|7.5hrs flight with Qantas arrived us in Narita airport. We arrived at 200hrs bang on schedule as you would expect! This was dampened slighly by the 45min wait at immigration, where we were stickered, not stamped, no shocks there that the Japanese are ahead of the rest of the world even with passport stamping!
Narita is 80km outwith Tokyo, so we knew we were in for a long transfer. Got seats on a train Narita Express which would take 60min and cost us nothing as we had already purchased out Japan Rail Railpass at a cost of 166GBP which would allow us 7 days unlimited train travel, including using the exciting Shinkansen, bullet, trains!
2145hrs our train left the station, and after a 2 changes we arrived at Chidoricho station, a minutes walk from the Ryokan Kangetsu, a traditional Japanese Inn where we had booked the first nights accomodation.
At the stations it was so funny seeing all the commuting traffic-businessmen still in their suits, at 2300hrs, tho auntie K did say she could smell drink of them, didnae realise she was getting up close and personal while I was trying to blend in listening to my mp3(yeah no shocks there eh!!), and staring out the window!
And all the vending machines I had been pre warned about, at every corner selling everything imaginable! And the face masks, every now and then a person woiuld pass us in their business suit wearing the dust masks like teh boys in Innovex wear! Bizarre....
The Ryokan was up a wee alley, then loads of stairs which wasnae the best as we had 3 wheelie bags between us. Tho the setting was luvly, a quaint japanese garden, over a wee bridge, then we found reception. After eventually managing to get the only girl who spoke english we were taken to our room. Yet againm,up another set of stairs, following the traditional rules, shoes off at the door we donned the house slippers, leather things about 5 sizes too big, specially shined and slipped on the soles in order for us to make our ascent.
This time it really was hell, auntie K with her athritic knees, the granny of the house both hauling her big bertha case up the stairs , and me draggin up the rear trying not to slide and fall to certain concrete death at the bottom of the climb. The room was a sharp right, and once inside we had to traverse 7 large boulders surronded with white chuckies as a final detterant to reaching your safe haven of a bedroom. This may be something to do with Japanese culture, then again Im not so sure. Anyhoo, the room was worth it, heaven, 2 futon super comfy beds, a low table with cushions, japanese tea set, japanese screens(hiding all the tightly packed roofs of Tokyo from view), and traditional robes for us to pose in and take daft pictures...I think?!?
A great sleep was had on the futons, wow, was out for the count.....
Next day we headed to the Meiji Jingu Shrine in Shibuya district, which had been built for an emperor and empress, and it was just lovely , so tranquil.
The shrine itself was just so luvly, beautiful intricate work, outside there was a water thing with ladels that people used to wash their hands with, not wanting to miss out i dived right in, and gave my mucky paws a right good clean.
There was a tree, in the middle of the courtyard, round which people hung blessing plaques, us being all cultured, bought and wrote out a couple of wishes for the gods to see tomoro at the ceremony.
Then it was rush to get back in time for the 15.14 shinkansen to Kyoto, which would take 2 and half hours. Underestimating the time it would take(yeah, a few of you reading this would be none too shocked to hear that!), I rushed my poor old auntie up and down stairs, back to the ryokan to get the bags, only to arrive 30 seconds too late for the train. I later found out auntie K had been virtually running at my back , pushing the case as hard as she could and hobbling along behind it as fast as her wee legs would take her, poor thing, shes puffed out, and its only day 1 in Japan!
I left her puffing and heaving away, and easily managed to book us onto the next train at 16.14. The trains are just SO COOL, so futuristic, its amazing!
There are 16 carriages on each Shinkansen, with 100 seats in each carriage, its phenomenal, and at least 1 train an hour on each route. Saw the Nozomi train, the super fast one that our rail passes dont cover us for, that was even cooler(if thats possible) than the normal shinkansen.
The train comes in and the electronic gates open with exact timing precision, and close again so the train leaves exactly on time, not a minute late, not a minute early. More leg room than any plane, reclining seats, it was a comfortable ride to Kyoto.
Another thing that was amusing was that every train, not just the shinkansen has a special wee jingle that plays prior to the train doors closing, wee tunes playing....