An October 2003 trip
to Kyoto by getawayguy
Quote: The Kyoto and Kumihama Bay areas allowed us to see old-world Japan. The scenic and architectural beauty of Japan has to be seen and experienced in person to appreciate their remarkable splendor. What we saw was unforgettable; what we missed is worth going back to see. We are already looking forward to returning in a couple of years, maybe for the Olympics.
Restrooms come in two main styles; Japanese and Western. Western, meaning what we're used to in the USA, are not always easy to find. Most JR trains and train stations, the larger hotels and department stores and restaurants in cities, will have them (at least one). It's best to carry your own paper and handi-wipes just to be prepared.
The JR Pass proved to be a bargain and was extremely convenient to use. Our original plan was to return from Kumihama by train to Osaka, board a plane to Haneda Airport, take a shuttle train to Narita, and fly home to San Jose. We discovered that it was a lot easier and faster to take trains from Kumihama Bay to Kyoto, Tokyo, and Narita.
To get around Kyoto, we either rode trains, walked, rode buses, or took the subway. There was never a need for a car. Unless you can read the Japanese road signs and are used to driving on the left side of the road, facing the oncoming traffic, stay away from rental cars. Japan's transportation system is the best in the world.
But the room was larger and much more accommodating than we expected. We did have two twin beds, but we also had a full leather couch and overstuffed leather chair with a glass coffee table, a long desk/counter/dresser, color cable TV, small refrigerator, hot water maker (for tea, instant coffee, etcetera) and a deep closet. We had another area with a tatami-covered floor which had a low level table and four seating cushions, during the day, and two futons spread out for the night, offering us a choice of sleeping accommodations. The bathroom came with a shower/tub combination, sink and western style toilet with heated seat, heated bidet and heated spray rinse.
The on-site restaurant offered a full menu of Japanese and western meals. The food was delicious and artfully presented. Service was always excellent. We usually placed our breakfast requests the night before, including what time we wanted to eat so we could make our connections on time. Everything was always ready on time.
The hotel staff went out of their way to make our stay enjoyable, often anticipating our needs and offering ideas to improve our plans. We were staying in a beautiful resort area, which was somewhat remote, requiring us to travel varying distances each day to see all the sites we desired to see. They helped us with train schedules, sometimes suggesting alternate routes in order to fit everything into the limited time we had. Each night we would share our plans for the next day and they would alert us to any flaws they detected. Each morning after breakfast, they had one of the staff take us to the train station. Each evening, when we arrived at the train station, either they were already there waiting for us, or we would call the resort and in eight minutes they would arrive to take us "home".
It's no wonder that resorts in Japan so seldom are offered for exchange. When you're treated as well as we were, you look forward to returning year after year.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 21, 2003
Hotel Resorpia Kumihama Bay
1302-2 Sorashita, Minatomiya
With so much to see and do in Kyoto, taking time out to eat is not a priority, but it is a necessity. While passing through the extensive underground shopping arcades, "Porta" and "The Cube" that connect the JR Railway and subway Kyoto stations, we discovered a mother lode of great restaurants.
From then on, we ate there all the time, trying different restaurants each day. We enjoyed Japanese, Chinese, Italian, and Spanish cuisines, all at very reasonable prices and with a minimal loss of time from our over-crowded schedules.
That's what I call a win-win situation!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 24, 2003
Attraction | "Nijo Castle (Nijo-jo)"
When Yoshinubu, the 15th Tokugawa Shogun, returned sovereignty to the Emperor in 1867, the Castle was given to the Imperial family. In 1884 it was renamed Nijo Detached Palace and in 1939 donated to the city of Kyoto, renamed Nijo Castle (Nijo-jo) and opened to the public in 1940.
Nijo Castle, in its entirety, has been designated a historic relic. The Ninomaru Palace itself is a National Treasure, and 22 other structures, including Higashi-Ote-mon (the Eastern Main Gate) have been named Important Cultural Properties. The Ninomaru Garden has also been designated a Special Scenic Spot. On the side of the Higashi-Ote-Mon of the Castle remains a guardhouse used for the regulation of visitors. In the shogun's absence between 1634 and 1863, gate guard duty fell to the caretakers of the castle who were stationed there in alternating years, fifty persons at a time. Though the residences of the caretakers have disappeared, the guardhouse, built in 1608 remains as a rare example of their type, and has been designated an Important Cultural Property.
One of the castle's most intriguing features is its so-called "nightingale floors." To protect the shogun from real or imagined enemies, the castle was protected by a moat and stone walls. How deep the shogun's paranoia ran, however, is apparent by the installation of these special floorboards, which creaked when trod upon in the castle corridors. The nightingale floors were supplemented by hidden alcoves for bodyguards.
The total area of the castle is 275,000 square meters; 7,300 square meters are occupied by buildings.
Unlike the Imperial Palace, visitors to Nijo-jo are allowed to enter and pass through the interiors of the buildings.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 21, 2003
Nishi Nijojo Nijohorikawa Nakagyo-ku
Kyoto, Japan 604-8235
+81 075 841 0096
Attraction | "Imperial Palace"
The present Kyoto Imperial Palace is one of the sato-dairi palaces and came to be used often around the time when the Heian-period dairi was destroyed. From 1331, when Emperor Kogon was enthroned, and until the capital was moved to Tokyo in 1869, this sato-dairi served as the Imperial Palace. Over this period, the Imperial Palace was often destroyed by fire and then reconstructed. When it was rebuilt, having been burned down in 1788, the Shishinden and other major structures in the Palace compound were rebuilt in the traditional Heian style. In 1854, when the Palace burned down again, the Tokugawa Shogunate ordered that an Imperial Palace identical to its predecessor be immediately rebuilt, and the work was completed with exceptional speed by the following year. This is the Palace that still stands today.
The Kyoto Imperial Palace, which is surrounded by tsuijibet, or earthen walls with coping tiles, extends approximately450m from north to south and 250m from east to west. It encompasses a total area of approximately 110,000 square meters (approximately 27 acres).
Kyoto Imperial Palace and Grounds
3 Kyoto Gyoen Kamigyo-ku
Kyoto, Japan 602-0881
+81 (0)75 211 1215
Attraction | "Amanohashidate, The "Bridge to Heaven"."
To travel to this amazing scenic wonder, we took a 52-minute train ride from our resort in Kumihama Bay, and then boarded a double-decker sightseeing boat for the trip across the bay. Once on the other side, we passed through a small shopping area to a staging platform at the base of Mt. Nariai. Here we were given the choice of ascending to the viewing platforms in Kasamatsu Park, halfway up the mountain, by using either a cable car or an open chair lift. We opted for the chair lift, which seemed more exciting.
After arriving at the park, we happily took our turns on the viewing platforms to see a sight rarely seen by foreign visitors to Japan. In the traditional stance, we took an upside-down look through our legs. This, it is said, gives the effect of a bridge in the sky extending toward heaven, thus the name.
Before leaving the area, we were able to visit Monjudo (the main building of Chionji Temple) and Tahoto Pagoda ("pagoda of many treasures"), built in 1500 and designated as an Important Cultural Property.
Amanohashidate (The "Bridge to Heaven")
Attraction | "Ryoanji Zen Rock Garden"
Ryoanji (Ryōan-ji Temple)
13 Goryonoshita-cho Ryoanji Ukyo-ku
Kyoto, Japan 616-8001
+81 075 463 2216
Los Gatos, California