Also known as Kyoto Imperial Palace: Tokyo Drift Edition.
In retrospect we were kind of defeating the purpose of the whole B&B experience. We were staying at Hotel Mume in the heart of Gion, and were constantly sleeping late despite the fact that the kind ladies who ran the place went to the trouble of preparing a full breakfast every morning.
One such morning, we had reservations to see the Kyoto Imperial Palace, and woke up early enough to actually take advantage of breakfast. We stopped paying attention to the time.
The Imperial Palace is not open to the public, per se, but they do allow visitors on guided tours provided they make reservations. Once the window is past, the gates are closed, and that’s that. We informed our hostess that we needed a taxi to the Imperial Palace, and she clearly saw problems with our logistical planning that we did not. Not only did she call the taxi, but while we were getting in, she frantically explained to the driver where we needed to go and that we were running late to make it to the Imperial Palace.
You’ve seen it in the movies– those one-lane, inner-city streets barely the width of the car itself that run between, around and behind buildings. Scatter in a healthy mix of telephone poles, trash cans, pedestrians, bike riders, sharp turns and any other traffic that needs to move via these corridors. Now imagine barreling down these streets at breakneck speeds in a taxi.
Our kindly old taxi driver was absolutely booking it down streets like this, trying to get us to where we needed to be. He got us there, all right, with maybe three minutes to spare. As best he could communicate, he gestured which direction we needed to go, but evidently he too saw problems with our planning– we were moving too slow. He totally abandoned his cab and ran past us, running the entire quarter mile to the gates of the Imperial Palace. We saw him communicating with the guards and motioning towards us, and we got the hint– we started running too. Eventually we caught up with him, the guards checked our credentials, and let us through.
Arigatou, Mr. Taxi Driver. Your flawless navigation of Kyoto’s labyrinthine back-alleys got us to the palace alive and breathing, and your willingness to abandon your post to make sure we got in netted you a loss of potential income and a gratuity of $0.
Meanwhile in the States, it’s unrealistic to expect your waiter to keep your drink from running dry, and it becomes a crime against humanity if you don’t pay them a 20% gratuity for the privilege of having to suck the moisture out of your vegetation while you wait for something else to wash it down with.
The palace was beautiful. It was a guided tour, so we didn’t get to do any exploring, but we did get to take a bunch of pictures.