Andrew (10) and I are spending the day in our room at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto; he's not feeling well - dehydration or something heat related I think. I've had a lot of time to watch Discovery Channel shows including a good series on Modern Marvels about the cool new buildings in Beijing and my new favorite show, Man vs. Wild. (MM is on Discovery Channel out here, not History Channel like in the US.) I also read a lot, including Andrew's Young Bond books (Double or Die and Blood Fever)-- books about James Bond as a student at Eton -- not a bad rainy day read. The others are out looking at all the shrines and temples in Kyoto, but frankly, it's pouring (and I mean pouring) rain outside, so it's not the worst day to be in the room.
Yesterday, after we got in on the Shinkansen, we met Barbi's cool nephew Jonathan who came up from Miyako (a little Japanese island near Okinawa and home of Japan's best beaches) where he teaches English. Although we were getting around pretty well in Tokyo without any of us being able to speak much Japanese, it was great to have Jonathan's language assistance.
We first went up Kyoto Tower to get a lay of the land. It seems that there was a tower building rush across Japan at some point; there's even an association for city towers in Japan. The tower isn't very nice looking frankly, and it really doesn't blend with the older, more traditional feel of Kyoto.
The tower did, of course, have a nice view though. From this vantage point, it was clear that Kyoto was much smaller than Tokyo, with many temples mixed in with the newer buildings. Apparently, Kyoto wasn't bombed nearly as much as other Japanese cities during WW II, so there were many more old buildings than in Tokyo.
After the tower, we walked to the nearby Higashi Honganji, a Buddhist temple with the largest wooden building in the world; unfortunately, the large building was being renovated so they had built an aluminum building around the building to protect it while they worked on it. Fortunately, we could see the inside plus some other buildings. I loved the sparse design aesthetic - unadorned wood with minimal painting; it's quite different from Chinese temple design.
For dinner, we stuff ourselves at a decent inakaya - basically bar food where you order lots of little dishes like grilled skewers of meat, noodles, sushi, etc. We also ate a lot of mochi, a Japanese glutinously rice dessert that is a Kyoto speciality (this is the first time I've had it stuffed with chocolate and dusted with cinnamon.) Good stuff.