Highlights of today:
Spending the day with Howard, Ray, and Gina. The two guys are American/Taiwanese (they went to college together, and their families still live in Taiwan) and Gina is German.
First, I did a palace tour of Kyoto Imperial Palace at 10:00 am. I made the reservation a month before since I had heard it fills up somewhat in the days before the tour you want. Kyoto was the capital of Japan for many years, during which time the palace was much bigger. Sometime in the 1800s I think it was, the capital was changed to Tokyo and Kyoto Palace was not used much except for the ceremony of introducing a new emperor. During WWII, many buildings were moved for fear that they would be damaged, so the palace isn’t nearly as large and spread out as it was formerly.
Next I met up with the three at our hostel. We went to Kyoto station and had to wait a really long time for a bus to Fushimi Inaru station. The guys and Gina could have used their JR passes to get there much faster, but I only had the bus pass so they agreed to wait. We missed the first bus, and ultimately had to wait over an hour for the next one, which ended up being packed. It was totally worth it though! The guys were debating if they should hike the whole thing or not, because they had barely made it into Kyoto Khaosan and were having to relocate to a hostel in Osaka. They had to check in by 9 they thought, and would be cutting it super close. Ultimately they decided to hike it with us. I got some great pictures and sweated up a storm. Afterward we ate ramen at the this really good ramen restaurant. (not like the prepackaged stuff back home!)
Ray and I accidentally ordered cold noodles though, but all was still ok. The guys found out they could check into their hostel at 11:00, and rushed off after we ate. Gina and I decided to go to Gion where we heard a walkway was lit up by lamps. We had taken only two pictures and the lights were shut off! It was only 9:30. We thought it was maybe a little early to shut them off, but we left anyway. Next, we got dessert from a cafe. Gina and I agreed to meet for breakfast tomorrow. Today has been my favorite day so far.