Japan Day 18- Kyoto...
Today, our last full day in Kyoto, we decided to visit the castle across the street, which we've been looking at the whole time (from our hotel window) we've been here :) We had decided to save it for a rainy day (this is the rainy season in Japan, after all) since it's so close. However, japanese weather reports must be different than ones in the US because yesterday's prediction of 100% chance of rain led to an hour or 2 of drizzle right at the end of the day. Today's prediction of 60% rain led to none at all... I'm not complaining, though :)
We had brekkie at our usual cafe (Brendan wore his new geta for the 1 1/2 block walk :) then came back to the hotel to get ready to walk across the street to Nijo-ji Castle. This castle was built in the early 1600's by one of the first of the Tokugawa shoguns, & features not only impressively large fortifications & rooms, but "nightingale floors". These are floors that squeak musically when you walk on them, so that no-one can sneak around the place unheard. They still work & are really pretty amazing (& sound neat, too). The castle walls include 2 different palaces, one that you can walk through, & some beautiful gardens.
It was a really warm day, although the first breezy one we've had, which was nice. But it was awfully warm to be walking around outside. We made our tour in about an hour, then Brendan & I were too hot & tired to continue. Brendan had found the castle too creepy to go into, so Charlie stayed outside with him while I visited. After we finished looking around the grounds, Brendan & I got a cold drink & walked back across the street to the hotel, while Charlie toured the castle.
When Charlie got back he offered to walk to the "kon-bee" for lunch supplies & Brendan & I took him up on it :) I regained some energy after lunch & really wanted to look around the neighbourhood, so I got the map the concierge had given us when we arrived & headed out on an adventure. We had decided that we wanted some green tea candy to take home with us, so that was my goal... I had my umbrella, in case of rain, but ended up using it to shield myself from the sun, as many, many Kyoto ladies do (I was right in fashion :). It was really nice just to walk around & enjoy Kyoto's bustle. The schoolkids were out by then (they go to school half a day on Saturdays), so there were a lot of them on their way home. There were also loads of people on bicycles & crossing the streets could be rather hazardous if you didn't stay sharp. (Bicyclists may ride at the edges of the sidewalks as well as in the street, & they all cross at the crosswalks with the pedestrians, which made walking around very interesting...) I found an urban mall-ish place & enjoyed looking around. No candy, but a few more gifts to bring home :) On the way home I turned onto a narrow side street instead of following the main road & found the relative quiet very enjoyable. Homes blend seamlessly with businesses on the side streets, & the traditional Kyoto houses (many with shops in front) were interesting & beautiful.
Back at our room, I found that Charlie & Brendan had built a fort with bedding & chairs, & were having a kleenex-ball fight :) Since I hadn't found the candy, Charlie was thinking of going out in a different direction, but then got the idea to go downstairs, to the shopping level of the hotel to look for some. Bingo! It was lovely & cool there, we found just what we were looking for (& a bit more), & we were back in our room in half an hour. Brendan & I decided to watch an InuYasha movie on the laptop, & Charlie started consolidating things & packing his duffel while we watched. I did some re-organising as well, & discovered that we may just get everything home :) (at least, it will probably fit in our duffels) After a walk to the "kon-bee" for dinner (& a discussion of which was better: present-day security systems or nightingale floors?), we ate & watched tv again for a bit. Japanese shows seem to last only 15 minutes, which makes for quite a variety. We caught a programme featuring a quadriplegic poet on NHK educational tv, & an odd comedy called "Man Power". Brendan got himself into jammies around 6:45 & wanted to get into bed, but Charlie tempted him with a game of Uno (no sense in having him up at 4:00 am again from going to bed too early). He finally rolled into bed at 7:15 & was asleep by 7:30.
Tomorrow we catch the shinkansen back to Tokyo for one night, then hop on a plane back to the US on Monday. Brendan told us today he can't believe the trip is almost over. Charlie & I have been marvelling at how easy it's been to navigate Japan & how comfortable we've felt here. We all could easily stay longer, & I don't have the feeling I always get when on vacation, that I just want to go home now! We're tired, but not exhausted, which is pretty amazing. I'm already looking forward to coming back to Japan... :)