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Saturday, July 3rd

I am leaving Aarhus by train at 8.30 am. Then I’m at Kastrup Airport at noon. As usual – I am way ahead of the time of my flight. The flight for Tokyo is at 3.45 pm.

But finally – at 4 pm – its take-off with SAS to Tokyo, and 11 hours of flight is ahead.

Sunday, July 4th

I try to sleep a little, watch some of the movies, read a little – but with no success. Nevertheless I arrive at the airport of Narita outside Tokyo at 9.25 am local time – just as scheduled.


Then there’s the usual formality when arriving in another country. All the people you meet during the formalities are very polite. When this is done I head for the railway-office to get hold on my Japan Rail Pass. I also fix a number of reservations for the whole trip. Then I head for the Narita Express that will take me to Tokyo Station. From here I take the local Yamanote-Line to Hamamatsucho. Then there’s a short walk to Sheba Park otel. It’s hot – and with high humidity – so I do tend to sweat a lot. But then it’s nice to arrive to the hotel, where they hand me a freezing cold cloth, to help me out.

I check-in to room 1925 – a shower, some clean clothes and a 2 hour nap – and I’m on again. I take a short walk through the local neighbourhood. I visit the temple of Zojoji, and climb the Tokyo Tower with great views across Tokyo. On the way back to the hotel it starts to rain, and for the second time I arrive at Sheba Park soaking wet.

Video - rhythms of Zojoji

View from Tokyo Tower

Monday, July 5th

Sleeping in Kyoto Gosho

Tokyo is a “one-night-stand” right now. I needed the break after the long flight – and it was cheaper to take the first night in Tokyo, than just buying the plane ticket.

Therefore I check out from Sheba Park, and head to the local train to Tokyo Station. From there I take the Shinkansen train to Kyoto. That is fast – it takes 2 hour to take me there.

Kyoto is the cultural capital of Japan. There are more than 1.600 temples and 2.400 shrines. It used to the capital of Japan. That was from 794 to 1868, where Edo – now known as Tokyo – took over.

 

So after a check-in at Toyoko Inn Gojo-Karasuma, the emperor is a good way to start. The old palace Kyoto Gosho is located in a huge park. You can get inside, but it’s complicated, so I just take a look from the outside and take a stroll around the park, with trees, lawns and Japanese people taking a nap in the afternoon heat. From there I take the Metro back to my hotel.

It’s time for a shower and a little nap before my evening walk. That takes me to narrow streets in my local neighbourhood to Downtown Kyoto. This is Shopping-Kyoto. But there is also the old street of Pontocho, full of old wooden-houses. Lanterns and blinds made by rice paper are in front of the old houses, which now mainly are used for restaurants.

Finally I head for the shopping-streets back to my hotel.

Bridge over Pontocho

Tuesday, July 6th

Kiyomizudera hidden behind the trees

I won’t be able to cover all 1.600 temples, but a sample will be ok. Tour no. 1 of the day is taken from my Lonely Planet guide. It takes me to the southern park of Kyoto, known as Higashiyama. I start by walking the steep hills to the huge Kiyomizudera temple. It’s one of the highlights in Kyoto, and there are lots of tourists. Originally it was from 798, but the version standing today was built in 1633. As most temples around here it is placed in beautiful surroundings.

Then I head down Chawanzaka – full of souvenir-shops and tourist. I get away from the hassle and follow some nice streets to the temples of Kodaiji and Shorenin. I also pass the park of Maryamakoen, before I reach the Higashiyama station, where I can take the Metro back to the hotel.

The Late Walk is for the shopping street of Sanjodori. There I visit a local Pachinko place. It’s a gambling hall – something between a pinball-machine and a slot-machine. It’s very noisy within, and in minutes I loose 3.000 Yen. I can’t afford to stay here much longer, so I’m off again.

From here I walk to the old neighbourhood of Gion. More old Kyoto-houses made of wood and with rice paper-blinds – most of them are restaurants here as well.

I head back to the hotel via dark streets. There’s nothing to worry about when walking these streets in Japan. They are perfectly safe.

Lamp in Gion

Wednesday, July 7th

Traditional lamps from one of the temples

I have slept badly this night. First off all Japanese mattresses are like rock – secondly I had to wake up in the middle of the night to watch the World Cup football.

So I’m pretty tired as I head for this days tour. It’s by train to Nara, which was the first capitol of Japan. In the outskirts of Nara there’s a forest, with old temples. The first one – and the most famous – is called Todaiji. It houses some giant Buddha-Statues and plenty of tourists. There are fewer tourists at the other temples. Maybe it’s because they are harder to reach on the tour-bus. But the temples are just as nice. Nigatsudo and Shangatsudo are almost build together. Further inside the forest you will find Kasuga Taisha. It’s orange-coloured and monks are hanging out. While I visit this one the weather gets bad and it starts to rain. There is thunder and lightning. But you can stay inside, as long as you remember to leave your shoes at the doorstep.

When the rain stops I leave the forest of Narakoen. The forest is also full of totally tame reindeers, begging for foods from the tourists. They also go shopping on their own.

The train to Kyoto is cancelled due to an accident, so the trip back is a little adventurous. 1 bus and 3 different local trains are involved.

The evening is quiet. Dinner is at a local Tenkadori. They serve chicken. They are very understanding and you can get a fork instead of the chopsticks. And they are so polite. 2 chefs and one waitress is bowing me all the way out of the restaurant, having spent as much as 10 $ for my dinner at the place.

Video - Rain over Kasuga Taisha

Rain over Kasuga Taisha

Thursday, July 8th

Kinkakuji

It’s temple-hopping today. It’s all done by local busses, since the Metro is not to well developed here. The first one is a no. 12 to Kinkakuji – also knows at “The Golden Temple”. Originally it was build in 1398, but back in 1950 a monk set fire to the thing. The temple you see now is therefore a full reconstruction.

At the exit a group of kids have gathered, interviewing some of the tourist in English. You have to answer 3 different questions. This reminds me of a Monty Python movie. Luckily the questions are easy. Where do you come from? What is your favourite food? and What do you like best about Japan?. I pass the test – and as a reward gets some homemade thing, that is meant to be used for lying my nonexistent chopsticks at.

From there I take a no 12 to the temple of Nijojo. It was built in 1603 for the first Tokugawa Shogun. You can walk around inside the big temple – remember – no shoes. The floor cracks as you do so – it’s called a nightingale-floor. In this way Ninja’s would not be able to sneak around. Behind the temple there’s a nice park.

Next no is 204 for Ginkakuji. This one was built by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa in 1482. This is another fine temple with another fine park surrounding it.

I’ve had enough of temples for today. I head back to the hotel on a no. 5.

My evening stroll is in my local neighbourhood. I take a cheap dinner in one of the numerous good and cheap restaurants, coffee at Starbucks and a trip to the Pachinko-hall before my final cup of tea at the hotel.

Ginkakuji

Friday, July 9th

I thought she was meditating at Tenryuji - actually she was checking her cell-phone.....

I start the day with a walk to Nishika Market. That’s a food-market. Some of the stuff looks weird. Japanese food contains ingredients that are very unusual for someone like me.

From there I take a no. 11 to Arishiyama in the western outskirts of Kyoto. Here is another fine temple called Tenryuji. It’s dated back to 1339. The building that is here now was built in around 1900, but the fine Japanese garden is back from the 14th Century.

Outside there is a nice bamboo-forest. The trees raise high into the air, and the almost close at the top, so it’s kind of walking in a cave. The area around Arashiyama is very nice. There are good possibilities for a nice walk, so you can skip to tourist-things at the main street. The main street is full of souvenir-shops, as it tends to be around all sights in this country.

I head back to Kyoto by tram. That’s way faster than the bus. It has started to rain, so this will be my final temple in Kyoto. I head home for the hotel instead.

The evening walk is around the Kyoto Station. First I take the elevator to the top op Kyoto Tower. There’s a nice view around sunset. Kyoto Station is also impressive. I take the escalators to the 11th floor, where there’s a skywalk with a view of the whole thing. Accidently the trip down takes me through a huge shopping-centre. At the exit there are 4 shopping-assistants bowing respectfully to me. They should have known – I didn’t buy a thing – I just got lost.

A nice picture of Kyoto Tower

To Hiroshima