After a long, stressful Christmas season working myself to the bone at Tokyo Disney, it was time for a well-earned vacation from the rat race. I booked myself some tickets to Kyoto, packed up a weekend bag, and prepared to board my first Shinkansen. I bought my ticket at the Tokyo Station Shinkansen booth/kiosk/center, where I watched the front desk girl struggle through processing a transaction in English. When I approached, I resolved to go through the entire process in Japanese, and I did! The young lady was quite relieved, though far too polite to say anything about the matter I could tell she was grateful not to be forced to stutter through a foreign language, regardless of my own proficiency in her language we were able to get things settled and I walked with tickets in hand for the days I needed.
Fair warning: bullet trains can be expensive. It would certainly have been cheaper for me to have flown from Tokyo to Kyoto, but I wanted the experience of riding a bullet train since they're nonexistent in my country. Seriously, America, what the hell? We were world leaders in the locomotive industry, and now we've fallen far down the roster with only a few old lines still running. Nearly every other industrialized country has a high speed rail system, and if there were one running from Las Vegas to any major city in California (though L.A. seems the most obvious due to proximity) it could completely bolster the tourist flow, both to Sin City and the coast! I get that population density versus open expanses make it less viable for the western areas, but what about the east coast? Cities are much more densely packed together and having a high speed transit system connecting the major cities of the region could lead to a renewed prosperity as people are capable of traveling. But I digress.
Riding the bullet train is lovely. It really is a pleasant travel experience. Not only did my window seat offer ample leg room for this tall girl, there were outlets to plug in my devices so that I would reach my destination with a fully charged phone, camera, ipod, what have ye. Some of my fellow riders opted to nap, others drank while others tucked into ekiben, or station lunchboxes. Ekiben are fun, with different bentos offered for different regions, packed with local delicacies or specialties. I made sure to pick one up for the journey back.
For this ride, however, it was late and I left after work. I made sure to grab a coffee and bustled through Tokyo Station to ensure I caught my train on time. I'd booked a room with 9Hours capsule hotel, so no worries about finding a room. Just had to catch my train!
After arriving, I happened upon the Pan and Circus guest house/bar where a friendly fellow was standing outside smoking as I happened to stop for a curious glance. He invited me to join him and his friends inside, which might have been a dangerous idea anywhere else in the world, but I had a good vibe about the place. You can see more photos of the interior further down but it was really quite lovely! Very warm and inviting interior, and the guests were all very welcoming and friendly. I talked with a Korean gent, a man from Okinawa, a handful of Kyoto locals and several others. By the time I left for my hotel I truly felt like part of the gang, as the photos evidence. One young local man was even so kind as to cook dinner for all of us when it grew quite late and we were all a bit too tipsy to shuffle off to a conbini. I even met a girl who had the Japanese-ified version of my name! Say what?!
More photos after the cut!