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My visiting Tokyo and Kyoto

I can't wrap up this summary without sharing some thoughts that I had as I was visiting this country that I had been wanted to discover for such a long time (not only because I studied Japanese). I remember that my first contact, as the train approached Tokyo, was that the outskirts look a lot like Paris. Europeans won't be extremely surprised by the difference, although Americans certainly will. However, the resemblance stops there. As soon as you get off the train, you are immediately struck by the density of the crowd and the intense and vibrant atmosphere that permeates everything. We got off the train at Shinjuku, which might also explain this unmistakable feeling (Shinjuku is the most modern neighborhood of Tokyo, where all the new high-tech shops and buildings are located).

I visited Tokyo and Kyoto for ten days during the "golden week", a unique week during the year when the Japanese enjoy numerous days off. Before going further, I must extend a very special thanks to Mami, who organized this trip for me and endured my countless questions on her language in general and Kanji in particular. Thank you so much, Mami, I owe you memories, the most precious gift.

Monday at 5am, we enter the metro, change at Shinjuku station and board the Shinkansen bound to Kyoto. Three hours total and peak speeds of 400 km/h (not the fastest line, the record is 443 km/h). We reach Kyoto station at 10 o'clock, have our bags sent to our Ryokan and start visiting. The schedule is busy, but in the two days we spent in Kyoto, we managed to visit the following places: Kinkaku-ji, Ryozen Kannon, Kyomizudera, Gingaku-ji, Ryoan-ji, Nijo-jo, Sanju-sangen-do. That's a lot of walking, even for a seasoned golfer (although I was also fighting a nasty virus during the whole week, which didn't help keep my energy at its usual level). What's amazing about Kyoto is that all the temples and castles are scattered within the city. No need to take a lengthy trip, all you need is a bus map and some patience (or some knowledge in Hiragana) in order to find your way. Good ears help too, as the destinations are usually announced on the buses.

We spent two nights in a Ryokan, which is a traditional Japanese hotel. This part of the trip in itself was a wonderful and enlightening experience, and I recommend it to anyone interested in discovering more about the Japanese culture (take note of the warnings I put in the link, though).

Tuesday night, we took the Shinkansen back to Tokyo and we stopped in Atami, a little sea resort one hour from Tokyo which has the particularity of having a lot of hot springs ("onsen"). Consequently, most of the hotels and ryokans feature public baths tapping directly in these hot springs.

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