Kyoto Redux Redux
03.03.2015 - 03.05.2013
We're back in Japan again! We had an uneventful flight via LAX to Narita (although those airplane seats seem to get smaller and more uncomfortable every year!), and an overnight in a Narita hotel--a Hilton. Yes, we usually stay away from international chains, but when you've spent nearly 20 hours traveling, all you want to do is crash with no fuss, no muss, and that's what we got: free airport shuttle and a larger than usual by Japanese standards room. What does this mean? Well, we could walk from the entry door to the end of the room without running into a stationary object either belonging to the hotel or to us and the bed could be entered on either side. There's something to be said for not having to negotiate with each other or with an open suitcase every time one of us wants to move in the room.
We went back to Narita Airport at 8 am to pick up our rental cell phone. Unless you have T Mobile, your US cell phone won't work in Japan.
We arrived at our Kyoto machiya (same one as last year, Shirakawa Cottage) by 2:30 pm, after an express train to Shinagawa (one stop after Tokyo Station--the JR agent wisely suggested we do our transfer there because I'm having leg problems again and the walking is shorter there), shinkansen to Kyoto, time out in Kyoto Station for our favorite ice cream cone (green tea and roasted tea (hojicha) soft ice cream with sweetened red bean paste and tapioca balls), subway to our neighborhood. We turn right from the station to get to our machiya, but we couldn't resist turning left first to see if one of our favorite restaurants was still there. The last time we were there, I was convinced that the owners were on the verge of bankruptcy (occupational hazard of opening a new restaurant). I can still see their hang dog faces the last time we ate there--so unlike their usual friendly selves! We were pleasantly surprised to see them still there with the restaurant looking better than ever! The Black Cat takkyubin (delivery) service showed up with our large suitcase 40 minutes later (you can never guarantee there will be room for a large suitcase on the train, plus who wants to schlep one across country?).
We've now been in Kyoto in November and May. This is the coldest it has been for us by far. Last night the low in Kyoto was supposed to be 28 degrees Fahrenheit with snow, although by the time we arrived this afternoon,the streets were clear and it was sunny, albeit chilly. Today Kyoto is reportedly 12 degrees Fahrenheit colder than Tokyo even though it's farther south. (Kyoto is in the interior, surrounded on 3 sides by mountains and is reputedly hotter in the summer and colder in the winter than Tokyo). My Japanese friends tell me that Kyoto cold feels even colder than Seattle cold!
I don't know how cold our machiya is, but it's a traditional Japanese house with no central heating, and who knows what or how much insulation. We have two space heaters, plus I think the shower area has a heater and, of course, the toilet seat is heated.
About a week before we left on our trip, the same leg troubles that partially derailed our first trip here returned with a vengeance. With emergency help of Virginia Mason and the best orthotics person in Seattle, my goal is to make it through this trip without getting much worse. We'll see. It's going to curtail a lot of the walking I'd planned, I'm afraid.
We'll be in Kyoto for two weeks before heading to Hiroshima Prefecture. Comments, questions, messages are welcome!