Thursday, September 11, 2008

Our Neighbour Tororo!

Slept in for a 7am breakfast this morning, as Karen's conference was over. We were served in our room at the ryokan again our final meal there, which we followed by having a japanese bath -- boys in the men's bath, Karen in the women's. By about 10am, we checked out, saying many goodbyes to the staff, the owners and the fish. We had Karen's new large orange roller-luggage packed, which massively lightened the load. A much better way to travel (though a beast to carry down and up the stairs of the metro stations!)

We headed on the metro to Yokohama Station, where we transfered onto the JR Tokaido line to Tokyo Station. We managed to catch a Rapid train, so made the trip in good time. At Tokyo station, we headed back to the lockers we had used on the first days, hoping very much that our new super-sized hardshell bag would fit inside. And it did! One swipe of our Suica card (prepaid transport/services card) and off we went on the another rapid train on the Chou line to the Tokyo suburb of Mitaka to take in the Studio Ghibli Museum. A transfer on a tiny yellow totoro-painted bus, and we were at the famous site.

The Ghibli Museum is a theme park dedicated to a favorite movie studio of ours -- one the kids are also really familiar with (My Neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away, Naussica, Princess Mononoke, Porco Roso, Howl's Moving Castle, all favorites). We had bought reserved tickets in Canada because they only let a limited number of people in a day. The museum grounds were lovely -- lushly planted and set inside a municipal park, and the architecture of the museum whimsicle but not tacky in any way. Lots of little places to explore, small doors, sneaky little bridges and so on. Inside, the exhibits show the art of animation spectacularly well. The boys (and parents!) were completely impressed with this 3-d sculpture thing that spins and then when put under a strobe light turns into an animation of its own. There was also a small theatre for a short film which we watched, and an completely organic cafe wher we had a good vegetarian (western-style) lunch with gelato icecream. The giftshop had lots of cute (and very expensive) stuff and was the only crowded place in the museum. Odd too, as there are lots of Ghibli-themed stores around Tokyo.

After the museum, we headed back on a very fast 'special rapid' train on the Chou line to Tokyo, where we went to the JR ticket office to reserve seats on the Shinkansen. We were able to get seats on the train that left in 20 minutes, so we grabbed two bento-box lunches (Karen found a japanese-style vegetarian one!) and three salmon umeboshi, and we were off.

The train was one of the older Hikari 300-series trains, a define step down in speed and style from the nice N700 series we had used the other day. We sat at the back of car 14 (of 16), which was right next to the smoking cars. It stank the whole way. We were glad to have had the bento boxs because no real food was offered on the 3 hour journey.

We did pass by Mt Fuji at sundown and managed to take a few nice pictures. Otherwise the time was passed with the usual window gawking, lego building, and book reading.

We got to Kyoto at about 8pm, 40 minutes before our shuttle bus to the Holiday Inn was scheduled to leave. Alden was a bit tired, so I perched him on top of the massive orange roller luggage and rolled him around the station, while Karen and Elwyn hunted for snacks and small souvenirs. The 30-minute bus ride was pleasent, driving along one of the rivers in Kyoto, looking at lots of beautifully lit buildings.

The Holdiay Inn here is standard, unimpressive even, particularly after 4 luxurious days in ryokan. At least it is mostly free.


Anonymous said...

Neil - Quite the whirlwind!

Anonymous said...

Aww too cool. Mt. Fuji at sunset!


Anonymous said...

I love traveling vicariously through your blog - my feet never get tired, and you describe the sights and especially foods so appealingly!
...maybe we'll have sushi tonight...
- Rob