Today we headed back to Tokyo. Thanks to the wonderful lady at JR Narita, we had reserved seats for our return journey and obviously far less people were travelling. To give you a sense of the volume of people travelling earlier in the week, there is a train from Tokyo to Kyoto every 5 - 10 minutes. And we still couldn't reserve a seat!
Kyoto is a large city. Nothing like Tokyo of course but what's the likelihood of running into the same people not once, not twice but thrice? We took a group photo on behalf of an Australian family in the Bamboo Forest. Then we ran into them on the bus to the Golden Temple. Sure enough, they're on the same train as us going back to Tokyo! When we arrived at the hotel on Wednesday, we chatted to an Australian couple of Japanese heritage from Sydney. We bumped into them at the packed Fushimi train platform the previous night.
There are lots of Westerner's in Kyoto. Maybe it's because it's a smaller city (pop. 1.5 million, so bigger than Adelaide but smaller than Perth) and they're easier to spot. The Navigator heard Russians at Roanji ("Da... da... NYET!") and on the trolley from Arashiyama we chatted to an American couple - he was serving in the armed forces at Okinawa and was on 4 days leave. We also saw lots of other Americans and Canadians of Japanese heritage that only become Westerners when they opened their mouths and spoke
The Shinkansen is great. So fast - we travelled the 513kms from Kyoto to Tokyo in just under three hours. It took more than half that time to cover the remaining 70kms from Tokyo to Narita! So much legroom too - about double the space of an aeroplane. Why would anyone fly domestically in Japan?
Today the weather God blessed us again with perfectly clear skies and this time we were able to see Mt Fuji from the train. We had advised the thrice-met Australian family about how to get to the Five Lakes region from Tokyo. They probably don't need to go now!
At 3pm on a public holiday, the train from Tokyo back to Narita was packed and we had to stand to Chiba (about half the distance). Ohhh, the horrors! When we found a seat together, we happened to be joined by probably the best English speaking, cross dressing, trans gender wannabe. The Navigatrix will post separately on this gentleman who kept us entertained all the way to Narita.
Back at the hotel Mt Fuji was still showing herself, now from 190kms away.
Dinner was again at our favoured noodle restaurant Ramen Bayashi where the food is cheap, fast and delicious. We assume if all the flight crews eat there it must be good. Then we continued down the hill to Narita Temple and wandered amongst the crowds conducting their New Years prayers.
We love Japan. There is plenty more to see in Kyoto (as said previously, a better season for the gardens would enhance the experience even further) and many other cities and places to visit. The people are friendly, most speak enough English to get by and it's easy to get around. Yes it's crowded and Tokyo especially is frenetic but with a bit of patience and as long as you're prepared with cash then the country is a joy.
Off to Finland tomorrow.