I have safely arrived at my Hotel in Kyoto. I got to take my first train ride in Japan and overall it went pretty well consider I can count to 10, say thank you very much, and know a half dozen other Kendo terms which don’t really apply in normal situations.
I started my trip this morning by getting up at 7am and taking care of some minor last minute stuff. The real journey started at 9am when a friend gave me a ride to SFO. I made it to SFO around 9:45 and entered the ridiculous queue United had for international flights. The queue when through this huge maze, and then spilled pretty far out of that. Of course since I had a paper ticket I had to wait in that giant line to check in.
Almost an hour and a half later around 11:00 I had almost made it to the front of the line when United employees let all of us bound for Osaka and Kansi International Airport cut ahead so we could make our flight. After that I boarded a 747-400 for the longest airplane ride of my life. First the seats seemed a bit more comfortable than domestic coach, but not 12 hours more comfortable. The flight goes on for much longer than one would imagine. At several points I wondered if we were getting close, and then I realized we still had a couple thousand miles to go. There was enough time to show four feature films, Transformers, No Reservations, Ratatoulli, and The Ultimate Gift. Of those “The Ultimate Gift” was the biggest surprise and was a pretty enjoyable movie, one I would recommend watching.
Finally, after what seemed like forever the plane landed I was adrift in a foreign land with no real understanding of the language. After a bit of confusion as to what the purpose of my trip was at immigration I entered the country and cleared customs. After messing around with an ATM to try and get some currency (only took me 3 tries), and a short line to pick up my rented cellphone (probably shouldn’t have bothered). I was on my way to Kyoto.
I picked up my Haruka train pass from a ticket sales person (I wasn’t ready to try out the automated machines yet), and started my trip to Kyoto. The one train I rode on so far was very nice. The system reminds me of a combination of the CalTrain and Bart in the Bay Area. Only the seats are comfortable and clean which cannot be said of some Bay Area transit options. After a very smooth ride through what appeared to be one giant connected city, I arrived at Kyoto station.
At Kyoto station I managed to get a pretty decent walking map of Kyoto and then wandered around the station unsure if I should attempt the subway or hire a cab. Being somewhat adventurous I decided to brave the subway and after making my way there took 10 minutes to figure out exactly what ticket I needed to buy for my fare. I then got to ride the Japanese subway which is also a pretty clean and neat system. So far I’m pretty impressed with the whole public transportation system here. It’s TONS better than back in the States.
Anyways I checked into my hotel which has a service level I’m not used to as I usually stay in some of the cheapest hotels around (this one isn’t TOO bad.) My room is fairly small but clean and neat, and the feature 100MB/s internet access. The only other exciting feature is the crazy toilet with heated seats and way more buttons than a toilet should have.
Well that’s it for now as I think I’m going to hit the sack so I can get up early tomorrow and start with the sightseeing.