Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Our first Shinkansen adventure!

Our first trip on the Shinkansen!  the famed Japanese bullet train.  It did not disappoint.  Instead of a 9ish hour drive- we made it to Kyoto in just over 2 hrs!  I'm not a huge fan of long roadtrips.  Add in hundreds of dollars in tolls, 4 YOUNG kids, crazy expensive gas, and exorbitant parking fees- and driving to Kyoto sounded like a nightmare to me!!  The bullet train is pricey- but we only had to buy 3 tickets and Zeb's was half price so the Shinkansen was less stressful AND cheaper than driving for us :)
Kyoto is one of the most astounding cities on Earth.  Really. Even Time magazine says so.  For more than a thousand years- it was the Imperial capital of Japan.  Much of the history and architecture of the city is still intact and amazing.  It's one of the must dos of Japan!!  we were there for 5 days- but could live there for 5 months and still not see everything it has to offer.  It's nickname is "the city of ten thousand shrines".

Hotel laws are very strict in Japan and we don't fit into them :)  Our family is required to book two hotel rooms to be legal- and they are very strict about counting bodies and seeing passports. Plus- they charge per person instead of per room here!  Hotels here are super teeny and usually only have twin beds.  Plus, they can get very pricey!  so for Kyoto- we opted to use 'airbnb'.  If you haven't heard of it- you should check it out! it's amazing.  Basically people rent out apartments.  and we found the PERFECT spot for our fam.  Authentic Japanese apartment with giant futons on tatami mats.  and they were actually super comfortable.   And we paid one flat fee per night. no per person charge.
 even mack got his very own bed! he used the futon couch. he loved it.

the backyard of our apartment complex was a beautiful small shrine!  it was really awesome.  Every night late and early every morning we'd hear people clapping twice and ringing the shrine bell. It's part of their ritual they do at the shrines and made for a very authentic experience for us.

After finding our place and settling in- we head out to explore and find lunch.

 It rained the first three hours we were in Kyoto- and perfect weather followed for the next five days.  I had packed all of these ponchos for inclement weather and the Japanese people thought we were NUTS.  Or maybe they just thought mack's poor little face poking out of the poncho was nuts ;)
 Spring in Japan is UNREAL beautiful.  we missed the peak of cherry blossoms in kyoto- but still got our fair share of beautiful.
 I love spring.  
 we did SO MUCH WALKING while we were there!  ad our kids were troopers.  Their poor little legs must have been beyond exhausted.  but every day they just kept going.
 our first visit was a hike up the mountain to see the 'silver pavillion'.  which has no silver.  But- I'd read it's a great place to visit on a rainy or cloudy day because the grounds are so amazing when they are wet.
It was stunning. and the views of the city were as well.

most of the temples and shrines include hikes up hills and steep roads that are lined with food and souvenir shops!  it's pretty fabulous because there's always a snack or drink after your trek! it saved us and the kiddos several times.  at the silver pavillion I got a cherry blossom custard and ice cream brown rice cream puff :) the kids got ice cream cones.  Here's another one of their fake food displays! the MOST popular flavor in Japan is Green Tea.  They have green tea EVERYthing (ice cream, kit kats, oreos, bread, pop, etc, etc, etc.).  I think it tastes like you are eating grass.

metta was a little pill at this place.  she grabbed ike's ice cream from him and knocked it off the cone. luckily I caught it as it was falling and plopped it back on the cone. ike was TICKED.

all of the boys also got "Potatornados!"  the japanese really call them that!!

after the silver pavilion we did some exploring!  I love exploring cities at night!  especially cities here!  night time is lit up with lanterns and bright colors and all sorts of excitement!

just walking down alley ways and city streets was astounding.  I love Asian streets.

also- in my research I found that this temple -yasaka-  is lit up every night and is located right in the heart of the Geisha district!  It was one of the top items on my Kyoto list!
these lucky boys spotted a mcdonald's from the bus so we walked over for dinner and waited while the sun went down.
 we also checked out the riverwalk while it got dark!
the Gion district is full of REAL geisha.  We didn't see any that were the real deal- but saw a few fakes!  there are people out on every corner and street 'geisha hunting'!
 The Yasaka  temple/shrine was pretty quiet and peaceful.

 we stayed out wandering the cobblestone streets and shrine walkways pretty late and then took the subway back to our place to crash!

Our first day was quite a success! 

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