Fellow readers, friends, and family it has been a long time, has it not? Sorry, it seems the procrastination hit me hard the past month, but now I am back and ready for more blog update. First off, I will finish my discussion of the Vietnam trip part two in a later post; however, for this update I will give everyone an insight on my trip to Kyoto.
A big shoutout and thanks to my friend Yuka for booking the bus tickets for this trip. With a whopping 4200円(40USD) per person, we were able to take a bus to and from Kyoto in under three hours. There are plenty of bus tickets out there, but I recommend going for Willer Express if you are looking for something cheap. Luckily for me, Yuka was able to purchase from another company which saved us a good 500円(3USD). Not much when you think about it, but believe me, 500円 is a decent sized meal in Shiogamaguchi.
Also, another thing to research before taking a weekend trip are living accommodations. If you are comfortable with couch hopping or experiencing the Japan life, I would look into this website: https://www.couchsurfing.com.
I have yet to try out couch surfing, but numerous friends have told me the experience is quite memorable and fun. You are given a list of hosts, so if one is not to your liking other options are available.
Hostels will become your best friend in Japan, especially places such as Hana Hostel and J-Hoppers. Both of these hostels give foreigners the experience of living in various dorm options. For example, Yuka and I stayed in a mixed dormitory for about 2400円(22USD) which are eight beds all in one room. Bathrooms are available on each floor, and there are about three showers scattered around the building. All of the J-Hoppers in Japan are equipped with English speaking staffs, towel rentals, luggage storage, Wi-Fi access, bicycle rental (500円), and a common room for cooking, studying, and chatting. Not bad at all for the price, plus there are J-Hoppers in major cities of Japan such as: Osaka, Kyoto, Hida Takayama, and HIroshima. A branch off from J-Hoppers is Hana Hostel which I believe also has a similar concept, though I cannot say for sure since I have never stayed at a Hana Hostel. Another bonus tip, every three nights you stay at J-Hoppers you can get a discount of 300円 off your next visit, or just keep adding the points for a potential free night one day! Anyway, here is the link if you ever want to live cheaply while traveling in Japan: http://j-hoppers.japanhostel.net/ — I also recommend checking this website out for even cheaper hostels around your selected area: http://www.hostelworld.com/
Now that we have that out of the way, let us get on to the adventure stories!
March 20, 2015 Nagoya –> Kyoto
The first thing we did was drop off our luggage at J-Hoppers and went towards Tsujiri, a famous matcha shop in Kyoto. So if you are in the area and love matcha, go here for a 1200円(10USD) delicious matcha parfait. There was about a thirty minute in line for this shop, but boy was it worth it. 伏見稲荷神社(Inari Jinja). Inari, is the Japanese word for fox and jinja means shrine; therefore, when you put the two together it becomes the fox shrine. Just as the name says, this shrine’s dedicates its worship practices towards foxes. Japan is filled with shrines whose deity; what makes this shrine special are the mass collections of torii gates scattered across the area. Also, the entire shrine is built upon a mountain to which you can attempt a nice hike uphill to view even more sites of torii gates, nature, and fox statues.
Afterwards, we went out for dinner at a local 河豚 (fugu) restaurant, more commonly known as the extremely poisonous pufferfish. This delicacy can only be eaten if it is prepared by a professional; otherwise, chances of you dying are pretty high. I mean, this sounds pretty risky, but anything for food, right?
Yuka and I ordered a three course ふぐ meal; first was some ふぐsashimi(sliced raw fish), next came ふぐなべ(nabe is a hot pot), and lastly ふぐporridge. All of which was absolutely delicious. If I could compare ふぐto any fish in America, well it would be a red snapper. The texture melts in your mouth, but the first couple bites have similar hard texture just like the red snapper. The taste itself is sweet and each sashimi slice was dipped in a ponzu based sauce.
After a long night of walking, eating, and more eating, we decided to take a break at a onsen near the hostel. Onsens are public baths which were in Japan since before the Meiji Restoration period. Some are split into two areas, one bath for the women and another for men. In baths such as this there is usually a wall built in between for privacy. However, there are some mixed public baths which still exists in Japan, you just have to search for them.
Here are some proper etiquettes to follow if you decide to go into a public bath. First, once you have taken off your clothes, be sure to clean yourself off near an area with shower heads. Before entering into a hot spring, you must cleanse yourself which will keep the baths clean for other customers. If you go with Japanese friends or elders, you may be asked to wash his or her back. What I have been told is that this is an act of courtesy. After you washed off in the showers, you may enter into the baths and saunas to sit back and relax. Be careful of passing out in the baths! Some places have yukatas for you to wear, if not, you can just change into your old clothes. Also, you might have noticed some vending machines with milk in them, another awesome thing about going to an onsen is get something cold to chug down. Nothing says relaxation than a nice cold bottle of cold milk after a hot bath! Many onsens in Japan are build inside hotels, but the ones you want to experience are ones which look like this photo:
March 21, 2015 Kyoto –> Nagoya
Time for some delicious breakfast to start off the day, but first, let me tell you of a little place where you can eat buffet style for only 500円(4USD). This magical place is named, Miyakoyasai Kamo. Just a side note, Kyoto is not only known for its mochi and matcha products, but the vegetables grown in this region are said to be another one of Kyoto’s famous foods. Here is the address for anyone who wants delicious all you can Kyoto grown vegetables, soup, rice, bread, and drinks: 276 Ogisakayacho, Higashinoindori Ayanokojisagaru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto 600-8095, Kyoto Prefecture.
Next up on the list was a nice visit towards Gion for a bit of sightseeing. The area was way too beautiful words, and the atmosphere was amazing.
Since the weather was amazing on this particular day, the streets were filled with people wearing kimonos and yukatas. Such a great experience and I hope to visit this area again. Something I really enjoyed were all the back alleyways. Even locals come here for a bit of relaxing and sight of Kyoto. My friend and I came a bit early to view the hanami (cherry blossom viewing); nevertheless, we enjoyed ourselves for the rest of time in Kyoto.
As I mentioned previously, Kyoto is known for its fresh vegetable supply. How else should I spend my day than a trip to a local restaurant which sale mini vegetable sides complete with a vegetable or fish meal set. Afterwards, I recommend going out to the city and buying yourself some mochi for dessert. Because trust me, you will want to have a taste of Kyoto’s mochi!
All in all, this trip was an amazing experience for me since this was the first time I traveled with a Japanese friend. Sure, it is fun going by yourself, but if you want an experience from a native person’s point of view go with someone who is familiar with the area. Thank you again Yuka for the amazing trip filled with gorgeous scenery and delicious food!
Until next time everyone~