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Japan, March 2018

Tokyo - Kyoto

On Day 5 morning we visited Akihabara, known as 'electric city'.

Whether you are interested in electronics, computers or other gadgets it is worth visiting this fantasy land with large and loud advertising billboards everywhere covering the buildings all above us. Its like walking into a futurist world. They sell every electronic item from TVs, computers smartphone, pads. electronic components, games, dolls etc. The visual impact is overwhelming. It is dazzling and one can not miss the experience. It is unique, unlike anywhere else in the world.

For a contrast we visit the Sensoji temple. This is the oldest temple in Tokyo. The Nakamise-dori shopping street that leads to the temple is lined with many souvenir shops on both sides plus many restaurants on side streets making it a very congested area especially in the high season months of March/April. Beyond the crowded shoppers the magnificent temple appears with a large lantern at the centre of the Thunder Gate . There is also a 5 storey pagoda on the side. The temple is swamped with visitors, worshippers and shoppers.

We decided to re-visit the Imperial Palace gardens which had been closed on our Monday visit. It is a large garden compound with lovely trees, ponds, beautiful flowers and landscapes. There were still some cherry blossoms at the park. It was a very relaxing visit to end of the 5 days in Tokyo.

On the morning of day 6 we left Tokyo by JR bullet train to Kyoto.It is an hour and half journey and we got our reserved seats in the Green car. We arrived and checked in at the Gracery Hotel South Tower. This is a lovely Japanese hotel located right in the shopping arcade. It is better than it sounds with a good location for shopping, eating and sightseeing.

We began our tour in Kyoto in the afternoon by visiting two temples. First we visited the Shoren-in temple with its beautiful landscaped gardens of peace and tranquillity. Like most visitors we sat at the side of the rooms looking out and admiring the gardens. The second temple, Chion-In, is a short walk away This bigger temple has many attractive buildings including a pagoda and spacious courtyard. The entrance to the temple is many steps uphill through a magnificent gate.

That night we had a lovely meal at one of the unique 'Jihanki Shokudo' ('vending machine canteen') restaurants where you order and pay for your dishes on an ordering machine by the entrance before entering the restaurant proper. The machine shows all the dishes and drinks in both Japanese and English. Once we selected the dishes and paid on the machine we gave the ticket to the waitress who came to direct us to our table. Tea and cold water is free on a self-service counter, as is a big rice cooker for additional rice if wanted. Our ordered meal and a glass of beer came within 10 minutes looking fresh and delicious. I liked my prawn and chicken dish so much that we went back to the same restaurant again two nights later. The meal was delicious, freshly cooked and prepared. Amazing and very good value.

An after dinner stroll through the atmospheric streets of Gion along the Shirakawa canal with its 17th century houses, traditional restaurants and tea houses lit up with lanterns made a good end to the day.

On the second day in Kyoto we had arranged a local tour guide to be with us for the day, Ms Toyama.

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