Well today was very full, but as Ryan said, we managed it on our own without getting lost! We were at the gates of Kyoto Castle at 8:45 where we walked around some beautiful gardens that belonged to the Sho-gun. We also went inside (no shoes) and saw the painted walls and the most interesting part, the floors that squeaked like nightingales, to warn of intruders, which happened by the way the joists and bearers are set up.
Then we caught a taxi to the Imperial Palace in Kyoto (it was the capital of Japan before Tokyo and after Nara). We arrived at about 9:58 and had to sign in and show passports etc. It didn't cost anything, but it is by guided tour only and the tour started at 10am or 2pm. We were allowed to join the 10am tour, but the security guard made us run to join the group. He was also at every intersection, counting to make sure no one strayed from the allowed path. However, it was beautiful and the private gardens are impressive. The emperor still uses this palace when he comes to Kyoto and although he was not enthroned here, the special coronation thrones were flown to Tokyo by helicopter for his ceremony.
After this we caught trains to Osaka. This is the only place i remember from our trip in 1976. We went to the aquarium. I think the boys blogs will tell you what they thought of that. It was amazing. The biggest tank had 2 whale sharks in it and sometimes you had to look for them!! It was set up as a tour around the pacific ring of fire so as you walked around the huge Pacific Ocean tank which stayed on your right, on your left were smaller tanks showing the sea life from that part of the Pacific.
After that we made a stop just for me. We went to Osaka castle. This is what I remember of Japan. It is magnificent. We got there just as the sun was going down, so Luc's photos are great, with the gold at the top glistening in the sun light. We also found a coin-stamping machine, so now I have a coin with my name on it 34 1/2 years after I got my first one from the same castle.
It was a weary 4 Betbeders that made our way via several trains back to Kyoto and found ourselves in the same vending machine ticketed restaurant that we enjoyed last night. Then up to blog, have baths for weary feet and put out the futons to go to bed...Good night!