|[1.18] Kyoto - Station, Tower, Hongangi, Hokoku||Last updated
04 Feb 1999
Sam Blair and I decided to go to Kyoto today. Sam's in Japanese level 2, and
I'm in Japanese level 1, so we're not exactly fluent. Neither of us had been
to Kyoto before, so we decided to make it into a fun "see if we can do it"
adventure. Today was the last day of our four-day weekend, so we had the
The train ride to Kyoto from Hikone takes about 50 minutes (depending on which train you take), and costs about $20 (round trip). Before we headed out we stopped at Makudonarudo (that's "McDonald's" in English). I wanted to try one of the exclusively Japanese menu items, so I ordered a Teriyaki McBurger (meal price: about $5.25). After we were done, Sam decided to be adventurous and try a Bacon Potato Pie (just like a McDonald's Apple Pie, but filled with potato and bacon)! It was yummy!
We rode the train, and finally arrived at Kyoto Station. Words or pictures cannot describe Kyoto Station. Let me try, though. First of all, it's massive. I think the sign said it was 500 meters long, or about a third of a mile. It has a hotel, an insane number of restaurants and shops, a mall, a bank, at least 12 stories, miles of escalators and moving ramps, and the most "futuristic-looking" architecture I've ever seen. It's open on the top, yet it's a building with a partial roof. I give up -- here's a picture that shows a mere fraction of it. (This picture was made by taking many pictures and stiching them together digitally. The picture shows you about 1/5 of the "main open area" of the entire station.)
We then rushed outside, and were greeted by tall buildings. Tall buildings! I knew Japan had some somewhere. We took a look at the map, and within 3 minutes, a random bus driver stopped to help us decipher the map (I was trying to find an English-language bookstore, but I ended up not going there until another Kyoto trip). We went right across the street to Kyoto Tower, where we rode to the top of a sightseeing bubble and took some pictures.
A view inside the tower.
Inside Kyoto Tower there were a bunch of crazy video games, tourist trinkets, and other odd devices. Here's a picture of a fortune-telling machine. You put 100 yen in, and a little doll dances around and gives you a rolled up fortune. At least, that's what we think it was (we couldn't read it).
Once outside of Kyoto Tower, we went to a nearby bookstore to buy a map of Kyoto. Map in hand, we headed for the nearest "interesting looking" place. That happened to be Higashi Hongangi Temple.
This was the second temple I had ever visited, but it was quite a bit
more impressive than the one I had seen in Hikone. Here are the pictures,
Larger Entrance Gate
Two Main Structures
Large Entrance Gate
Facts about the structure: The sign said it was rebuilt in 1895. It's 249 feet wide by 126 feet tall by 189 feet deep. It says it's the largest wooden structure in the world, but I think that's a slippery statement.
Take off Your Shoes
Inside the Founder's Hall
This rope is one of 53 ropes that were made of women's hair to transport the huge wooden beams of the two main halls to this location when they were rebuilt in 1895. Because of the massive size and weight of the beams, conventional ropes were too weak.
Inside the Other Hall
Ornate Gold-covered Woodwork
After walking through both halls, over the bridge connecting them, and around their perimeter (wooden walkways surround the halls), guess what color my socks were? Completely white -- not a speck of dirt! I was definitely surprised. We left Higashi Hongangi and walked around Kyoto. We attempted to enter a garden, but couldn't find a way in. We walked to the Kyoto museum and to another temple, but just in time for them to close. We then ended up visiting the Hokuko Shrine.
Whenever you enter a shrine, you always see a torii (toh-ree) gate. Tori in
Japanese means "bird". A
torii gate looks like a giant bird perch. Make
sense? The gate means "you are entering a sacred place."|
After passing under the gate, I took these pictures:
Near the Haiden
Leftover Kyoto Pictures
While we were walking, we found a strange vending machine (here comes another strange vending machine picture!) in the side of a building. It's a rice vending machine! You put in 900 yen, and it dispenses a bag filled with 2kg of uncooked rice! Very interesting...
I also saw a gas station with pumps on the ceiling! Take a look. The pump handle and hose hangs down, and you drive under it, park, and pump the gas! The other weird thing about this gas station was that it was "carved" out of the bottom corner of another (non-gas-related) multi-story building. Imagine a perfect rectangular solid shaped like a skyscraper with one of the bottom corners "cut" out. That's where this gas station was.
We finally found a place to eat after walking for a while. I had this for dinner. I ordered off a picture menu, and translated the meal's name when I returned to JCMU. The name was "yasai ankake udon", which I guess means "vegetable (soup) with Japanese udon noodles." It was pretty good.
We weren't worried about getting lost in Kyoto after dark, because if you can see Kyoto Tower, you can get to the train station quite easily. And, you can see Kyoto Tower from just about anywhere. Here's a picture of it at sunset.
We finally reached the train station after a day of walking, and I took one final picture of Kyoto Tower all lit up before getting on the train (sorry for the blurriness of that picture -- I've got more pictures of Kyoto Tower at night I'll show you in a later section).
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