Tag Archives: kyoto

Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle was the residence of the Tokugawa shoguns from 1603 to 1867, when they transferred sovereignty to the emperor.

It consists of two palaces: Ninomaru Palace, the residence of the shogun; and Honmaru Palace, which was moved from one of the imperial palaces much later. (The original palace burned down in 1788.)

The whole castle complex is surrounded by a moat, and Honmaru is surrounded by an additional inner moat.


Ninomaru was open to walk through, but no photography was allowed. And not just flash photography, but any photography or sketching.

The wooden floors in the palace are designed to creak, lest anyone try to sneak up on the shogun. They’re called nightingale floors and they really do sound like birds chirping.



Sushi from the Glue Factory

After I checked in last night (Toyoko Inn in downtown Kyoto), I went out in the rain to look for food. I stopped in one of those sushi places where the food’s on a conveyer belt and you just grab what you want as it goes by. Sort of like a Japanese tapas bar. After eating nearly nothing all day, I had eleven plates of sushi, plus some ice cream and tea. Most notable: horsemeat. It wasn’t bad, but didn’t merit seconds. Also, California roll is still called California roll, even in Japan. They just write it in katakana.

Mt. Aso to Kyoto

To save time, I went back to Kumamoto and north from there, rather than head over to the east coast of Kyushu and then north. I missed the first express train from Aso and the next one wouldn’t be for another 3 1/2 hours, so I took a local, which stopped at every station, parking lot, bike rack, and cow pasture on the way down the mountain. And all trains on this line have to stop twice to reverse direction. The edge of the caldera is so steep that they have to zig-zag.

I got to Kumamoto at noon, less than half an hour before catching the shinkansen to Shin-Osaka*, so no time for lunch. And I didn’t have breakfast, either. Just vending machine coffee, which is much better than you would expect. One brand is called “The Coffee.” It says:

“The Coffee” is authentic coffee with its special roasting and blending.

It’s ¥130 and comes in a metal bottle.

I missed the snack lady the first time she came by with the cart, and she didn’t come by again until after we’d left Shin-Yamaguchi. I got beef jerky, matcha ice cream, and Pocari Sweat ion water, whatever the hell that is. Cost almost ¥1000. Not much of a lunch, but it beats vending machine coffee.

From Kumamoto to Osaka is 790km (474 miles) and took 3 hours and 45 minutes on the shinkansen. That’s 126.4 mph, which isn’t as fast as I was expecting, but it does include stops.

There’s supposed to be a shinkansen from Osaka to Kyoto, but I couldn’t find it, so I took a regular express. The cities are practically right next to each other, so it was good enough.

It was clear and sunny in Kyushu. It’s raining in Kyoto. I may have to buy an umbrella.

* The shinkansen stations have “Shin” in front of them, to distinguish them from the regular stations with the older tracks. A few, like Kumamoto, are combined.