Our time in Yokohama went well. We are now in Kyoto, and the Granvia Hotel, which is actually part of Kyoto Station. Here is the view from our window:
The shinkansen (bullet train) tracks are right below us. We hear trains all night, but the sound is muffled, so it is actually pleasant. My daughter’s Japanese is improving, but still not up to complex negotiations, so when we came down here from Yokohama on the shinkansen, she accidentally bought the most expensive tickets possible, reserved seats on a nozomi super-express. The nozomi is the newest, fastest train with a long shovel-like nose. We arrived in Kyoto in a little over two hours, after enjoying boxed lunches we bought in Shin-Yokohama Station.
Trains are an integral part of Japanese culture. In Los Angeles we build slow trains to nowhere and wonder why people don’t ride them. In Japan, life revolves around train stations, which contain shops, department stores, and most necessities of life. The trains are fast, reliable, and easy to use. One does not need a car for most purposes.
Yesterday we took a train to Kamo Station in Nara, and then a bus up to Gansenji Temple. I wanted to revisit a hiking course that my wife and I had taken 22 years ago, from Gansenji to Joruriji Temple. Along the way there are a large number of images of Buddha carved into various boulders. We bought some mochi (pounded rice with red bean paste inside) from a lady at Gansenji, who could have easily been the same lady who sold rice balls to my wife and me on the earlier trip. When my wife and I had come, it was a cold, drizzling winter day. This time in the spring the landscape was lush and green, the sky was blue, and birds were everywhere. Some things were the same, and some had changed. The trail was well marked, at least if you could read hiragana, and we made it to Joruriji in good time. Here is a picture of Joruriji:
There are nine images of Buddha in this small temple. After visiting Joruriji, we happened upon a bus that was going back to Kamo Station, so we had time to go to Nara Deer Park and Todaiji Temple as well. The deer wander freely among the temples, and bow to passersby to beg for food. Visitors can buy deer food from carts, but if you have other snacks, such as a roasted sweet potato, the deer can become annoyingly persistent. Here is a typical resident of the Deer Park:
Today we will move to Otsu, near Lake Biwa. Our family says that it will be boring, but we are hoping that that means relaxing.