Day 2 saw us taking an easy morning exploring the JR Kyoto Station. This is the major train station here in Kyoto, and boy is it big. The station not only serves the bullet train system, but also serves several local trains connecting the nearby cities, and also serves the Kyoto subway system, and is the major bus hub as well. On top of that it holds the Kyoto Granvia Hotel (a fairly swanky hotel), connects to 2 underground malls (The Cube, and Porta), contains its own mall (Asty Road), as well as the Isetan department store, and numerous other small shops.
Department stores in Japan are a bit different than in the US. In Japan, the department stores tend to be several floors in size, with the top one or two floors housing some fancy restaurants. The middle floors down to the first floor, house all of the usual departments: Men’s clothes, Women’s clothes, Housewares, etc. The basement or even sub-basement houses some less expensive restaurants (more like the pre-made food section at your local supermarket, only with each stall or section housing a different kind of food), as well as a grocery store. Isetan has 11 floors and 2 basement floors.
My recommendation whenever you come to Japan is to get your meals and such in the department store basement. It’s much cheaper then eating at the hotel, or the local restaurants, and there’s usually quite a variety so you can pick and choose whatever you’d like to have. Next on the list would be eating at the mall or train station restaurants, as they’re the next cheapest, then eating at the top of the department store or at the hotel.
The station itself is quite the architectural marvel. It stretches up on either side about 12 stories from the central section. The front is a glass affair that is supported on the inside by quite the architectural grid. On the top of each side is a small garden and several vantage points where you can look out over the city.
This shot is from about halfway up the west side, looking up towards the top. The big group of people to the left is a tour group waiting to go into the museum. (Did I mention the station also houses a museum?)
And back down towards the bottom. You can see the amazing gridwork that is in place to hold up the front glass façade.
Here’s the Happy Terrace at the top.
And the garden on the other side.
Along the rooftop is what’s called the Skyway, running along the upper framework. I imagine at night it offers some nifty views.
Also on tap for Day 2 was a trip to Nara (yet another of Japan’s ancient capitals.) The Nara tour consists of Todaiji Temple, the world’s largest wooden building, which houses the world’s largest bronze statue of Buddha, and Kasuga Grand Shrine, which houses some 2000+ stone lanterns, and 1000+ bronze lanterns.
It’s really hard to get a sense of the scale of Todaiji unless you go there and see it for yourself. My challenge has always been to try to get a decent picture of the Buddha inside, when you can’t use a tripod, and the inside only lit through candles, the main doorway, and a few windows here and there. Well, as technology has marched on, it’s become easier, and I managed to get some decent shots, including some reasonable shots of his 2 assistants, and 2 guardians.
My niece wanted to feed the sacred deer despite my warnings regarding them. The sacred deer may look tame and cute, but, they’re really pretty aggressive. Supposedly if you hold the crackers up out of the way you can get them to “bow” for the crackers, but, they pretty much recognize the instant someone buys the crackers from the vendors, then start swarming.
Unless you’re significantly taller than my niece, this swarming doesn’t give you much of a chance to get the crackers above your head. They’re not content to wait for you to decide to feed them, and some will start nipping, as she found out the hard way. No blood, just a little bruising to both her ego and her skin.
Some of the lanterns at Kasuga Shrine. The lanterns are lit twice a year during special festivals. Before they used to use candles, but now I believe they use kerosene so they’ll burn longer. The lanterns represent donations to the temple from various families.
Didn’t seem as hot today, though we did take it easy.