After we finished touring the Nijo castle and the grounds, we decided we would go to the martial arts store we saw advertised in one of the tourist magazines. (http://www.tozandoshop.com/Default.asp) Sheldon perused the 2 guide maps we had, and figured out that the faint dotted line running down the middle of several streets was a subway system. There was an entrance about a half a block from the castle entrance, so we headed down.
The cool air of the underground was a welcome relief after being in the hot sun for most of the morning. The sight of Japanese ladies with parasols had become commonplace for us, and now I totally understood why. We both ended up with a little bit of sunburn on our faces and necks. The only reason it wasn't a lot worse was because we tended to jump from one piece of shade to the next whenever we could.
So, we were standing at the fare machines, looking for a word or two of English anywhere and, as was most often the case when we were trying to figure out where to go, a helpful station guy came over and pointed out the one machine that had an "English" button. Our choices were to get a one way ticket to the other side of town, or to get a 1-day pass that would include the subway and buses. We opted for the 1-day pass. By this time we were getting a little low on Japanese yen, so we figured we would find a place to get some yen, have lunch and go to the store.
A word about Japanese stations- like most everything else, the stations are not only clean but you often see people in the ACTUAL ACT of sweeping and cleaning up trash. These people are always in uniform, and seem to TAKE PRIDE in what they are doing! We saw very little graffiti when we traveled, by very little I mean maybe 2-3 spots of graffiti throughout our whole trip.
We got on the next train and headed over to the other side of town. According to the map, it looked like we had to switch trains at a location across the street from our stop. It turned out that the train going the other direction is a different system that (of course) our 1-day pass did not cover! So, we opted to go ahead and find an ATM, eat and walk to the store- about 5-6 big blocks. As most of you know, my walking has decreased to almost nil since my two knee surgeries, and this was the most walking I have done since before I even injured my knee! I was getting a bit worried about it, but the knee did great! I can't say the same for my hips- besides the huge blisters I got on my feet in Hiroshima, I was having pain in my hips after all the walking. The trick, we found, was to keep moving because the second we sat down, the joints wanted to kind of fuse in place and prevent any further motion afterwards. We had a few laughs about the noises we would often make while getting up from a chair or even from bed. Speaking of chairs, they were all short. You know how when you sit down, there is a point while you are lowering yourself where you anticipate that your butt will hit the seat. In Japan that point is about 2 inches lower than you expect it to be, so I found myself 'plopping' onto benches and chairs because of my guage being off.
The ATM system in Japan is more like it used to be here, you have to find an ATM that takes your card system. We take for granted that all ATMs will take our cards here because it is mostly true, but the ATMs in Japan were finicky, and the one we found on our way to the martial arts store didn't care for our card. Undaunted, we forged ahead figuring any store that advertises to tourists MUST take credit cards.
We finally reached the store, and were waited on by the lovely Haruku Tsuchiya. The store was lovely, and clearly had many things that would only be used by people who practice various martial arts. Upstairs was a museum of swords and armor consisting of about 20 to 30 items, all of which were museum quality- swords, armor, masks- definite martial arts eye candy. Being the intrepid American tourist that I am, I found the T-shirt section and started thinking about who I wanted to get a shirt for. Haruko was very helpful, assisting me to select some appropriate shirts for our sons. And the American Express card worked just fine.
About a half a block away from the shop was a bus stop. We got on a bus with our new passes and rode almost all the way back to the hotel. We still hadn't found an ATM, but we felt a measure of success in navigating our way around Kyoto. I have to mention that during all of this, were were still taking pictures of interesting doorways and different shrines we passed along the way. (Pictures to follow)
We picked up a bite to eat in the hotel coffee shop, and retired to our room to freshen up and figure out what we wanted to do for dinner. One of the tourist brochures had an advertisement for a restaurant in the historic district that boasted an English menu (by English menu, I mean a menu that is printed in English characters). I called and spoke to the one person that worked there who knew English and made a reservation.
On our way out, we asked at the front desk where we could find an ATM. Well, actually we asked "Eh-goo-ga hanashimas ka? (Do you speak English?)" As we often found, the answer was "no". So, we were limited to the few Japanese words we knew and the few English words the other person knew to find out that the nearest ATM was a 15 minute walk away, and...you guessed it- the opposite direction of the restaurant. But, we persevered, getting our yen, finding a bus, and actually getting to the restaurant only a few minutes after our reservation.
Eating in Japan is an adventure. There was very little food that I recognized. I have been working hard on being vegan since the beginning of the year, only eating some fish during the last month or so figuring I would eat fish in Japan. Other than fish and rice,the food was not anything like what we normally eat here. There was this really great black seaweed type stuff on the breakfast buffet that I really loved. The breakfast buffets had a big steam pot full of rice and another big pot of miso soup. I had at least 2 bowls of miso soup for breakfast most mornings, along with a big cube of tofu. The other funny thing about eating in Japan was that everything was served separately. My tray would often have 2 bowls, a cup (coffee), 3 small plates of vegetables, tofu etc., and a plate of salad.
The restaurant was situated along an old street next to the river. We were seated on a deck on top of a canal and overlooking the river. The air was finally cooling down after a hot day. The smell of food wafted across the deck from all the little restaurants. We weren't the only Americans seated on the deck, which was unusual- most of our trip we saw very few other westerners. I ordered vegetable tempura and Sheldon had beef tempura, we also got an appetizer plate and rice. We ordered beer and had a toast to a great day. After dinner we walked along the river back to our hotel.