Another breakfast at Sazuya (902¥) prepared us for our last full day in Japan and our tour of the Kyoto Imperial Palace. They have a guided tour in English; all tours require you make a reservation though. Reservations are made in an office building located within the ground of the Palace gardens. We had stopped by the office building the day after the festival; however, we weren’t sure it was actually open. Some places were still closed for the festival holiday, and the building looked a bit desolate. We sat down for a bit in the garden mulling over what to do and watched a few other groups trudge to the building and turn around.
Fortunately, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to just try the door in case it was open; if you guessed that the office was actually open, pass go and collect 200 virtual yen. They require you to fill out a small form providing your name, address, passport number, etc. Given the numerous privacy leaks from Japanese government agencies, I wasn’t thrilled to have to fill this out, but I wanted to see the palace. Never thought two years later would see Japan fingerprinting and photographing everyone who entered the country.
With our reservation in hand, we headed for the main gate and met up with our tour guide and the rest of the group. Impressive… that is the only way to summarize the compound. There was plenty of amazing artwork, architecture, and gardens. Our group was rather large, so it was difficult to hear our guide unless you were close to the front of the pack. You get a sense of how large the compound is when you walk around the outside park, but it isn’t until you are inside that you truly get a sense for its scale.
We didn’t do too much after that; we mainly hit some shops and walked around doing some final sightseeing. We stopped back at Ippodo to pick up a few more teas (1260¥). Postcards and postage (336¥, 280¥) were acquired for mailing before we left. Strolled the shops on Teramachidōri one last time; Jm picked up some washi paper (4320¥) for herself while I picked up a small Gojira gachapon (200¥) for a friend at work. Hit a Sega arcade just to see what games they had. The big game was some card based RTS franchise; didn’t recognize it but could smell the merchandising in the air. Vending machines would dispense card packs, booster sets, etc.
Jm wanted to stop at a lacquerware store near Teramachidōri, but our luck meant it was closed that day. We couldn’t see any shop hours posted, but the guidebook said it should open at 9:30AM. I promised Jm we would get up early and stake out the entrance to hopefully get a quick glance in before we had to leave the next day. It would be tight to get there and back to the hotel for our airport shuttle, but I was determined she would get a chance to shop there.
Tempura was on the menu for dinner, and Takasebune was recommended by the Lonely Planet guide. It was located behind the Hankyū department store in a classic Japanese house. Walking to it was an interesting experience; it was the first area I would call “sketchy” other than some of the paths of Shinjuku. Didn’t really see or experience anything discomforting, but it definitely wasn’t an area the board of tourism would put on their maps. However, the restaurant was fantastic though I don’t really recall what our tempura sets contained. All that is left is the memory of the walk there, sitting in the tatami room, and the cost jotted down in Jm’s journal (7008¥). We walked off dinner for a bit and found Lipton Tea Shop, a nice tea and sweets shop. Two pieces of cake and some tea (1650¥) topped off dinner nicely. Somewhere along our wanderings during the day we also picked up some CC Lemon from a machine (150¥).
After dessert, we walked a bit more and finally strolled back to the hotel. While the last taste of bizarre Kyoto late night TV kept us awake, we sadly packed our bags for our departure the next day. Neither of us wanted to leave; we had fallen in love with Japan and wished we could stay much, much longer. Wasn’t easy getting to sleep that night.