Day 7 – Kyoto
The next morning we woke up and were served a wonderful breakfast in our room,
After we checked out and took a taxi down to Hakone, we left our luggage at the Hakone-Yumoto rail station while we rode the train up to Gora. It was a beautiful ride up there, through hydrangea covered hillsides and mist cloaked hills.
At Gora, we got off the train for about an hour and explored the small town. There is an interesting craft house in a small park that looked very interesting, but we didn’t have time to explore it. We also stumbled upon the Gora center for photography, which was in a house off a small alley way. It wasn’t open, but it looked intriguing.
On our ride down the mountain, back to Hakone-Yumoto, a camera crew got on the train with what appeared to be some kind of celebrity. All of the Japanese seemed to know her, although we didn’t. She chatted with people, took selfies, and was generally charming. She spoke to us in English on the way out, wishing us a good visit to Japan.
Next, we caught the train back to Odawara, and then down to Kyoto. We checked into our hotel, the Royal Park Hotel of Kyoto. Again, I can highly recommend the hotel. Our room was somewhat small, but a large breakfast buffet was included, as well as drinks in the evening, and it was very centrally located.
Our first evening we wandered over to Gion. I had read an purchased a book, Seven Walks in Kyoto (check name) and we tried to follow Walk 4 that evening. We got a little off the route after a time, but we did get a good sense of this older part of town. Today, it is filled with tourists, but about 200 Geisha still ply their trade in this area. There are about 80 tea houses still registered with the government as places where Geisha entertain.
Kyoto is completely different than Tokyo. Old, less frenetic, less crowded with people, mostly 2-3 story buildings. It was one of the few cities that escaped bombing during World War II, and so it is much closer to how the Japanese people lived historically.
We ate that night at Café Manzara. We sat at the counter and ordered small plates and chatted with the chefs, who worked right in front of us. Enjoyed the restaurant tremendously.
We had a little excitement on our walk back to the hotel. There was a fire in a local restaurant. This was very serious, because with all of the buildings so close together, it is very easy for fire to spread to multiple buildings. Many Japanese cities have historically endured great fires, destroying as much as two-thirds of the city in a day or two of uncontrolled fire. 5 or 6 fire companies came out to control this fire.