Traveling to Kyoto

4/5/24 – Traveling to Kyoto

We are getting to be old hats when it comes to traveling the trains in Japan!  Well, a few glitches can happen, but we made it to Kyoto on time and in one piece.  We walked from our hotel in Nagano to the train station with our backpacks on our backs.  We found a shortcut that made the walk only about two minutes.  Once inside the station, we smugly put our tickets in the turn-style to get into the shinkasen section, and – oof! – the doors closed on us.  No admittance!  We asked a couple of young Japanese businessmen for assistance.  They used their smartphones but still could not figure out where we should go, so they pointed us to a ticket window to ask the professionals.  After showing the pros out tickets, we were directed down into a different area.  Apparently, our first train ride was not on a shinkasen, but on a “Limited Express Train”.  We made it to the correct platform and waited for our train.  As we waited, the two young businessmen walked by and we waived hello and said “arigato” for trying to help us earlier and to show them they we eventually found our way.

Upon arriving at the Nagoya station for our next train, we had only about 20 minutes to get on our next train to Kyoto.  After once again having the doors slammed “No Admittance!” on us, Dave figured out that we had to place both of our tickets into the turn-style at the same time.  Yea!  We are on our way to Kyoto.

On the ride there, Kathy and Dave discussed the Japanese language.  One thing we have learned from our various tour guides along the way is that the Japanese language is complex.  The Japanese writing system combines Chinese characters, known as kanji, with two unique syllabaries derived by the Japanese from the more complex Chinese characters: hiragana and katakana. Each of these 3 alphabets has many characters.  Some are letters like our English alphabets and have about 50 characters each, but the third set of characters are words and there are over 10,000 of them!  How big must their typewriters be??  And how do young school children learn how to hand-write all of those individual characters?? We see people texting all of the time, how do they do THAT? As for texting, they use a lot of “type-ahead” texting, meaning they start texting something simple and suggested words start showing up for them to choose from.  Also, they may have a 10-character keyboard on their screen, but if they press and hold each button, 4 more letters appear: one above, below, and to each side.  I still don’t know how they typed prior to smart phones!  An interesting side note is that, being an ancient language, they have words that many young people are not familiar with.  Even older people can’t understand some very old writings.  They also used to write in a sort of cursive style.  As in the US, cursive writing is going out of favor and so many people cannot read it anymore. As for their numeral system, they use mostly Arabic numerals like we do in the US, but also traditional Chinese numerals.

Arriving in Kyoto, we walked the one mile to our hotel.  Being considerably warmer than it was in the mountainous Nagano made carrying our luggage a full mile a bit of a drag.  Maybe we’ll call a taxi when we head back to the train station after 5 nights here?  We also had decided that our first day in Kyoto would be a good time to do laundry, since it was halfway through our trip and we had no tours for the day.  Dave had checked and the hotel did have laundry machines.  Unfortunately, there are only three machines and many, many guests.  Some of whom are long term stays.  We decided to ask the front desk if there was a laundromat nearby.  There was!  We found our way there pretty easily and there was one machine available.  Interestingly, each machine washes the clothes, but then also dries them!  Well, mostly…  We ended up putting our cotton socks in a separate dryer for about 10 minutes.  That cost an extra 100 yen, or about $0.66.  Most of our traveling clothes are wicking and quick drying.  We do that so that the times when we have to wash them in our sink, they dry fairly easily.  Cotton socks are the exception.  While we waited for our clothes to finish, we tried to find a 7-11 to get some dinner.  Along the way, we found another, closer convenient store which had the corn dogs Kathy was craving.  Their dogs weren’t as delicious as 7-11’s, but dinner was cheap, quick, and easy.  Back to the laundromat we went.  Kathy, being the old pro she was at Japanese laundry, was kind enough to show two different couples how the machines worked, including two older people who were originally from Japan, but have lived in California for the past 50 years.  I’m guessing they did not have these fancy machines back then!

We are now ready for our first tour of Kyoto which will begin at 9 am tomorrow morning.  We hope to sleep well in our tiny, closet-sized room at the hotel.  Being a traditional Japanese hotel, there is only a mattress on the floor, a tiny sofa, and a bathroom slightly smaller than some phone booths we have seen.  Kathy doesn’t think our fat cat, Navin, could fit inside the bathtub! J

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