Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Family Visit: Nishiki Market & Return to Tokyo

On the morning of our last day in Kyoto, and last full day in Japan, we wanted to do something during the day, before catching the 17.02 Shinkansen back to Tokyo. I would have loved to see Kiyomizu-dera or Fushimi Jingu, but unfortunately we didn't have time. I hope to return to Kyoto to see the sights I missed.

Instead, we went somewhere someone had recommended to me at Gaba. It was Nishiki Market, about 30 minutes walk from Kyoto station.

It was another bright, warm day, but there was a cloud hanging over my mind. I couldn't push the sadness out of my head, I knew that this time tomorrow I would be on my own again.

We stopped at a couple of nice sights on the way, and my mum took a photo with a Glamour magazine in front of a nice temple, so she could enter the 'Around the World Photos' competition. We had lunch in a small restaurant and then headed into the market.

It was full of everything you could want to buy. There was clothing, jewellery, and most of all, food! There was such a wide variety of strange foodstuffs, and the smells ranged from enticing to frightening.

The market stretched on for several buildings, all in one long straight line.

My brother and I met a devil holding cherry blossom!

The fruit is as huge here as it is in Tokyo! All those chemicals... We bought an apple and cut slices off it - it actually fed five of us!

After the market, we realised we didn't have time to walk all the way back to Kyoto Station, so we went to our nearest station after buying a bit more food to keep us going.

We got on an Express train and wanted to go two stops, then walk to Kyoto Station. But we didn't realise that the express train skipped the first stop, and then made our stop the first one. I was standing there reading the station name in kanji, when I suddenly thought, hold on, didn't we want this one? By the time I'd worked it out, the doors had closed and the train was on its merry way again. I exlained what must have happened, and we said we'd get off at the next station. But no so luck! The express train missed the next five stops before giving us a chance to turn back.

So the last part of our day was a little rushed! We got back to the hotel to collect our bags and everything on time though, and then got to the station to catch our train.

We settled into our seats, as you can see on this photo on my Dad's Flickr page.

And then we were off again, leaving Kyoto behind us. It really was amazing. It was such a pretty place, and so different to Tokyo. I think it's definitely a must for any visit to Japan.

The following are videos showing the view from the train. Sorry about the occassional reflection of my camera or my face!

You can also see the shots of Mt. Fuji taken from the train window.

By the time we got back to Yokohama and Tokyo, it was dark, and there were good opportunities to see the city all lit up!

The train journey back wasn't nearly long enough. I tried to speak to all of my family, saying the things I'd made mental notes to mention. The whole time I was being struck with waves of sadness and foreboding as the goodbye came closer.

We pulled into Tokyo station and collected our bags. It wasn't such a rush to get off the train this time as Tokyo was the terminal.

On the way to take my family to their platform, I realised that I couldn't bear to leave them here, even if I did intend to get up early and wave them off at the airport. It just wasn't enough time with them. I knew I'd regret it if I went back to my guesthouse and didn't spend one last night with them.

We discussed it and decided that we'd make it work. The relief that flooded through me was immense, my mind was completely full of thoughts of staying with them. Nothing else mattered.

Because the way I got to Narita Airport to collect my family was so long and arduous, we decided to take the JR Sobu line from Tokyo station straight through to Narita Airport. Unfortunately we didn't know you had to reserve the N'EX Narita Express train, so we took a normal train.

This wasn't the easiest thing in the world! The Express train that pulled in was very crowded already, so we dragged all our luggage in, and the train slowly filled up with more and more people heading out from work to the suburbs in Chiba Prefecture to the East.

The train journey was very uncomfortable, until the train started hitting the major suburban stations, like Funabashi and Chiba. Then the flow of people started to ease off and we could sit down and relax.

By the time we reached Narita Airport, there were only a few people left on the train.

I was with my family!

We entered the airport, all having flashbacks of when I met them a week earlier. The hotel was nearby, but all the taxis were long-distance. One driver spoke English and told us that there was a free shuttle bus going to our hotel. We arrived at the right bus stop and it was waiting there. We clambered aboard and were off! It was surprisingly simple.

The hotel was very nice, despite being only 3*, it had the feeling of a 4 or 5*. We went up to the rooms and ordered some food, watching Japanese TV. It was so nice to still be there with them. It was like an extension of the holiday.

We went to bed late, at gone midnight, and then slept well, because we needed to be up early for their flight.

What a mad rush of emotions. I was confused, happy, and sad all at the same time. Was any of it actually happening?

One thing was certain, we'd be saying goodbye again very soon.

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