the most interesting one. The cosily situated Matsubaya Inn was in walking distance of the train station and was a Ryokan. This means a Japanese traditional type of stay, sleeping on a small mattress on the floor that's covered with bamboo mats, a small table for tea ceremony in the middle (to be replaced with the mattress later on), Japanese decoration and traditional Kimono robes for sleeping. At the entrance of the stairs we were to take off our shoes, also according to Japanese tradition. We were immediately shown the extreme Japanese politeness at this place, the hotel owners kept on bowing to us and welcomed us with all forms of politeness and helpfulness. 
We walked around Kyoto for a while for the rest of the day and explored the city by foot ending up in the somewhat touristic quarter Gion where we had our Japanese dinner and some street foot for entrees. Two things were obvious rather fast: there was nice food every 10 metres one looking better than the other (so it wasn't to be a trip to loose any weight) and English isn't very spread in Japan making the getting around a bit more difficult at times. For example only major streets have a label using Roman letters, which also goes for signs at train stations.
The next day we decided to rent bicycles to explore a bigger part of the city. The owner of our Ryokan recommended a bicycle rental where we were greeted by an old lady that did not speak any English. We still managed fine and rented two really old looking bikes that were to become our means of transport for the next 6 hours. We cycled to the first temple on our list, Sanjusangen-do temple when I realised that I accidentally had given the old lady a 10,000 Yen bill rather than a 1,000 Yen bill and so paying about 150 AUD for the bikes. After we visited the temple which was fairly average we cycled back to the old lady trying to explain what happened. Fortunately she still had the money we paid in one of her pockets and realised my mistake, paying us back the change, obviously surprised herself. Thankful for her honesty we cycled on for the rest of the day. The saddles turned out to be really uncomfortable and our bums was to hurt for days to come, we still enjoyed our little tour however. So we cycled to Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Heia-Jingu Shrine, Kurodani Temple, Kyoto Imperial Palace and Nijo-jo Castle before finishing our day at Gion like the day before with more yummy Japanese cuisine. All the beautiful temples, shrines and castles were very nice to explore and we truly enjoyed our tours around Kyoto, the nice little city in Japans south. Another night at the Ryokan to enjoy came up and at the next morning the owners gave us a very nice farewell, bowing as of the usual but also following us out to the street, waving and bowing till we were out of eye sight. I hope this wasn't because they were that happy that we finally left. :)
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