Posts Tagged kyoto station

July 3, 2004 pt3 – Kaiten zushi

Not my picture – thanks Wikipedia!

After a long day of sightseeing in Kyoto, my family and I were back near our hotel and hungry. By this point in the trip, my mom and sister wanted a break from Japanese food. They saw a McDonalds in Kyoto station and were determined to get some familiar food. My dad reminded them that they could eat McDonalds in Canada, but they didn’t care. To compromise, my father and I dropped off my mother and sister at the golden arches and then set out to find some Japanese food.

There are way too many restaurants in and around Kyoto station. After looking around for a while, we settled on a small small kaiten zushi restaurant. Kaiten zushi (the s in sushi becomes a “z” after kaiten) restaurants have a conveyor belt that moves plates of sushi through the restaurant. Smaller restaurants will have the chefs in the middle with sushi moving around them. Larger restaurants will have huge conveyors that wind their way through the restaurant.

Our restaurant was relatively small, so we sat at the counter. We ordered beer, and were amused to find that our glasses were filled by an automatic beer pouring machine. The machine tilted the glass at an angle, and the spout moved along the inside of the glass to reduce the head. Near the top, the machine returned the glass to an upright position and added a tiny bit of foam to the top. The machine created a perfect pour every time, and was a lot of fun to watch.

We had a few sips from our perfectly poured beers and then turned our attention to the conveyor belt and the tiny plates of sushi going by. Like other kaiten zushi restaurants, the plates were colour coded by price.  My dad seemed confused, so I told him to just grab anything that looked good as it was going by. The problem was that he wasn’t very familiar with sushi, and didn’t know what was good. I selected a few pieces of the least threatening sushi as they passed our section of the counter. After a enjoying the first few pieces, he started to make his own selections, trying some familiar fish and some more adventurous choices. Several plates and another beer later, we were both pleasantly stuffed.

After dinner we took a walk around the station building and surrounding area. Unlike major train stations in Tokyo, there wasn’t a lot going on around Kyoto station. We passed a number of small izakayas, and thanks to the window models I was able to instruct my dad on the difference between jocky (a regular size glass of beer), daijocky (a big glass of beer), and the rare but impressive super jocky (a really big glass of beer).

Near the station we walked by a pachinko parlour. Like many foreigners, my dad was confused by the concept. I explained that gambling for money was illegal, but you could win a small prize and then sell it for cash at the nearby prize exchange. He sounded skeptical until we walked by the prize exchange window.

When we had our fill of exploring, we returned to the hotel to find my mother and sister were happy with their McDonalds dinner, and that they had also done some minor exploring in the stores around the station. I am sure they had fun, but I really enjoyed the beer and sushi with my dad. When I was growing up, my dad was always interested in taking me to new places and teaching me new things. It was great to get the opportunity to return the favour.

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July 2, 2004 pt3 – Where is the f**king hotel?

Kyoto station

My family and I started July 2 in Kawasaki, then traveled to Hiroshima and visited the Peace Memorial Park. The third and final stage of our long day of travel was returning to Kyoto and checking into a hotel.

From Hiroshima we took the shinkansen to Kyoto station. Yesterday I made an online reservation at the Dai-Ni Tower Hotel in Kyoto, which was described as “just in front of JR Kyoto station”. The only problem was that Kyoto station is HUGE. The station itself is Japan’s second largest station building. In addition to having train service on JR, private train companies, and Kyoto subway, the station also features a shopping mall, movie theatre, and government services. If you need to do anything other than sightseeing in Kyoto, chances are good that you can find it at Kyoto station.

We got off the train with our bags, and then tried to find an area map. The station was so huge that the map was not helpful at all. I decided it was time to test out my Japanese ability and ask for directions. I found a nearby station information booth, approached it and asked the friendly attendant how to find the Dai-Ni Tower hotel.

Asking “where is blabla” is one of the first things people learn in a new language. In Japanese, it is very simple: “blabla wa doko desu ka?”, where blabla is the person, place, or thing you wish to know the location of. The difficult part is understanding the answer.

The helpful attendant looked relieved that I could speak some Japanese, and then proceeded to give me 5 minutes of detailed instructions at high speed. I got him to repeat the instructions, and tried to follow along with language and hand gestures. The directions were as follows:

  1. Walk to the end of the station
  2. Turn left
  3. Walk half way through a bunch of restaurants and stores
  4. Turn left
  5. Walk half way down another long hallway
  6. Go down some stairs
  7. Walk underground for a while, taking a slight right
  8. Go up some stairs
  9. ????
  10. There’s the hotel

We did pretty well following the instructions until the last part. We left the underground area at the wrong exit, and ended up at the back of Kyoto station with no Dai-Ni Tower hotel in sight. After unsuccessfully trying to find an area map, I got my family to wait nearby with the luggage while I tried to find someone else to get directions from. After a search, I ended up learning that the hotel was very close to where my family was sitting.

I returned to find my sister in a hilarious conversation with some drunk businessmen. They were trying (very poorly) to flirt with her in English by talking about how her gaijin nose was so nice and their Japanese noses were very flat. She declined an offer to go for a drink, and we were on our way.

At the hotel we learned that the online reservation didn’t work, but the hotel quickly found us rooms at the online rate using excellent English. We got our room keys and rode a tiny elevator up to our rooms.

I can’t speak for people from other parts of the world, but North Americans are always shocked by the size of Japanese hotel rooms. My parents had their own room, and my sister and I shared a room. If we could have knocked out the wall between the two rooms it would have been about the size of a typical Canadian hotel room. It was small, but at least we found the f**king hotel.

(2014 Update) Despite our difficulty in finding it, I would recommend the Dai-Ni Tower Hotel. It is located close to the station, is clean, quiet, and reasonably priced. Look it up on your favourite map website first, or make good use of any mobile device with GPS. Also, travel light: the only thing less fun than being lost is being lost while transporting large bags. Travel light!

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