Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Riding the rails to Nara

At the shrine of the BIG Buddha
I wish I had a Go-pro Monday morning for our adventure on the subway and the train to Nara.  We've been in packed subways before, but nothing compared to it until then.  While our two-stop trip didn't have the famed white-gloved young women known as "pushers" in Tokyo, we certainly could have used them to push us and everyone else into the car so the door would close.  It was suffocating, but at least we didn't need to worry about falling as the train rounded a corner or came to a stop.  And fortunately, pickpockets aren't a problem here.

View of the Big Buddha Gate
from the Isuien Garden
Arriving in the Kyoto train station, we encountered waves of sullen briefcase-carrying men in dark suits, along with  a few women and quite a few kids in school uniforms.  A couple of the kids seemed to be only six or seven years old.  Nobody talked on the train to Nara, as they were either sleeping or their heads were bowed down to their smartphone god.
Our skillful navigator

Nara is a delightful and tourist-friendly town and Japan's first permanent capital, dating back to the 7th century.  We walked about six miles in drizzle through a pedestrian mall to beautiful gardens, temples, and shrines.

The highlight was the Great Buddha, purported to be the largest in the world in one the world's largest wooden structures, pictured at the top of this post.  Truly magnificent! But we also toured a beautiful Japanese garden and several other shrines.  The train ride back wasn't crowded, and I got to stand behind the engineer part of the way.  You can see a short video clip from the engineer's cab by clicking: 142141https://www.facebook.com/ron.kelemen/videos/2025144683/?t=29  Note the engineer's finger salutes, which are safety measures.

The Kyoto station is a modern piece of work unto itself, surrounded by a hotel and countless shops.
RR station view from hotel area

RR station view from concert & garden area

 One of them was an emporium of Japanese delicacies with lots of free samples.  The sake and weird pickles didn't sit well with us, but we bought a bottle of Suntori, the famed Japanese scotch.

We returned to a noodle shop where we ate our first night here.  There are countless eating establishments in the back alleys here, and we're sure that many of them are outstanding.  We just didn't want to take a chance when we knew we could count on a sure thing.  We weren't disappointed.
Ippudo Nishiki Koji--More westerners than
usual, but the food and fun explain why

Today we headed off to Himeji for two nights.   The railroads have a very efficient luggage service.  We shipped our hiking boots, poles, rain pants, and more to where we start our Sierra Club hike next week. Cost?  Only $9.     That frees up about 12 pounds and makes room for the scotch.  We skipped the subway because of our bags and splurged with a $10 cab ride.  We got on the wrong train, but got off at the next stop, took the next train back, and caught the correct train in the nick of time.  The Himeji Castle was worth the trip.   More on it later, but here's a sneak preview.
The amazing Himeji Castle

1 comment:

  1. It is always an adventure to figure out the transportation system in a foreign country.