With everything we brought on our backs, we were walking through what I would call the outskirts of Kyoto City in Japan to a home that we really hope is legit…
The day we go finally go to Kyoto. I woke up really excited. Just from what I have read and heard of Kyoto I knew that although we were only spending 2 days there (counting today. Actually looking back, I would have spent three days in Kyoto and only 2 in Osaka but that’s neither here nor there we had a blast nonetheless), it was still going to be a worthwhile adventure! We pack up our hiking packs once again and set out. We eat at that French Bakery again at the exit of our hotel before you get to the station. After taking the train back to the main Osaka Station, the maps begin leading us on a path that will require a few transfers on several different trains totaling up to about an hour to Kyoto. At first, that seemed to make sense, but as we were walking through the station I remembered that while traveling to Osaka from Tokyo—on the Shinkansen (the bullet train)—It took us through Kyoto before arriving to Osaka. In my mind, it made sense to take that same line back up to Kyoto. I am not sure why google maps didn’t have that as an option, maybe because the price of that sort of ticket was not worth the time saved. Either way our JR pass covered it so I followed the signs leading to the Shinkansen Rail and then hopped on the train that was heading to Tokyo. We weren’t entirely sure if this was going to work but I had a good feeling. We got on the train, much more comfortable then the local trains we were told to take, and sat back.
20 minutes later, we arrive at Kyoto station.
One of those times where you deviate off the set directions and it actually works out way better. Kyoto station was a sight to see in itself. I mean, all major train stations in Japan were incredible but there was something about this one. It was massive, of course, more like an airport. But between the architecture and the overall feel of it, the station is almost a destination in itself.
It took us a good amount of time once in the station to figure out where we needed to go. Our Hotel in Kyoto was more of a Japanese Hostel. It appeared to be a house-turned-hotel. It was on the map, but not as well known and accessible as our Hotel Osaka Bay Tower. After some time studying the signs and looking at maps, we pick a train and ride it. Two transfers away we were at Tofukuji Station (fun fact: Tofu is a very popular and cultural sushi dish in Kyoto). From here, it was about a 20 minute walk to Hennka9 hotel, or house.
It felt like a long walk with all of our stuff on our backs but that didn’t take away from our excitement. Some of the best moments of traveling to distant places are times like these when you are simply walking. With everything we brought on our backs, we were walking through what I would call the outskirts of Kyoto City in Japan to a home that we really hope is legit–and other than the next step listed in google maps we have no idea how to get to it (and google maps, if you’ve read parts 1 and 2, does not always deliver with accuracy). Oh and I am with a girl that can make just about any time a good time. There is absolutely no where else on the planet I want to be other than right here.
After making only a few wrong turns we finally arrive to our humble hotel. Hennka9 had a charming appeal to it right off the bat. Honestly, we were both very excited to stay here. Amelia especially.
We walk up to the front door. Locked. We ring the doorbell. A lady small in stature answers at her own leisure and gives us a very welcoming greeting. When you walk in, the very first part is a small hardwood floor with a shoe cubby. The woman gives us some comfy slippers and we take it as we need to take our shoes off before entering the home (customary in Japan). We take off our shoes, she hands us a key and leads us a whole six steps down the little hallway to our room. The door slides open, she shows us inside, points out the toilet room and the shower room, bows, and leaves us be. Fastest check-in ever.
Even after all the traveling it took to get here, we managed to get checked in early enough to give us plenty of time to explore Kyoto. We really only had one full day in this treasure-filled city, and there wasn’t exactly a ton to do around our lovely hotel, so we quickly put our stuff down and checked our list. One of the things that we both really wanted to see was the Kinkaku-ji Temple. Known as the golden temple, it is not uncommon to come across pictures of this mesmerizing structure and its surrounding gardens in everyday life due to its popularity. For me, it was especially exciting to see Kinkaku-ji because I did, in fact, first come across it years ago.
Long before Amelia and I were even on the radar, my parents had bought me a new Dell desktop computer. I had the new windows 2000 XP installed and was a significant upgrade from my 90s box monitor. It was pretty slick—flat screen and everything. One of its features (standard nowadays) was the large selection of vibrant desktop and screensaver photos that I could choose from. I could finally get away from the aqua blue or teal windows 98 desktop background image. The picture options had everything from abstract designs to close-up pictures of exotic animals, and breathtaking landscapes from both our planet and outer space. For a kid that grew up without computers or smartphones this was like a window into a whole new world outside of my own, little life. My first “travel” experiences I guess you could say. Anyway, one of the desktop images was a picture of an Asian-style structure—exotic compared to anything my young eyes have seen prior—completely overlaid with gold. This golden building was situated in a place that at first didn’t seem real. The pond and the garden complimented the structure perfectly and the plant life looked like nothing I had ever seen before. I immediately set it as my permanent background image. There was just something about it (I have always been attracted to Asian things, hence, Amelia—my half Asian wife). At the time, I didn’t know what that building was or where in the world it was but I was determined that someday I would see it for myself. That ended up being the Kinkaku-ji Temple and today was the day I finally get to have that wish come true.
That is kind of a silly story, but nevertheless it was a big deal for me to finally have that goal in arm’s length. I quickly pull up maps on my computer really quick to get a bird’s eye view of the city and an idea of how to get to the temple. There are hardly any JR trains that travel locally within Kyoto so we will have to rely predominately on local subways and trains which are not covered by our JR pass; so, for the first time this trip I need to keep in mind the cost of transportation. Overall it was still pretty cheap, but I still wanted to be conscience of it. I find a route, we grab our day packs and head out. Alright, Kyoto public transit, take me to the Golden Temple! Onward!
If only it was that easy. FYI it is very much not that easy. And we would soon find that out.