Most people who know me know that breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. So imagine my sheer joy upon finding out that Yumi arranged for us to have complimentary breakfast buffet at the hotel for each day of our trip! We had to be down to breakfast by 7am since our tour day was starting promptly at 8:00. The layout was amazing. I didn't get a photo of it because i needed two hands to carry my tray and food and drinks etc. plus i would have felt really weird trying to photograph the food while people were trying to serve themselves, etc.
everything was represented though...Western foods as well as Japanese foods. there was orange, apple and grapefruit juice, scrambled eggs, waffles, bacon (not crispy tho..yuck) sausages, hash browns, miso soup, smoked salmon & mackerel, fresh fruit, garden salad, fresh pastries, yogurt, cereal, hard boiled eggs, broccoli and a bunch of other vegetables and Japanese dishes that i didn't recognize. just amazing. all for 1900 yen. which was approximately $15. i was in heaven. cuz we certainly were not about to pay 1900 precious yen to buy that buffet every morning on our own.
when we were done, a big brown tour bus waited for us outside. we were scheduled to see 3 temples in the morning, break for lunch, then see 3 more temples in the afternoon. then go back to the hotel, get changed quickly and be ready for our geisha entertainment dinner. hectic, man.
We left our hotel then picked up a bunch of other people at other hotels until the bus was full. Our tour guide gave us an oral history of Kyoto while we rode to our first destination...i was barely listening to her cuz i was too busy looking out the window. the city was so fascinating. the streets were incredibly clean..no litter anywhere. in fact, it was even hard to spot trashcans on the streets. also it was quiet...no car horns blaring at each other...folks ride their bikes on the sidewalks, sometimes in the bike lane and sometimes not. people don't jaywalk. even if there are no cars coming, 99% of them wait until the get the WALK signal before crossing. and the cars ...they were so incredibly tiny and odd-looking.
but the most striking thing about Kyoto was how you would see regular buildings and houses with huge temples sandwiched between them...it was obvious that the city of Kyoto was literally built AROUND it's historic temples. speaking of which...our first stop was Nijo castle.
Walking through the gate of such a place...the type of place that i'd only seen on tv or in kung-fu movies...it was really surreal. As we entered, we were told to remove our shoes and that we were not allowed to take any photographs. the tour guide also explained that this was the home of the shogunate back in the 17th century. as we walked through the long, sunlit hallways of the castle we all heard this faint chirping sound coming from underneath the floorboards...it wasn't squeaking; it was chirping. we were told that one of the things the Shogun did to protect himself and his family from attacking ninjas seeking to overthrow his empire was to install 'nightingale' floors. the floors had these metal contraptions built underneath that would immediately betray any unwanted visitors. once we were all outside again, we attempted to investigate...you really couldn't see much of it from the outside...you would have to crawl all the way under the deck and peer into that dark grating. not many adults were able to successfully get down under there. or they didn't want to try. I was one of them...knees getting too old for that!
the guy on the left was our "paparazzi", Lee. He was hired to take photos of us during our entire trip. it was fun stealing photos of him cuz he hid from my camera alot. the other guy was taking a break from his sweeping duties....maybe to watch the funny looking black people?