Saturday, April 3

Paula: We left Tokyo this morning and headed to Kyoto. The typically efficient bullet train took only two and a half hours and our GPS showed that it hit a speed of 160 mph at one point. It felt like the train made a perfectly straight route from Tokyo to Kyoto, and every slight rise in land elevation took us through a tunnel. We weren't too worried about knowing when to disembark because we knew the expected arrival time (and of course it was exactly on time). Meanwhile we enjoyed looking out the window and observing life outside of Tokyo.

It took quite a while before the skyscrapers gave way to rows of apartment buildings and then finally an endless stream of factories. Before we knew it, there was another large city and then yet another. The homes and buildings were built right up to the level of the track. Since 80% of Japan is mountains, the low-lying areas along the coast are densely populated and the train took us along the Pacific coastline of Honshu (the largest of Japan's four main islands) for at least part of our journey. At one point, we could see the Pacific Ocean on one side of the train and the magnificent Mt. Fuji out the other side! We had seen Mt. Fuji from the plane when we arrived in Tokyo and it was fun to see it again from the train. It is Japan's highest mountain and very unusual because sits alone as one isolated cone-shaped peak. From the airplane we could clearly visualize the top of this famous volcano with snow crowning the top of its slopes.










After arriving in Kyoto, we decided to try another type of Japanese cuisine which included a variety of meats, seafood and vegetables charcoal-broiled on skewers. The area around the restaurant was hopping with people out on a Saturday evening. Kyoto looks to be very beautiful, and we are looking forward to exploring it more in the daylight. From what we saw, the cherry blossoms are in full bloom and seem to line almost every street. People everywhere were using their mobile phones to take pictures of the trees. We also saw many women - both young and old - dressed up in traditional kimonos.

From the busy streets, we ducked down into the subway in hopes of quickly retreating back to our hotel. The subway here was not quite as user friendly, but fortunately several local people were more than happy to help us. Unfortunately, we mistakenly hopped on an express train which didn't stop at the station where we needed to make a transfer and before we knew it, we were somewhere way out in the suburbs! We got off as soon as the train stopped and made our way back to the center of town. With help from a few more kind souls, we found ourselves back again in the main train station near our hotel.

Tomorrow we will spend the day in Nara. This smaller town, about 30 minutes from Kyoto, was the ancient capital of Japan. After spending the day in Nara, we will then have three days to explore Kyoto before heading to the countryside on the island of Shikoku.












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