Posted by Amanda
Another great day in Japan. We got an early start as I had an appointment with a few other people in Kyoto to get dressed up like geisha. Unfortunately, Noah and I had trouble finding the actual place so we arrived late. Luckily, the organizer (Carrie) of the adventure had already found a fourth to fill my spot. They were all in makeup so we left them a note in their shoes at the door to apologize. It was probably best that I missed it as it was a bit expensive.
We walked a bit through the park we'd seen on Friday as we were right near there. All of the food stalls were gone, the beautiful tree that had been lit up was moving into a green stage giving the entire area a fall feeling rather than spring time.
We decided to head to the Imperial Palace. This turned out to be quite a walk, but we stopped in a store here and there. As we got near the Palace, we hunted for lunch. We finally found a place that was either called Noah's Ark or was near a place called Noah's Ark. Again, it was a place where we just pointed to some pictures on the wall to order a large bowl of noodle soup. As before it was very delicious. Somehow the soup here is so amazing yet the soup in Vietnam is so flavorless.
The Imperial Palace is in the middle of a park which was lovely with peach and other fruit trees in bloom. Unfortunately, the palace turned out to be closed contrary to what our guide book indicated. We set out to find the subway and head to Nijo-jo Castle. By the time we got there and walked around the large moat to the entrance, we were a bit short on time. We managed to walk into one of the two castles and see it. It had nightingale floors for security purposes. These floors creak when you walk on them so that you cannot go undetected. It was pretty neat. This castle was so different from European castles. It was not ornate or overly furnished. In fact, there was no furniture, just mats on the floors. In a few rooms they had mannequins to show how people would have been when meeting the shogun. The wood floors felt very good on our sock feet as we walked around.
We had to quickly make our way back to the train station then back to Kobe so I could be on the ship at 6pm. Noah, as usual, stayed out to buy some groceries. In the end we had to leave four people behind in Kobe because two lost passports and one needed medical attention. The fourth was just a family member of a lost passport.
What was most astonishing particularly for Noah was that Kobe, Osaka, and Kyoto are so near each other and are each so large. Kobe is 1.4 million, Osaka is 2.4 million, and Kyoto is 1.4 million. In an hour train ride from Kobe we were in Osaka in half an hour and Kyoto in an hour.
Both of us really loved Japan. The people are amazingly warm and kind. Many of them do not speak English but they are more than willing to try to help you. They will often run to find a friend who speaks maybe two or three more words of English if they think that person can help you. The Kyoto subway system goes so far as to not only have their station names written in Roman letters but also to give each one a letter and number name making it even easier to navigate--just take K13 to K8 to change to T10 and get off at T13. Yes, at times it was bewildering to see nothing in Roman characters, but you always knew someone would help if you asked, or at least try to help. Japan is a world that we can never really be part of because we are automatically identified as an outsider, but they still try very hard to welcome and include us. Plus, they are so polite that they don't randomly grab my hair unlike everwhere else in Asia. Plus, all those complaints that it is so expensive are not that true. It isn't more expensive than New York or Los Angeles and food is much less than food in London. I see myself returning for a wonderful tour of Japan as soon as possible.