The cab ride back from Nishiki Market to Kyoto Station was pretty quick. It was hot in the back seat, and I began to sweat like crazy as we sped down the back alley streets. My driver didn’t seem to have any interest in using the air conditioning (at least not in a way that emitted any cold air) so to make the best of the situation, I used my hand fan to cool off and listened along to the classical music coming from the radio.
We sped passed the curiously named “Tits Cafe” before emerging out onto Karasuma Dori, upon which we made a left turn and headed south, towards Kyoto Station. I had the driver stop early to let me out in front of the Yodobashi Camera store, just a block north from the station. It was new since the last time I had been in Kyoto and not really any different from any other Yodobashi Camera, but still, why not have a look, right?
I did a fairly quick walk through of the floors of the giant Yodobashi, ending my tour in the basement. Then it was out the connecting tunnel that leads into the underground Porta shopping area. I saw my beloved KYK Tonkatsu restaurant and bid it farewell until the next time. Then up the escalator and I was back outside standing in front of Kyoto Station in the rain.
The time was now about 4pm and my train was departing at 4:56pm. I decided to spend a few minutes in the large station entrance, having one last look around. It’s such a huge complex, the main open area feels like some sort of modern cathedral.
The wind was blowing pretty hard along with the rain. The typhoon was starting to get close.
After my look around, I stopped into the Anderson Bakery located in the Isetan department store basement to get a few baked goods for the train. I had a brief chat with the bakery cashier who was curious as to what I had been out photographing (the giant camera of course being the give-away) so I told her about my project and where I had been, the usual answer. I did appreciate her curiosity and was glad she didn’t comment on the ridiculous amount of baked goods I was buying, probably enough food for 4 people. (The main thing I bought was this amazing roll that was a coiled kind of thing with a buttery flavor and a glaze on top that was just ever so slightly sweet. I wonder how many of them I ate while in Kyoto since I bought at least one of those each time I visited the bakery. This last time, I bought two of those along with a couple other things. Strangely, I never took a picture of one. Oh well).
So with food in hand, it was back to the Hotel Granvia to get my bags. And with a pleasant goodbye from the bellhop at the back entrance, I was on my way to the Shinkansen platforms.
The walk down to the platform was simple enough. A brief pause to get past a group of people blocking the JR ticket gate, then up the escalator to the train platform. There were five people already lined up I to board car 12 of the Hikari Super Express train 480 when I got up there. It was now about 4:50pm.
The great thing about the Shinkansen trains is that they are always on time, like set your watch by them on time. So what happened next made for some excitement for an otherwise normal activity- the train was late! I am sure this happens from time to time, it’s to be expected, but in all my times in Japan riding the Shinkansen, it has never happened to me.
Our departure time came and went with no train. At first, everyone seemed not to notice. But then, after about two minutes, people began to get very fidgety, checking their watches and looking around as if to see if anyone knew where the train was. There was a businessman in front of me escorting someone from Germany, and it seemed like he was embarrassed or something by the situation- at the very least he was uncomfortable with the what was going on. He quickly stopped one of the platform attendants to find out what was going on and was told the train was just delayed leaving Shin-Osaka, nothing major. In the end, our train was only 5 minutes late. When it did finally arrive, everyone boarded very quickly (and calmly) and the train was on it’s way out of Kyoto Station before everyone was even seated- I guess they wanted to make up the time and get back on schedule. Throughout the ride to Tokyo, it did feel like the train was traveling just a bit faster than normal.
I settled into my seat at the front end of the cabin, with the wall in front of me (I had requested this seat so that I could use the power outlet with my laptop). And as the train sped away from Kyoto, it hit me how sad I was to be leaving this beautiful city. As crowded and busy as Kyoto may seem, it also feels like a very small city, where it’s very easy to be alone and feel like you aren’t crowded in. It’s a modern metropolis for sure, but not at all like Tokyo or Osaka, it’s a treasure indeed.
The Shinkansen ride itself was uneventful, we hit all the stops on time after Kyoto I think (at least we got into Tokyo right on time). I very much enjoyed my baked goods, spreading their consumption out over the full length of the journey. Once the sun set and it was impossible to see anything out the window anymore, I pulled out the laptop and did some photo sorting and a little writing. It was amazing how fast the train ride flew by and before I knew it, we were closing in on Tokyo.
I love how the Shinkansen slows down as it gets into the Tokyo city limits, seeming to creep along to it’s final stop at Tokyo Station. When the train did finally come to a stop, I got off and made my down and out of the Shinkansen platforms and over to find the local JR line trains. I needed to catch the Chuo Line (rapid service) that would take me across the heart of Tokyo to Shinjuku, where my hotel was. For some nice reason, the station wasn’t too crazy which made dragging my suitcase through it so much easier.
A great ad in Tokyo Station. Who knew chicken flavored instant ramen was so cute?
The trip on the Chuo Line took no time at all from Tokyo Station to Shinjuku Station. I was staying at the Keio Plaza in the area known as Nishi-Shinjuku (the skyscraper district) and the distance from Shinjuku Station to my hotel wasn’t actually that far so I decided to forgo a cab ride and walk to my hotel. The only downside to this plan was that it was very humid and when I got to my hotel, I was nice and hot and sweaty.
Checking in was fast, and I was up in my room pretty quick, it was a business level room on the 28th floor (I got an awesome deal on Expedia.com) with a nice view of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. I took a few minutes to get situated then headed back outside to do some wandering around. I was tired and it was already 9:30pm but I was hungry and decided that ramen would be great for dinner.
It took me about ten minutes from the hotel to make my way back to Shinjuku Station and the ramen stand that I decided to eat dinner at. I’ve walked past this ramen stand every other time I have been in Shinjuku but never stopped to eat at it- tonight was finally the night. It’s located on the west side of the station near the south end of the Keio bus terminal and close to Yodobashi Camera. It was fantastic.
The rain was sprinkling just a bit and the stand wasn’t the most covered spot on the street but it worked out just fine. I took a seat at end of the counter and waited my turn. After the young couple to my left got their food, I ordered a bowl and a beer and sat back as the man behind the counter worked his magic. I had no idea what kind of soup it was but didn’t care- I was hungry. It turned out to be just a simple Shio ramen and it was great. I inhaled the bowl of noodles in no time. Just as I was finishing it, a man sat down on the opposite side of the stand from me and ordered some sake. I noted that he seemed to be a regular from how he was greeted by the cook. The man then caught me by surprise when he asked, in english, where I was from. After answering him, he introduced himself (although I sadly quickly forgot his name) and explained that he was originally from Hawaii and had been living in Tokyo for the last 30 years, always came to this stand for a drink and that he knew the owner (a Korean man who actually owned I think three stands all together). I will say I was a it surprised by how friendly he was.
Our ensuing conversation was nice, chatting about my trip, his life in Tokyo and why he had come to Japan in the first place, as a student who then loved Japan too much to leave so he got into the world of teaching English so that he could stay. I decided to have some more ramen, so he asked the cook to make me some sort of “secret menu” bowl of ramen. As I watched him make it, I couldn’t figure out what was different other than the soup was now Miso and a bit spicier, but it was still amazing!
I was having a great time but was starting to get really tired so I decided to call it a night (I did want to get up early the next morning). So I thanked the cook and paid my bill, then thanked the guy for the great conversation and headed off.
The rain was falling just a bit more when I left the ramen stand (not hard enough to get me totally soaked or anything, at least no more wet than the humidity did). I made one last stop before the hotel at the Lawson and bought some yogurt, orange juice and a bottle of water.
Once back in my room, I turned on the TV, downloaded the days photos, brushed my teeth and got in bed. It took no time at all to fall asleep I guess beacause the next thing I knew, it was morning.