Kyoto Arrival / Gion
One thing we hadn't been looking forward to was dragging our suitcases back through the streets of Ikebukuro and taking a rush hour train to Tokyo Station. We discussed strategies as we ate our last breakfast at the Sakura Cafe. Would it be better to try to get on the first car or the last? Should we split up and get on different cars? Since the Yamanote Line is a circle and Ikebukuro is about midway from Tokyo Station, would it be better to go in the direction of Ueno or Shinjuku? .
As it turned out, the train wasn't nearly as crowded as we expected, and we arrived at Tokyo Station with plenty of time to ponder the bento choices before our departure time. There are always bento stands at major train stations, and the variety of offerings is impressive. Some bento contents are unique, and there are even department store events where you can purchase bentos which are normally only available at distant locations. Relaxing in a comfortable seat, nibbling on a variety of foods as the train rushes through the countryside is a wonderful way to travel.
On previous shinkansen trips we had left our bags in a compartment at the end of the car, but for some reason the trains we traveled on this trip didn't have that option. Our bags were too large for the overhead racks so we had to jam them in between our legs and the back of the seats in the row in front of us. It was tight, but bearable.
We had booked a room at the New Miyako Hotel which is located across the street from Kyoto Station. That might might give you the impression that it's easy to find, but the station is huge and it took awhile to stumble upon the correct exit. It was quite a change from the Sakura Hotel. We were welcomed by a doorman wearing what seemed to be some sort of British costume, the lobby was huge and brightly lit by chandeliers, and our bags were loaded onto a cart and taken to our room by a pleasant young woman. The room itself had 2 twin beds, a fold out sofa bed, a television that showed CNN in English, and a Japanese toilet with special features I never figured out. We had booked the room through our local JTB office, and the rate was considerably less than the price quoted on the internet. Sadly, there was no internet access in the room which sent Walt into a major funk. When he needed a cyber fix, he had to go downstairs to the "business center" and do battle with a Japanese keyboard and operating system.
After we were settled, we decided to set off to Yasaka-jinja, the guardian shrine of Gion.