Kyoto: Bullet Trains, Bento Boxes, and Buddhism.

Kyoto: Bullet Trains, Bento Boxes, and Buddhism.

Today we checked out of our hotel and traveled to Kyoto, the former capital of Japan. We packed our buses and returned our keys with much excitement as we knew it was soon time to try out the Bullet Train, the Shinkansen.

The Bullet Train experience is something that AFO has actually rehearsed alongside or music in Kingcase hall, much to everyone’s amusement. The carriage felt much more luxurious than the train to Glasgow Central Station and as we nervously waited to pile on a gentleman was rushing down the isle dusting the seats! While sitting in the carriage it did not feel too fast, however, it was a bit tricky to look out the window and manage to focus on any one thing in the horizon. For this leg of the journey, we all organised our own packed lunch from Tokyo Station and some of us decided to sample what is known as ‘Bento Boxes’. These were rectangle packed boxes, separated into sections with rice, etc, all convenient for travel. We enjoyed having a good nosey at those who did buy these! Our Guide gave us a well-received five-minute warning so we could escape the train without leaving anybody behind as the train waits for no musician.

Once we had slightly calmed all our trainspotting excitement we boarded our coaches to check out what this city is all about. Immediately it has a different feel to Tokyo. The streets are decorated with more traditional looking small wooden houses and a Shinto shrine can be spotted every few strides in some parts.

David having a go at a ritual in the street.

We were lucky enough that our guides took us on a tour of Choin In, Higashiyama & Yasaka Shrine. This particular religious spot really had the orchestra interested. The site itself is huge, set high above the rest of the city it is a view not to miss. The Higashiyama Temple is the only independent temple in Kyoto and the sight dates back to Imperial Prince Shotoku in 589 – and as the story goes it is was inspired by a dream. And a dream it was. After the sightseeing, the group had the chance to spend their yen in the little boutique shops within the winding streets on the way back down from the Temple and Shrine and many tried weird flavors of Ice-cream such as Sweet potato.

Shortly after this, we checked into our new accommodation that feels rather more Japanese in furniture and layout – including steps up into the room, the bathroom and the bedroom area. A very different feel to the standard twin in the metropolitan hotel in Tokyo.

From here we journeyed on to our evening walking tour in the Gion district which is famous for being the home of geisha – although it is apparently difficult to spot a genuine one. This area was very picturesque and many of the members said this is what they imagined Japan to be like before coming.

For dinner, we all enjoyed another traditional Japanese dinner but this time it was sushi – with a chance to cook your own beef on your own grill. The cooking element was quite fun along with the adventurous sushi tasting.

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