Exploring Kyoto!

Apr 9, 2013

It's hard to believe that we are already nearing the end of our trip! 2 weeks goes by so fast when you are having fun and experiencing so many new things each and every day. I'm writing this from my seat on the Shinkansen Bullet Train, bound for Tokyo. We are currently traveling at 245 kilometers per hour, which feels slow in comparison to the speeds of 310 that we've seen in the past. The first time we rode this train I was slightly nervous. How can a vehicle move so fast and not be equipped with seatbelts?! I think the combination of being a safety conscious flight attendant and an overprotective mom-to-be has ruined the carefree me. I eventually got over my high speed train anxiety... I like to live on the edge.
Yesterday we spent the day in Kyoto. It is a city known for its multitude of shrines and temples, and I'll disappoint you all by telling you that we didn't visit any of them. I've been to so many temples from Thailand to China and everywhere in between and while they are gorgeous and great photo opportunities, I wanted to do something different this trip. And Ryan, well, quite frankly he just didn't care about seeing temples after I told him about the monkey park. Off we went, hiking about 15 minutes up a mountain and earning all of that food we've been consuming. At the top we were blessed with beautiful views of Kyoto and the surrounding mountains... And monkeys! Monkeys, everywhere! They roam free and visitors are allowed to feed them provided they go inside a caged room so as not to be swarmed by crazy, hungry monkeys. I was amused by the fact that the humans were the ones in cages as the monkeys peered in. We fed them peanuts and apples and had far too much fun. Ryan played catch with the faster, less lazy monkeys and marveled at their hand-eye coordination that is far better than his own wife's. Once we'd ran out of food we went back outside to walk amongst the monkeys and take photos of them. We spent a reasonable amount of time up there before finally venturing back down to explore the rest of the area.
Next up was a train ride through the lush forests and bamboo, winding alongside a river. It was a slow, scenic ride specifically called "The Romantic Train" despite the herds of people and families squashing any romance to be found.
Once we'd got off of the train it was late afternoon and most temples and shrines would soon be closed. We opted to stroll down the bamboo lined path and then head back towards the Kyoto station for dinner. Before eating, we picked up a little gift for baby Shippelt. After a bit of shopping we were hungry and sought out delicious food.
We've been to plenty of kaiten (sushi trains) during our trip, but we hadn't yet enjoyed a sit down, order from the menu sushi restaurant. In Japan, going for kaiten sushi instead of a real restaurant is like going to McDonald's vs the Keg... the cost being no exception. We had to try the full experience once, so we sat down at the sushi bar of a nice restaurant. We clearly seemed confused, because the old man sitting next to us laughed as he taught us (speaking absolutely no English) the proper way to eat sushi. Dip the fish in the soy sauce, not the rice. Sip tea between to cleanse your palette. He encouraged us to drink sake, and I tried to explain that I was pregnant and avoiding alcohol. Most of our communication was lost in translation, but we had fun dining with the locals. Oh, and the sushi? Amazing, as always. We finished up and left satisfied.
Right outside of the station stands the Kyoto Tower. Since attractions are so cheap in comparison to Canada, we decided to go to the top for the price of about $6 Canadian. The city looked quite pretty all lit up. Instead of charging extra to use the binoculars, they are free for everyone to try. They were amazingly clear and we could see far into the distance. Ryan spent a great deal of time following the Bullet Trains as they zoomed to and from the station. We were happy as we spent the rest of our evening shopping the mega malls and stocking up on snacks at the grocery store. Ryan can't get over his fascination of Japanese grocery stores and we never leave empty handed. We returned to our hotel and called it a night after a long, fun day in Kyoto. Today we return to Tokyo for a few more adventures before we are forced to return to North America in a short few days. Vacations are just never quite long enough!


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