The subway was busy but not so crowded that travelling with our backpacks was a problem, and we had no difficulty remembering the route to the shinkansen platforms at Tokyo station where we traded the free drinks coupons that came with our tickets for two cans of beer. The shop also sold miniscule sandwiches for ¥650, so I was glad we’d made our own.
Our train pulled in half an hour before our scheduled departure but we were kept on the platform until the cleaning crew had done its job and bowed to the waiting passengers. You don’t get that with British Rail. Our seats turned out to be a pair on the right hand side, just as we had requested, and once we had left the city limits we might have had great views of Mount Fuji if we had actually been able to see anything at all. The weather forecast was correct: driving rain and low cloud reduced visibility to barely 200m at times, and both Fujisan and the coastline were completely invisible. I was so glad that we’d made the trip out to Kawaguchiko.
The journey took four hours – not the fastest possible journey, but that was because our cheapo tickets only enabled us to travel on the slower Kodamo train. This train still travels at high speeds, but it stops more frequently than others. It didn’t feel particularly fast when I was sitting down, but the constantly changing tilt was very noticeable as soon as I went to test out the toilet facilities (squeaky clean, as expected, and the conductor had folded the toilet paper into a point as he passed along – First Great Western staff would probably go on strike if that was added to their job description!).
We didn’t even think about walking to our accommodation: too far and still pouring with rain. Just like in Tokyo the taxi driver spoke no English and wasn’t familiar with our destination, but once I’d showed him the address in Japanese his satnav did the rest.
The Gyojo Ivy didn’t look promising, with steep, narrow stairs and grey metal corridors that rather resembled Slade Prison. Mr V stayed in the 1st floor with the bags while I went up to the 3rd, as instructed by email, to report our arrival. I don’t know what I expected to find, but not a laundry area with a mobile phone wired to the wall, with a notice directing me to speed-dial 1. A voice on the other end promised to arrive within 20 minutes, but meanwhile our apartment was unlocked.
It was maybe a little smaller than Tokyo one and not as well designed but, it did have a grill. Nor did it have towels, other than a bathmat, but we had known that would be the case: not a problem, we had beach towels. After we had unpacked, and handed over £285 for the week, we moved the furniture around to make better use of the space.
In the dusk and rain we went to check out the neighbourhood, eventually locating a small supermarket a few blocks north. It didn’t have much, but we picked up a ready meal for dinner and some eggs for breakfast. But it was clear that if we wanted to eat in, we were going to have to figure out where the good people of Kyoto did their food shopping.