If you have facebook (and therefore know what it is) I recommend signing on and viewing joseph green and/or Angela Tweedie’s photos, as the two of them recently posted a number of pictures from their respective stays here in Tokyo.
Joe and I took an incredible train to Kyoto. There are 3 forms of this bullet train, also called a shinkansen. Joe and I took the middle level one which took about two and a half hours to get from Shinagawa (which is right near my place) to Kyoto. The faster and more expensive train, which I didn’t want to pay for and which was not included in Joe’s train pass took about 20 minutes less. The slower train took about 30 minutes more. The train was an absolute treat. The cars are split into two with two seats on one side and three on the other. The seats recline a good deal and are quite wide. The train is smooth and the people on it considerate. The only downside was the price. It was about 100 dollars each way. On the way, we gradually made our way higher and higher into the mountains. At one point, we noticed that it was snowing with a thing blanket covering the fields. As we approached Kyoto, however, the snow dissipated and upon our arrival, Kyoto was cold, but dry.
Kyoto is situated in the middle of a number of mountains. Probably 70% of the city is surrounded. The temples are everywhere, but mainly concentrated in the northeast and northwest sections. The emperor’s palace, which was about a ten minute walk from our hotel and a castle were right in the middle of the city. On the first day, Joe and I walked around the palace grounds and found out about mandatory sign-ups for tours. It was already later in the day when we got to the palace, and it (as do almost all temples) closed at about 5pm. It was getting cold and we were hungry, so we went in search of food. Finding people that spoke English was no problem, finding maps was no problem, finding somewhere to eat, was significantly more difficult than we were used to. Eventually we found a tapas place, very much like domo domo in Tokyo. We ordered too much food, then ate too much of the food we ordered. After waddling around town for a little longer, we found our way back to the hotel and called it a night. As an aside, the hotel was great. It was very affordable, especially when split between two people and it had a great location. Apparently, we arrived a few days before the blossom season, when the rates almost triple.