Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Labor Day Getaway

Though I have been terrible about keeping the blog updated these past few weeks, it isn’t because there has been nothing to write about. In fact, Nick and I have been busier than ever.

Mr. Holman did make it home safely, and fortunately we have been getting to spend time together before he deploys again! We don’t know exactly when that will be, so we have been attempting to make the most of the little time we have together.

This last weekend, we took advantage of the long Labor Day weekend to take a mini-trip to Kyoto and Hiroshima. Both places offered many many sightseeing “musts,” but the time we had there was simply way to short to do it all. We tried to do and see as much as we could in the 3 days we were gone! (Thanks to Elaine for the Kyoto guidebook she lent to help us get the most of our trip!)

First stop was Kyoto

Nick and I got up very early (4:30am) to catch the Shinkansen (Japan’s “bullet” train) to Kyoto. As Nick and I sat in our very roomy seats aboard the train that was traveling too fast (186 mph) to clearly see the cities that were rapidly passing us by, Nick says to me, “Britt, this is the way to travel right here!” And it definitely was, it only took us 2 hours to get to Kyoto, which would have taken us at least 8 hours by car!

When we arrived, we dropped our bags off at our hotel and then took a cab to the Nijo Castle!The Castle (a World Heritage site) was built in 1603 for the first Shogun. The palace has 33 rooms and over 800 tatami mats (the straw mats used in traditional Japanese rooms). It was beautiful with it’s original artwork of hand carvings as well as intricate paintings on the walls of every room.
Once inside, we weren't allowed to take's a shame too, because the details inside the castle were indescribable.
Nick pretending to ring the bell..."You can ring my beeeeeell, ring my bell..."

After touring the Nijo Castle, Nick and I walked to the Kyoto Imperial Palace. The grounds of the Palace were vast and somewhat empty. We got lost, found a temple, a sleeping cat, a pond of koi, and then a baseball team practicing all within the outer walls of the Palace grounds. However, when we finally made our way to the actual front, inner gate entrance, we discovered that to get inside, we had to have made reservations…which we didn’t! Oh, well, at least we got some photos!

Sleepy cat by the steps of a mini shrine
Love love all the lanterns!
Turtles and ducks, fighting for space...
The gates to the Imperial Palace that we couldn't go into!

We then hailed another cab to take us to the Kinkakuji Temple….or what is referred to as the “Golden Pavilion” (because really, who can pronounce the other name? Not me!). Both the 2nd and 3rd floors of the Golden Pavilion are covered in gold. (Hence the name). It too was very beautiful!

ALWAYS time for a little green tea treat!

Gold paper in the green tea, like what was used to create the walls of the Pavilion!...Nick drank this, "No thanks" I said, I'll stick to green tea ice cream!

Three locations in one day was a bit much for Nick and I, especially after our early morning train ride, so we decided to head back to our hotel for a much needed nap! We checked into our room (earlier we had only dropped our bags off, because it wasn’t late enough in the day to check in) with fingers crossed that they would in fact honor our wish to be upgraded to a room with a double bed! (In most hotels in Japan, and any Asian country for that matter, the standard rooms come with 2 twin beds! You have to get an upgrade just to get a double bed! Crazy huh?!? I have never experienced this, but really didn’t want to start on this particular trip!) Luckily for us, they not only upgraded us, but they gave us a queen bed!

It wouldn't be a Japanese hotel without tea for two, or two for tea....

For our first hotel experience in Japan, we didn’t really know what to expect, but the New Miyako Hotel was pleasant and we had no complaints! It was conveniently located across from the train stop, and in Japan that’s crucial!

After a 3 hour nap (like I said, we were exhausted!) Nick and I went out in search of a Sushi bar we had read about. The author of the guidebook said Den Shichi was an excellent sushi restaurant and a “must try”….so we did!

In the train stop on our way to dinner...notice the chuhai in my hand...reference for later!
Thought this was hilarious...An Officer and A Gentlemen has always been one of my favorite movies (yes, even before marrying my real-life officer!) but Japan takes it to a whole new level!!! Hahahaha!

Considering the businesses all have their signs in Kanji, it is always hard to tell if you are in the correct location or not. We walked into the restaurant hoping it was the correct place. Two Japanese men continued to stare at us for a few minutes until one of them finally leaned over and spoke in English asking if we wanted him to help us order. “Of course!” He confirmed that we were in fact in the correct restaurant and that it was in fact a very good place to eat!

Both gentlemen helped us order and then proceeded to talk our ears off for the next 2 hours! Nick and I didn’t complain, we enjoyed the company and food suggestions! Though as usual, there were several “lost in translation” moments…at one point I was trying to explain that I love Japan’s chuhai, and admitted I didn’t have a favorite flavor because there are too many to choose from. I told the men that I try a different one every time I drink it, and they interpreted that to mean, I was an alcoholic and drink every day!!! Hahahahah! (Chuhai is an alcoholic beverage they sell in Japan that comes in many flavors and is delicious…it is cold, comes in a can and is sold everywhere here! I find it refreshing, especially since most of them taste like flavored sprite!) As I was telling the men how much I love chuhai, one of them said, “Yes, Japanese are Genius, aren’t they?!” Bold statement if I do say so myself! ;)

Kyoto Tower...all lit up at night

The next day we got up, checked out of our hotel and had a couple hours to kill before we took the train to Hiroshima. There were some shrines and temples that we really wanted to see that we didn’t have enough time to, so instead we walked around the temples that were by the train station….to be honest, a lot of them look the same. We didn’t get the names of either temple we walked through, but both were ornate and a site to see.

Part II – “Hiroshima” -To be continued…

1 comment:

  1. Can't wait till I teach Japan & show these pics. Thanks for posting them.