Kyoto is a very big city, with very bad traffic. Getting around takes time, unless you can use one of the two subway lines, which doesn’t happen very often. My hotel was on the older north-south line, but north of the station. The lone elevator was at the south end, which gave me a choice of a long limp or nearly 60 stairs.
In fact, the Palace Side’s location turned out a lot worse than I expected, at least for someone with mobility problems. The nearest main bus line was down by the subway station, and the whole neighborhood shut down mid-afternoon, leaving few eating options.
The neighborhood did have a hospital, the Daini Nisseki, but they wanted a 5,250 yen new patient exam before they’d look at my ankle, and warned me of a long wait. Kind posters on Fodors.com tried to help me with other suggestions, but nothing worked out. And then my medical insurance would only cover me for a visit to an emergency room. Except they don’t have emergency rooms in Japanese hospitals…
I also spent a fair amount of time at the station. None of the three ticket offices I tried wanted to sell me tickets for other parts of Japan, and none would sell me the 115 yen Seishun Juhachi Kippu, good for five days of rail travel, available in Tokyo, claiming it had been discontinued several days earlier. I guess no one told Shinagawa station in Tokyo. I managed to buy the tickets from the Nippon Travel Agency instead.
The station was a good place for lunch – one tempura set on the department store side, and one Chinese fried rice on the “Cube” side. The second meal came with a great view north over the city.
I did manage some sightseeing, starting with Nijo Castle, which was so different from the English castles I grew up visiting I had a hard time registering it as a military site – until I took a good look at the massive stone walls. I was less impressed with the nearby Nishijin Textile Center. The kimono parade was interesting, but the demonstrations I tracked down on the third floor were winding down, and it mostly seemed to be a shopping op.
I visited just a handful of Kyoto’s many temples, unfortunately in the wrong order, with the best first. That was Koto-In, in the Daitokuji temple complex. Koto-In was founded by Hosokawa Tadaoki, and he and his wife, Lady Gracia (both the basis for characters in Clavell’s “Shogun”) are buried at the temple, which is approached down a long, shaded avenue. I thoroughly enjoyed the serenity I had been missing in modern Kyoto, sitting on the verandah and admiring the mossy ground, the feathery bamboo, and the trees showing the first hints of fall color.
Another peaceful place I’d be happy to revisit, Eikan-do, even had a brand-new elevator to get me up to the most important building. The elevstor was housed in its own raw-wood tower, with sprays of delicate maple leaves etched on the metal doors. The main building housed an unusual Buddha Glancing Backward statue.
My visit to the famed Ginkaku-ji was much less successful. To start with, it was a long trek from the bus stop, uphill, and through a gauntlet of souvenir shops and cafes (luckily I found a more peaceful route back, through residential streets). Second, the place was overrun by hordes of fellow-tourists. Finally, the buildings and grounds just didn’t seem that exciting. I should have gone back to Daitokuji instead.