Japan: Tokyo to Kyoto
Sunday, March 12
If you intend on staying in Japan for at least seven days, I highly recommend purchasing the JR Pass. For $257, you have access to unlimited travel by rail on all lines operated by the Japan Rail (JR) Company, including the Tokyo Monorail and Shinkansen. $257, I know. But! A $150 round trip by bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, plus a $104 round trip from Kyoto to Bunny Island total to $254. Local train fares cost anywhere from $2 to $10, and add up quickly if you have an itinerary as packed as ours. You can find more information on the JR Pass and purchase yours here: https://www.japan-rail-pass.com/
After exchanging our vouchers for the official JR Passes at the Haneda Airport JR Ticket Office, we took the Tokyo Monorail to Shinagawa, where we transferred to a Shinkansen to Kyoto. Let it be known that Sam and I did not miss a single train while in Japan, largely due to Hyperdia, a timetable and route search engine accurate right down to the train platform and fare. The Hyperdia mobile app is extremely outdated so we relied on the site (http://www.hyperdia.com/en/) to plan our trips. Anyway, I did a lot of research, as anyone should, about etiquette in Japan to avoid looking like ignorant foreigners, and one of the most recurrent cultural reminders was: shut the hell up in trains. It's true. Public transportation, unlike in the States, is shockingly calm and orderly. The three hour ride to Kyoto was spent quietly finishing Batman v Superman, which is, by the way, a very special kind of bad movie.
By the time we dropped our bags off at the Airbnb, it was already dinnertime. And we were hangery. Sam and I rarely argue, but jetlag and hunger were conducive to passive-aggressive banter about where we would eat dinner in Pontocho Alley. After abandoning several overcrowded TripAdvisor recommendations, we eventually settled on Yamatomi, a restaurant serving traditional Kyoto specialties. The skewers and unagi don were rather unremarkable. However, the highlight of this meal (not pictured) was our discovery of karashi, Japanese yellow mustard, which accompanied the oden. For our very first restaurant experience in Japan, we managed to order, eat, pay, and leave in one piece for Kiyomizu-dera.
It just so happened that the temple grounds were opened after normal hours of operation for a special night viewing that Sunday. Kiyomizu-dera is a Buddhist temple and UNESCO World Heritage site with over 1200 years of history, and a must-see in Kyoto. This photo explains itself.
On our walk back to the Airbnb, we stopped by a 7-Eleven to buy onigiri for breakfast the next morning. I will write a separate post reviewing all the onigiri we consumed in Japan, because fuck, we ate many. And finally, we picked up some shredded cabbage and carrots at Lawson, another Japanese convenience store chain, for the rabbit residents of Okunoshima, or Bunny Island.