Shinkansen to Kyoto
Our first Shinkansen ride! How exciting! We’d heard all about the Bullet Trains and with tickets booked we made our way to Tokyo Station. You’ll see more on the exterior of Tokyo Station in subsequent blogs, but for today’s purposes, know that is is big and it is bustling. Not only is it a train station, but a shopping mall, a place to buy gifts and so much more.
With our JRPasses, we’d pre-booked all our Shinkansen journey’s and seats, meaning all we had to do was turn up. I know the cost of JRPass is going up excessively near the end of this year, but the ability to get all our bookings done online ahead of time was fantastic piece of mind for me and my worrying brain.
For breakfast we got fruit sandwiches from Be! Fruits Sandwich. Mine was grape. I’m not entirely sold on this concept I’m afraid 🤣 The quality of fruit in Japan is exceptional. Indeed, the price reflects this, but it’s just white bread and whipped cream. I’m glad I had the experience, but I am not a convert.
I also acquired an Ekiben 1 which was much more up my alley. Pre-boxed meals specifically for the trains that come with a variety of meats, seafoods and styles. You can get fancy with these, but I settled for a middle of the road one that was around ¥20002 containing a beef hamburger and some thin steak, alongside rice and a mixture of pickled vegetables. It was delicious.
Apparently early morning day drinking is acceptable as well, but I didn’t indulge in that 😜
The trains themselves are extremely impressive, and unlike anything you’d see in the UK. Efficient, clean, spacious, thoughtful. Every Shinkansen journey we had was wonderful.
For oversized baggage there are special seats you can book (5 per carriage). We couldn’t get them for this journey and were a bit nervous of our luggage. It turned out to be a non-issue. Our bags fit on the overheads and even in the space between our seats with room to spare. You’d have to have an absolutely ginormous bag to get yourself into trouble.
This was our first look at the Japanese countryside as well. Luscious and green spaces with little villages, towns and businesses. Scenery gazing was such fun!
Kyoto 1st impressions & Hotel
We stayed at the Hotel Gran Ms Kyoto in one of their Japanese Style rooms with small garden. This space was beautiful and really fun. I absolutely loved it. We got unpacked, freshened up and went to explore the local area.
The hotel street connected us directly to Teramachi Senmontenkai Shotengai, and we wandered through that and the other Teramchi Shgotengai’s browsing the independent stores until we arrived at the legendary Nishiki market. Nicknamed “Kyoto’s kitchen” it now is the place to buy local produce from 100+ different stores, but has been in place as a fish market since 782.
Historically, it was setup due to the cold groundwater at the site that allowed fish and meats to be kept fresh for sale.
Exploring the market we sampled various tempura, Wagyu kushiyaki 3 and even the local delicacy of baby octopus with a quail egg in its head.
Our favourite was a store that was a mini-market in of itself. With wooden barrel tables and a setup of tiny stalls selling a variety of foods and drinks, we rested our aching feet and sampled a few rounds of different street foods. This place had a great atmosphere. Being able to get Tempura, sushi, beef means there was something for everyone.
Wandering the rest of the market we had a dessert of strawberry mochi’s and Taiyaki 4
On the way home we walked into the B-Side Label shop, a Japanese artist collective that sells stickers of various styles. We couldn’t resist picking a few up. The staff were really friendly and asked where we were from. They threw some extra stickers in our bag!
Kyoto has a different vibe than Tokyo. It feels more compact and discoverable, but still has a huge amount on offer. The mixture of the traditional and the modern, the independent and the large corporation was all on show and extremely intriguing. Just walking the shopping streets around the hotel had give us a laundry list of cafe’s and businesses we wanted to visit.
With full bellies and even the excitement of what what Kyoto has to offer, we drifted off to sleep. Tomorrow, The Imperial Palace & more!