April 3 and 4: Imperial Palace and Daitokuji

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I arrived at Kyoto Station to absolute chaos; crowds of people milling around in every direction clearly not knowing where to go. These were Western crowds; Japanese crowds always have a direction. I couldn’t remember exactly where to go but finally found the tourist office and armed with maps figured out which subway to take and got out of there.

It was not a nice day: chilly and threatening rain that never came. I left my suitcase at the hotel and went for a long walk, finally stopping for lunch in a Thai restaurant. More walking, stopping at a kind of supermarket and picking up some stuff for dinner, then walking back to the hotel through the gardens of the Imperial Palace which are open all the time and even include a children’s playground.

I am staying, as I have on my previous trips, at the Palace Side Hotel, across the street from the Imperial Palace. It’s inexpensive, pleasant and the staff is always helpful and wonderful. They also have laundry and kitchen facilities and a small, guest contributed library. It has a lovely, communal feel to it; not so hotely. The only thing I would change is the restaurant, which is expensive and the last time I tried it, not very good. I would love to be able to eat there but I settle for supermarket stuff in my room.

April 4 brought full sunshine and the opportunity to attend an open house to inside the walls of the Imperial Palace. I did this once before and I’m not interested in the palace itself, but wanted to see the gardens again. There are gardens inside and outside the walls. The entire property is 700 meters wide by 1300 meters long.

Hoping that by coming early I would avoid the crowds I arrived at ten to nine to find a huge crowd already lined up. I waited, they let everyone in and I walked through to the gardens. There are two of them: a wonderful,  private garden for the emperor and next to it a wonderful, more public facility. Public in this case means royal family or visitors.

Too many people to really enjoy. I took some pictures but I’ll try to get back again. The open house lasts until April 8. Maybe there will be fewer people if I come toward the end of the day. Also the sun will be in a better position. I was having a hard time seeing what I was actually photographing and I am amazed I got anything. That little camera is great.

Taking a bus and subway I went on to Daitokuji, a large, important  temple complex north of the palace where I visited gardens in a couple of the subtemples. There is no cherry-tree viewing here so it was peaceful and pleasant. The gardens were not exceptional but I enjoyed them.

I couldn’t figure out how to get to two of the subtemples and finally decided I had enough. Walking south through a lovely, residential area I came to a shrine with beautiful cherry blossoms and found a place called Art Space CASAne with some tiny books in the window I might have bought had she been open. Now I might have to make my own.

A short bus ride brought me to another supermarket where I bought two oranges, strawberries, some cut pineapple, tomatoes, cooked lotus root, (I make it better) and inari sushi, which is not fish but rice in a tofu skin wrapper. All vegetarian.