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To Kyoto on a Bullet Train

Today I hopped on the Nozomi Shinkansen, affectionately called a “bullet train,” and headed to Kyoto. Traveling by train beats the heck out of flying, especially with lots of leg-room, no body-cavity searches at the airport, and really smooth welded rail. It does make me a bit nostalgic for the old days—the clickety clack of the rails, NOT the security check-points. I have not seen a lot of young children in Japan. When I have, they’ve always been with their mothers. This little guy was adorable.

In Kyoto Station I found there’s a great tourist information office. Actually there are a few. The one for foreigners is handily inside a department store on the ninth floor. It took me a while to find it, bt once I did they were great. They were able to find me a room in a Ryokan, which is a “Japanese-style inn.” It was a relief to have a place to stay. I had called three places this morning from Tokyo, and all were full. I ran out of time, and had to catch the train, so I wasn’t sure where I would be sleeping. The hotel that I was originally planning to stay at is booked-up on many days for months in advance.

Upon leaving the airport, I immediately headed south instead of north, and walked for quite a while without recognizing any street names; most are not in romanji. I have a small key-chain compass with me, which is great for self-orientation upon walking out of subway or train stations, but I didn’t check it. I guess I should have. Is it too late to blame this sort of thing on jet-lag? I’m still waking up at five. If I really needed an excuse, I’d blame it on the fact that maps in Japan do not always have north pointing up. North can be anywhere. One perk is that I got a couple of photos of a building under construction. It’s very precise mill-work with great joinery.

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