we arrived at Kansai International Airport at 7 in the morning. we’ve been wanting to go to Kansai Airport… supposedly, it’s the only airport built on a man-made island. it took them 10 years to build the island and the airport… that’s pretty neat.
after that, we reserved airplane tickets to Fukuoka. previously, we were going to take a shinkansen to Fukuoka, but after we found out that the trip will take over 4 hours and the price is not much different than the airplane tickets, we opted the sky route.
after taking care of all those things, we finally hit the cold air of Japan… we went outside to smoke… geez, i guess we’re not used to winter anymore… we were freezing cold!
we then went to the train station to buy train tickets to Kyoto, where we will spend the next 4 days. the airport is connected to the JR (Japan Railways, i think?) station… and the station is quite huge.
the train wasn’t packed, and most of the passengers were sleeping. there were 6 cars, where two of them are smoking cars and two have bathrooms. our car has nothing. that’s okay… we didn’t really want to smoke there anyway.
the scenery on the way to Kyoto was amazing. thank god for the clear sky… we passed many little towns, cute wooden houses, small gardens and cabbage farms. there were kids playing baseball and old people fishing in ponds.
when we arrived at Kyoto Station, the weather turned gray and the snow started to fall. it’s been a while since we saw snow, so it was exciting…. we went up to the roof of Kyoto Station, which was sooo high up that you can see the whole Kyoto from up there. the view was amusing (and a little gray from the weather), so just like any other tourists, we were snap-happy. that didn’t last long, though. we were shivering and our teeth started chattering. so we went down to the first floor of the station and started looking for our Ryokan (Japanese-style Inn).
the Ryokan was pretty easy to find, but it took us a while to turn the heater on… and for some reason, the room never really warmed up… (a few days later, we figured that the heater might be broken so it never really went full power)… the little room was freezing cold!
the guy on the front desk immediately gave us the “tourist map” that contains all buss and subway routes, the fares, and the stops for the famous temples, shrines and other tourists attractions around Kyoto. the best thing about the map is that it’s in English! yay!
so, we decided to get lunch and warm ourselves up there. since we don’t know the area yet, we just went to one of the noodle shops below the Station. ari got his Kitsune Soba, i got my Udon (forgot the name of it…).
after that, following the map, we started our journey to downtown Kyoto. we got off the Karasuma line at Sanjo Station, and walked along Sanjo Dori where there are many small but modern stores… it was a pretty long walk until we crossed the river.
the Sanjo Dori bridge has an antique look, which is neat. even better since there were monks standing with their donation boxes along the side of the bridge. we walked down to Gion area, hoping to bump into a Geisha or two… but that didn’t happen. he he. instead we passed by so many cute Machi-ya (the Japanese wooden shop-houses) along the way. it was such a nice day, so it was perfect for taking pictures. there were a lot of sakura trees along the Shirakawa-Minami-dori… too bad it was winter, so all the trees are leafless.
we walked down to Shijo-dori, which is basically the shopping area, full of small and big department stores (Takashimaya, etc). on the way there, we passed by a large Kabuki theater. it’s so cool to see the names of the people in wooden planks (i don’t know what they call it) decorating the facade of the theater… so pretty!
we stopped by a small coffee shop that serves their coffee on European china cups with saucers and all. we then realized that you can smoke indoors in most of the coffee shops and restaurants. yay!
after that long walk, my feet started to kill me. so we walked back to the Karasuma station to catch the train. we didn’t know how to take the bus yet at that time…. it would’ve been much warmer and comfortable if we had taken the bus. but oh well.
on the way to the ryokan, we stopped by a Family Mart (kinda like 7-11) to get some food and onigiri. then we’re off to our afternoon nap…
photo album: Japan Trip: Day 1 (23-24 December 2005).