From the japan Collection
We spent most of the day traveling from our home in San Francisco to Narita Airport in Tokyo, to Kyoto.
We got to the airport about an hour and a half before the flight and went though security in about 5 minutes. We got on a 747, the huge 3-4-3 seating planes. However, there was no in-flight entertainment, nor did the wi-fi ever work. Needless to say, we'll be flying ANA next time.
I tried to get some sleep, but the kid behind me kept kicking my chair. Once we landed in NRT, getting through customs was a breeze. There was a long line, but once we got up to the counter there was hardly anything we needed to do.
We visited a JTB Office in San Fransisco to order these a week or two before departing. It is required you obtain your JR Pass voucher before arriving in Japan, as they do not issue JR Passes in Japan.
We got through and made our way to the JR East Travel Service Center to pick up our JRail passes that we reserved before flying there. The longest part of our airport experience was here, where it took about an hour to get through the line with no air conditioning. Once we got up to the counter, we handed in our vouchers and the ladies behind the counter were extremely helpful in finding us the correct trains to get on.
We managed to find our platform just in time. We were taking the typical NEX train out of the airport. We didn't have to wait long to find the train moving and on its way to Shinagawa station (品川駅).
The train was a very clean and pleasant experience. We passed by a mix of countryside and dense city. Reid pulled out his iPhone gimbal to take some video when the woman in the seat in front of us to the right saw it. She proceeded to exclaim 'すごい！何これ？!' and take a bunch of pictures of him showing her how the gimbal worked.
There are three different carriages on a JR train: Unreserved seat, Reserved seat, and Green Car. With a JR Pass, you are allowed on most JR trains, but only in an unreserved seat carriage.
Once we got to Shinagawa, we needed to transfer to our next train, which was a shinkansen （新幹線）that would take us to Kyoto Station in approximately two and a half hours. We stopped to buy some food and snacks, as it had been a good 19 hours of travel so far and we still had a ways to go (we had some time to try out these vending machines we've been seeing everywhere). We had a little trouble figuring out where to go at first. Given that the ticket we were given at the JR center was for a specific train and platform, we needed to find the right platform. We had no idea that particular platforms on JRail are reserved for certain seats!
We finally arrived at Kyoto Station (京都駅). After a 20 minute walk, we arrived at our AirBnB where we would be staying for the next week.
At this point it is about 9pm and we were hungry. So we dropped off our belonings and headed out to gain our bearings. Luckily there were a few 24-hour restaurants across the street where we could quickly grab some grub. The restaurant we picked was やよい軒 五条烏丸店 and it was a type of restaurant where you order your food from a vending machine. You pay, it spits out tickets, give it to the staff, grab a seat and wait for your food. For a first dinner in Japan, it was quite good despite being essentially 'fast food'.
After dinner we decided to take a night time walk around the city. Eventually we made our way back to the AirBnB without getting lost and we just passed out after a long day of travel.