Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Train to Kyoto via Kanazawa

We left early on Sunday AM, the 10th, for the train station, to be sure we could get a decent breakfast at the Ekiben Matsuri, arguably the busiest ekiben store in Japan. It is non stop crazy, and as Em later points out, the Japanese are very polite and reserved, but don't get between me and my ekiben!

We are there at about 7:40 AM for our 8:30 train (you actually could just arrive minutes before the departure, but we wanted to explore and purchase food). Ekiben Matsuri was crazy. Sunday AM travelers want their bento...

Here is Em's Vegan Bento

Sam's vegetable bento and other miscellaneous things, purchased from 7-11.

Since I didn't get enough Uni the day before (no Uni at Iwa), I decided to load up. Absolutely nothing but Uni on a bed of rice (aside from two pieces of tsukemono and a plastic grass thingy). It was lousy. The uni was dry and there was one Uni shell piece which really turned me off. I think that the rice absorbed the moisture from the Uni.

This was cool, though. Collapsible hashi. Small to fit the package, but expands.

Connie just eats one Lima bean.

No, just kidding. Here is her bento box.

Later in our trip, we realized that we had overlooked the obvious. Depachika for bento. We walked through Daimaru the day we were leaving to go back to the US, and ended up on B1F. One thing caught my eye, a ¥7900 bento box! Several other less expensive ones were "Sold Out." Looking more carefully, this was freshly cooked sliced Wagyu beef on a bed of rice. Various accompaniments were there too. The problem is that Daimaru doesn't open until 10 AM, so what to do? That's a problem for next time!

We took the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kanazawa. We had never taken this train in the past (well, technically, we took it part way from Nagano to Tokyo last year). In 2011, we went to Kanazawa from Tokyo, but had to take the Joetsu Shinkansen to Echigo Yuzawa first, then a Hakutaka Limited Express train to Kanazawa. That Limited express train is now defunct, replaced by the Shinkansen over the same route. The new Shinkansen is a joint venture of JR East and JR West. Trains in Japan are a huge business. Just like telecom in the US, it has been overregulated and deregulated like crazy by the government. The government used to own the railroad prior to privatization in the late 1980's. It was split into 6 companies, all for-profit, based on geography, but they all cooperate with each other fairly well. Trains, especially long distance trains, run exceptionally well.

The scenery was gorgeous, but wasted on us as I was the only one awake! Mountain streams and green all over.

Anyway, in Kanazawa, we change to a limited express Thunderbird train. The platforms are mismarked as to car numbers (or, more likely, this user didn't quite understand them) and we got on at the completely opposite end of the train. We had only a few minutes prior to departure, so we ran out the train to run on the platform (easier than running in the train aisle). We were too scared to go all the way. This leg was short, and we passed by Lake Biwa, a huge lake right adjacent to Kyoto. Jet skiers and water skiers all over.

After arriving at Kyoto, we maneuver through the complicated maze of Kyoto Station (though it remains one of the most beautiful places I have seen) to the Granvia.  Our room isn't "ready" though it never has been.  We've always been early on arrival, as at the Four Seasons, but we have never been told that the room isn't ready at the Four Seasons.  Never.  I think it is that Japanese, on time, never late, never early, kind of thing.  So we search out into the Kyoto Station wilderness while we wait for our room to be "ready."

In Porta (a shopping mall adjacent to Kyoto Station), we see this exhibit of trees, just put up the day prior.  I think they're cedars, though not certain.  They look like evergreen conifers.  Sculptured in a unique way.

The three women in our tour group wanted to get their nails done, so we also went to the Concierge desk at the Granvia to test their skills.  They were really good with several reservations this trip, so this might be a challenge.  Tokyo was difficult since the four didn't want to spend a fortune on "gel" nails.  The Four Seasons folks said Shoganai.  Em did her "internet in Japanese" magic and came up with a couple of places really close to the Granvia (much less upscale than Tokyo Station).  We walked by one, and they weren't impressed even though the young lady was very cordial.  Then we went to a place right across from Kyoto Tower (which is right across from Kyoto Station). Turns out it could be accessed via the underground passages in the station).  I could barely communicate with the lady, I think because of my lack of knowledge of nail stuff.  So this nice man, Yoshino, one of the Concierge staff at the Granvia, called them several times while we were there to make appointments for "nails for three." Got it done, but he had difficulty too, because, as he said, he is a "man."

Anyway, that out of the way, and settled into our rooms, we needed dinner. Choice was our choice.  We were there last year, and we will eat there twice this trip.  Last year, I was going to go to Shinodaya with Connie several doors down from Choice (while the two girls went to Choice) but they were closed. I'll talk about this in a future installment. This day we all dined at Choice, a 100% vegan place

Connie's Taco salad (not Octopus), with a Mexican kick

Em's Marinara meatless pasta

My cheese and mushroom pasta, surprisingly very good

Sam's "cheeseburger"


Pancake dessert

Ice "cream"

Better than I thought it would be (yes, I have a bias against "vegan")

This next AM, the 11th, Monday.  Em's 19th birthday.  Last year we spent this day at Arashiyama, looking at monkeys.  This year, we will be looking at moss in a garden.  Em really wanted to see the monkeys again, but then changed her mind.

Here is a South view from our hotel at the Shinkansen going back and forth on that AM.  You can tell we like trains!  Much of Kyoto Station lies beneath these tracks, with shopping galore.  The tall structure to the right is the Keihan Grande Hotel with its exposed elevators.

For breakfast we go to the nearby Lawson.  I get an "omuretto," with CC Lemon. But this is no regular omelette, this was totally a dessert.

They all had corn salad, and other vegan treats, while seated at the window at the Lawson.

Public transportation to Saihouji-Kokedera was challenging and would have been expensive with subway to subway to bus, so I elected to just taxi it. Cost was just ¥2700, and public transport for 4 would have been ¥2400. Just have to sit in a smoke scented cab.  The ashtray in front was filled with butts.

Next up, lots of green!

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