Our Monday in Kyoto started out with a persistent drizzle. Our 'continental breakfast' at The Three Sisters Ryokan consisted of 2 pieces of thick toast, a glass of juice and 1 cup of tea or coffee. A range of other brekkies were available but at a fee.
Before setting out we confirmed that my mobile had indeed been left behind in Tokyo. Gail had a phone card so we called Kimi Ryokan from the subway station and, thankfully, they'd found my phone. We arranged to fax them the details of our latter-week accommodation Kyoto so that they could post it through to us. The Japanese love faxes.
We subwayed to our next accommodation in Kyoto, the wonderful Yukhara Inn. If you're ever staying in Kyoto then this place is excellent value. Our host was hyper-helpful. He had a map drawn out of the immediate area and pointed out all the interesting things in a 10 minute radius, including baths, temples, Laundromats, shops, cafes, architecture and the like.
We walked to the subway to head into the down town area to get some money, via a cafe for elevensies on the way. The Lonely Planet was right when it advised that getting money in Japan would be difficult. There were few international ATMs and only US$ were accepted when doing a cash exchange. The Post Office's each had an ATM linked up with the international banking systems however that day was a public holiday. Normal bank ATM's generally only accepted Visa's from the Japan banks. Fortunately we found a CitiBank that accepted either Visa or my Chinese Union Pay card.
From here we toured the Nishiki food market and the Shin Kyogoku arcade, picking up a few Christmas presents along the way. We enjoyed looking at (and sampling) all the weird & wonderful foods on offer, including this green bean bun.
After grabbing lunch we subwayed out to the UNESCO World Heratige listed Nijo-jo castle. Built in 1603 as the official residence of the Tokugawa shogun it was intended to demonstrate power and prestige and to signal to the emperor that he was on borrowed time. To guard against treachery the palace was fitted with 'nightingale' floors, which squeak and chirp with every move. Bodyguards also had concealed viewing points in all the chambers.
The most impressive aspect of the palace was the amazing paintings on all the screens separating the different rooms. Thousands of hours obviously went into these screens alone. Directly outside was a wonderful Japanese garden. In fact, the whole palace was surrounded by manicured and carefully landscaped gardens. There was an odd spot which looked like an old foundation. Apparently the 5-story castle tower was struck by lightning in 1750, burned down and was never rebuilt.
We travelled back to our new Ryokan and settled into our room, called Kamogawa. We headed out to do some washing at a laundromat, where an old guy helpfully exchanged our money into to the right coins. Also at the Laundromat was a young guy, sitting outside the front door on a chair on the footpath, smoking and playing with his phone. Whenever he came inside he left his phone out the front on the chair and not a single passer by touched it.
Other interesting things from the day included seeing a plethora of German tourists and heaps of older luxury cars being driven by young guys, lowered with neon lights and massive chrome wheels. It seems that some things transcend language and culture.