9 days away
15 km / 9 miles since last post
10,400 km / 6,462 miles total
We had great night's sleep once again, and decided not to set the alarm this morning and make the most of our last lay-in in the Hyatt Hotel. It was well needed!
After packing up our bags we checked out of the Hyatt around 11:30am and headed to the subway station. We needed to go six stops to get to our next hotel, the Ana Hotel.
Unfortunately, upon arriving at the hotel we were advised that check-in wasn't for another 25 minutes, but we took this opportunity to grab a seat outside in the sun and eat the late breakfast we'd bought along the way.
The new hotel seems very nice, and we have another spacious room and bathroom - and this time breakfast is included so I think we've landed a fairly good deal. It is also located across the road from Nijo Castle, the attraction we planned on visiting today.
We headed over the road to the Nijo Castle, which cost a reasonable 600 yen (about a fiver) each to get in. Building of this castle began in 1603 as the official residence of the first Tokugawa Shogun (a military rank and historical title for the hereditary military dictator of Japan) and was completed in 1626. It is a fine building with beautiful gardens and lavish paintings and carvings, and it is clear to see why it was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1994.
We took a walk around the castle moat first, which takes you through the tranquil gardens. They had an art expo in one of the buildings - which someone advised us was previously the castle kitchens. There were some lovely pieces; some wonderfully carved chairs and some interesting weighing scales that when stood upon showed various pictures instead of your weight.
We continued our walk around the castle, arriving back at the start and from here we entered the main building. You had to remove your shoes before going inside, and there was a marked route to take you through the building and past various rooms of the castle. There were some very old paintings on the walls made with paint and gold leaf. They had mannequins in some of the rooms to display how these rooms would have been used and by whom.
After leaving the castle we took a walk to find some lunch. We came across a great little cafe where we could get udon noodles. After we both selected our udon noodles with beef and were about to take it to our table, a man in the cafe advised us that we were supposed to fill our bowl of noodles with some broth from one of the self-serve urns (that will be the udon noodle 'soup' then!) Very nice of him to point that out for us, otherwise they would have been a bit dry.
Another point of interest in this area is the International Manga Museum. Manga literally means "whimsical pictures" and consists of comics and print cartoons in the Japanese language and conform to the style developed in Japan in the late 19th century. In their modern form, manga date from shortly after World War II but they have a long, complex pre-history in earlier Japanese art. The museum was founded to celebrate the value manga holds internationally, and also to help pass it down to the new generations of fans. It effectively functions as a museum and library and they have nearly 300,000 items in their collection. I don't know a great deal about manga, but it really is an impressive collection and a must see for any big manga fan.
After an eventful day, we headed back to our hotel for some rest and grabbed a few bits for dinner along the way. Back at the hotel we (or should I say "I") did some well needed washing - our first load since arriving in Japan. We'll also work out what is next to see and do in Kyoto tomorrow.