Posts Tagged ‘Operation Hello Kitty 2013’

Whenever I go on a trip, I try to look up itineraries that other people have made for themselves to get an idea on how I would like to plan my trip. Some of them have been helpful (while others do not really coincide with the places I want to go to), so I thought to do the same and upload our trip’s itinerary for anyone that is curious or needs some help planning their time in Japan.

Map of our trip (sorry about how plain it is; trying to find a really good itinerary map app. Will update once found)

Map of our trip (sorry about how plain it is; trying to find a really good itinerary map app. Will update once found)

To be quite honest, I did no planning whatsoever regarding the destinations and timeline for our trip; my boyfriend previously did this trip with a friend the last time he was in Japan so we delegated the planning to him. This was his 7th or 8th trip to Japan, as he previously had family living in Nagano and Nagoya.

Before we left for our trip I nicknamed our trip “Operation Hello Kitty”, as I’m silly and like to label things as operations, and Hello Kitty seemed fitting.

Loose Itinerary for 17 days in Japan
Day 1: Travel to Tokyo
Day 2-6: Osaka with Day Trips to Kyoto, Himeji and Kobe.
Day 7-8: Miyajima with a Day Trip to Hiroshima.
Day 9-10: Beppu
Day 11-16: Tokyo
Day 17: Travel Back Home

One thing to note is that our total vacation may have been 17 days, due to travelling overseas from Canada to Japan (and back) our trip actually totals out to 16 days. Keep this in mind when you are planning and account for your travel time.

Breakdown of our Itinerary for Operation Hello Kitty
Day 1: Travel ->Land in NRT and spent the night in Tokyo

Day 2: Tokyo -> Osaka (travel time was just over 3 hours via Shinkansen)
Dotonbori & Orange Street (1-2 hours)

Day 3: Osaka
Osaka Aquarium (2-3 hours)
Tempozan Market Place & Tempozan Ferris Wheel (1-2 hours)
Universal Studios (2-3 hours)

Day 4: Osaka -> Day Trip to Kyoto (approximately 30 minutes via Shinkansen each way)
Kiyomizu (2-3 hours)
Shijo Street (2-3 hours)

Day 5: Osaka -> Day Trip to Himeji (just over 30 minutes via Shinkansen each way)
Himeji Castle (2-3 hours)
Nishioyashiki Garden (1-2 hours)

Day 6: Osaka -> Quick Trip to Kobe (about 30 minutes via Shinkansen each way)
Osaka Castle (1-2 hours)
Port of Kobe (30-60 minutes)
Dinner in Kobe (1 hour)

Day 7: Osaka -> Miyajima  (~1.5 hours to Hiroshima, 5 minute Ferry ride to Miyajima)
Shopping and Sightseeing in Miyajima (2 hours)

Day 8: Miyajima -> Day Trip to Hiroshima (5 minute ferry ride)
A-Bomb Dome and Peace Park (1-2 hours)
Peace Memorial Museum (1-2 hours)
Wandering Miyajima (1 hour)

Day 9: Miyajima -> Beppu (5 minute ferry ride to Hiroshima, ~2.5 hours via Shinkansen)
Hoyoland (1-2 hours)
Wandering Beppu (1 hour)

Day 10: Beppu
8 Hells of Beppu (2-3 hours)

Day 11: Beppu -> Tokyo (~5.5 hours via Shinkansen)
Wandering Ueno District (1-2 hours)

Day 12: Tokyo
Tokyo Disneyland (All Day)

Day 13: Tokyo
Tokyo DisneySea (~5 hours)

Day 15: Tokyo
Shinjuku (3-4 hours)
Lazy day in Tokyo

Day 16: Tokyo
Akihabara (All Day)

Day 17: Travel -> Home

Note: This detailed itinerary doesn’t include all meals, window shopping and wandering aimlessly.

Though it may not seem like we did a lot, our feet would tell you otherwise. There are a lot of things that we wished that we could have seen/done that we missed.

Osaka: SpaWorld, Shitennoji Temple, Koreatown, Mino Park
Kyoto: Rokuon-Ji (Temple of the Golden Pavillion), Byodo-In (Buddhist Temple), Nijo Castle, Nonomiya Shrine, Manga Museum
Beppu: More Onsens
Tokyo: Meiji Shrine, Shibuya Crossing, Ginza, Ikebukero, Harajuku, Mt.Fuji, Great Buddha in Kamakura

Thing to Note if Doing A Lot of Sightseeing in Japan
1. You will be walking around a lot, so bring a comfortable pair of walking shoes.
2. Plan ahead of time what you want to see/do, and also come up with a back up plan(s) in case your plans that day change. Don’t plan to see too many things in one day, as you’ll be exhausted. Prioritize what you want to see/do on your trip.
3. Each site will take anywhere from 1-3 hours, depending on how thorough you want to be. For shopping and visiting districts over tourist sites, I would plan to spend more time.
4. We went from the big cities of Tokyo to the quiet little cities like Miyajima. If you are wanting to have more of a “touristy” trip, I would suggest sticking to the bigger cities; however, Miyajima and Beppu are definite places to go if you like a quieter and more relaxing time.
5. If hopping from city to city, I urge people to purchase a JR Rail Pass prior to coming to Japan. It is a definite money saver (will have a blog post dedicated to the rail and transit system soon).  Also consider travel time from city to city, and plan your destinations wisely.

I hope this helps out some of you if you are planning a trip to Japan. Let me know if you have any questions and I will try to answer them to the best of my ability.

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It’s our last full day in Tokyo and in Japan as a whole. Jason and I woke up a bit late and started our day a bit later than I anticipated. Though at the time it felt very much worth it, we really couldn’t afford to waste any time…

… today was our shopping day.

We could have bought stuff while we were in the other cities we visited, but we didn’t want to cart a bunch of stuff with us all over Japan in our already oversized and heavy luggage. We did, however, bring a third piece of luggage to Japan that we purposely brought with us for our shopping trip (though during our travels we just shoved my suitcase in it so we would only drag around 2 pieces).

After we shower and get dressed, we walk over to the Ueno train station and hop on the train to Akihabara.

Akihabara is a district in the Chiyoda ward in Tokyo. Known as Electric Town, this district has a variety of businesses ranging from electronics, anime and manga stores, to sex shops and cosplay/maid cafes.

The first thing we do is go to a Sega Arcade and walk around to play some games. The arcade is on 6 different floor with a variety of games and a smoking area. Now, this might not seem too interesting but there is a huge difference between the arcades in North American vs the arcades that are in Japan. Here’s a trailer for a documentary about the Japanese arcade experience: http://www.100yenfilm.com/

After we spend about $15 and walk around the building, we leave to find some sex shops. One of the main reasons was due to this text message I received from a friend of mine before we left Edmonton.

It was an interesting requested that I wanted to fulfill. Also, ignore the fact that he's listed as "Switchblade Mike" in my contacts (it's a very long story).

It was an interesting requested that I wanted to fulfill. Also, ignore the fact that he’s listed as “Switchblade Mike” in my contacts (it’s a very long story).

I’ve been told that you haven’t seen a messed up sex shop until you go to Japan, and some of them are frightening and disgusting. Before we left for Japan, Jason tells me about this porn we should get Mike to regret his request (I will save the details of what this porn is, as it is literally terrifying) and I’m horrified but onboard. We were not entirely sure it would be legal to bring back (and it’s pretty obscure so we couldn’t find much information about it on the internet [well Jason couldn’t, I was too scared to look it up due to what it was]) but we decided to chance it and buy it for him anyway.

The first store that we hit up is called M’s, which call themselves a Pop Life Department store. It has 7 different floors and sells anything from blowup dolls, cosplay costumes, to a variety of sex toys.

We go to all 7 floors, but I noticed that there wasn’t really much there that was different than the sex stores back home (except for the blowup dolls that were kinda creepy, and a lot of Lolicon items). Jason tells me there is a particular store we need to go to in order to find Mike’s gift so we keep on shopping in Akihabara.

Noticing the time, we decided to stop for lunch. After walking around trying to decide on what we should eat, we decided to stop at McDonalds so I could try this.

"Ebi Filet-O" -- shrimp burger. It replaced the Filet O-Fish

“Ebi Filet-O” — shrimp burger. It replaced the Filet O-Fish that we have in North America.

It was… interesting, to say the least. Though I probably wouldn’t seek out eating another one in my lifetime, but if it was offered to me I necessarily wouldn’t deny it.

We started hitting up department stores to do our shopping. What I found kinda interesting (and somewhat annoying) is that a lot of the department stores broke everything down by brand; you go to this floor to buy Nike, this floor to buy Coach, that floor to buy Burberry. Though it was kinda nice, it was super annoying when you are just looking for a particular item by any company.

After going to a discount store to buy alcohol, beverages and snacks that we wanted to bring back to Edmonton, we return to our hotel to drop off the goods (4 bottles of sake, some plum wine, shochu, chu-hi, Royal Milk Tea, etc), quickly pick up some items in an Ueno department store, and take the train back to Akihabara to continue our shopping.

For the amount of time that we spent shopping, we sure didn’t buy too much. Shopping in Akihabara is a spectacle in itself and you can’t help to just window shop due to all the cool/cute/weird things you can find.

The last store that we go to is another sex shop. Jason tells me that this is the place we are buying Mike’s gift. Entering the store, it didn’t look any different than the other sex shops we went to. As you continue to go up the floors, the contents get more weird and disturbing.

There are 2 floors for DVDs; the first floor we were on was nothing out of the ordinary, so we walk up to the next floor to take a look around.

Contents on the second DVD floor were highly distressing for those who are faint of heart. I walked through the hardcore S&M section (hardcore to the sense it looked like it could have been associated to snuff), scat section, golden shower section, beastiality section and this DVD is nowhere to be found. Walking through another section, I look up and there it was…

… I immediately call Jason over to tell him that I found it while I’m walking out of the aisle, literally gagging ever so slightly in my mouth. I couldn’t handle looking at the DVD cover.

Jason asked if I still wanted to get it for Mike, but all I could think about is how I don’t want to be anywhere near that DVD and that I wanted to leave the store immediately. Yes, I realize that I knew what we were looking for before I found it, but there is a huge difference between knowing and being grossed out vs seeing it and being absolutely mortified. I tell Jason that I need to leave the store, and I wait outside while he buys Mike a gift that wasn’t the DVD.

The worst part of this shopping trip is that Jason tells me what I saw was the “tip of the iceberg” and that there were even more disturbing contents in that store that we purposely bypassed.

Thanks Akihabara porn shop, for ruining the very last of my innocence.

In complete shock, I silently ride the train back to Ueno with Jason so we can drop off our things at the hotel before we go out for dinner. We didn’t realize how late it was (~22:00h) so most of the restaurants were closing. We did find a place open til 03:00h that served ramen and gyozas. After eating a couple giant plates of $2 gyozas and eating a large bowl of ramen, we walk back to the hotel so we can rearrange our luggage and get ready for our trip back to Canada the next day.

Thing I Have Learned About Japan Thus Far
1. The sex stores here are weird and horrifying. If you remove my experience walking through that extreme fetish DVD section, it was actually kinda interesting to see the type of items that they sell and the cost difference (so much cheaper in Japan).

2. If they are selling gyoza for $2 and they are delicious, don’t second guess getting another plate; just get it, eat it, and get yet another plate. Repeat until absolutely full. It’s worth it.

3. Due to that mentality with food, I have gained weight traveling in Japan. Initially lost 5lbs in Osaka but somehow gained that back with an additional 5lbs in Tokyo. I blame the crazy awesome Japanese bakeries, the surprisingly good fried chicken at convenience stores, and just the overall awesome food in Japan.

4. I do really prefer Osaka to Tokyo. Maybe I haven’t spent enough time wandering Tokyo to fall in love with the place, but I feel there are way too many people there for my liking. That, and if I decide “Hey, I want Kobe Beef in Kobe”, it’s less than 30 minutes via Shinkansen from Osaka and about 3 hours via Shinkansen from Tokyo.

5. You don’t see any drunk Japanese business men, or homeless people until after 21:00h.

6. The homeless people here are very interesting; they don’t beg for food or money, and if they want to steal a cigarette butt from an ashtray they wait until there is no one smoking in the designated smoking area. They will also stop looting the ashtray when someone gets to the designated smoking area and wait until they leave to proceed.

7. Pick and choose what you are going to shop for in Japan. Most designer and named brand items are more expensive in Japan (re: clothing, accessories); however, we were able to pick up a camera tripod and new lens for our DSLR at a lesser rate.

8. I’m too fat to buy clothes in Japan; which is okay by me because I think anyone who’s not from Japan is too fat to buy clothes in Japan.

Next Blog Post: Coming Home

We woke up early in Beppu and started to get ready to make our way back to Tokyo. We were both not looking forward to the trip, having to wade through the chaos that is Tokyo station. We make our way to the dining hall of the New Matsumi Hotel (where we are staying) to eat breakfast that was included with our stay. Due to sleeping in the day before, we missed breakfast our first morning in Beppu but we made sure not to miss out again.

.. and we are glad that we didn’t, as this is what we were served.

Rice, fish, soup, eggs, soft tofu and then some. Both the green and white pots are for one person.

Rice, fish, soup, eggs, soft tofu and then some. Both the green and white pots are for one person.

After an amazing and exquisite breakfast, we grab our bags and take a cab to Beppu Station. Though the hotel was within a pretty decent walking distance from the train station, the handle of one of our suitcases finally bit the dust. We temporarily fixed it with some duct tape but didn’t want to test its limit before we made it to the Tokyo train station.

We reserved our tickets back to Tokyo the day before, as we didn’t want another incident like our trip to Hiroshima. The trip itself was about 5.5 hours with 2 transfers from Kokura Station and Shin-Osaka Station. We hop on the first train and we are on our way.

The last half of the trip was a bit uncomfortable, as we were upgraded to first class seats to Kokura and Shin-Osaka but we made it to Tokyo unscathed and somewhat rested. After wading through the crowds, we make it to the Ueno train platform to head to our hotel. It was approximately 19:15h and the train was packed! I didn’t remember the trains being this busy when we first landed in Japan, and worried that we wouldn’t be able to get on the train with our luggage. We cram our way on the train and we are off to Ueno. Reading the information that is updated on the train, it turns out that a handful of train lines were shut down due to the typhoon and flooding (watching the news that night, people were stranded over 8 hours at some of the train stations). We seriously dodged a bullet with our arrival to Tokyo.

After we arrive at the Touganeya Hotel, we quickly drop off our things and head back to the sushi place Jason first took me to our first night in Japan. Due to the weather, I was developing a headache and didn’t eat much at dinner. Afterwards, we head to a British Pub for a drink and for some fish and chips. If you told me a year ago that I would be eating bite sized fish and chips with chopstick in a Japanese British Pub I would have told you to fuck off, but it was done. Once that surreal moment passed, we went back to the Pachinko Hall to attempt another round and then wandered back to our hotel to go to bed.

We wake up the next day and catch the train to Tokyo Disneyland. We purchase the “2-Day Passport” so we are able to go to Disney Sea the following day. Upon our arrival, we discover that is the 30th Anniversary of Tokyo Disney and noticed that the park has been decorated for Halloween.

The first time I went to a Disney park was in 1990; I was 6 years old and my family decided that we were going to pack ourselves in a 1988 Ford Taurus and drive to California. Though my memory of the trip is hazy (my mom informed us that we protested going to Knott’s Berry Farm because we thought it was a literal berry farm) but it’s a vacation that I feel quite a bit of nostalgia for. In 2009, my boyfriend at the time and I went to Disneyworld to celebrate his 26th birthday and our “6 year anniversary”. To be quite honest, I had just as much fun at Disney as a 25-year-old woman and I did as a 6-year-old child.

… and I had just as much fun this time around, too.

Yup... I'm just a child stuck in an adult's body

Yup… I’m just a child stuck in an adult’s body

It was quite amazing to see how Japanese people love Disney. And I mean, they LOVE Disney. Everyone in the park was decked out in Disney hoodies, t-shirts, silly hats, (like the one I’m wearing in the photo above), mouse ears, and walked out of the park with bags upon bags of souvenirs.

Since Jason and I “don’t do rides” (him due to extreme motion sickness, and me due to a traumatizing experience on Space Mountain at the age of 6 [and on the Tower of Terror at the age of 25]), we mostly walked around the park and stuck to rides like “Pirates of the Caribbean”, and “Pooh’s Hunny Hunt” (which was absolutely amazing!). What I found very interesting was that the “Haunted Mansion” in Tokyo Disneyland is “The Nightmare Before Christmas” themed, which is different than Disneyland and Disneyworld in the States.

Halloween decorations outside of the Haunted Mansion

Halloween decorations outside of the Haunted Mansion

We leave Tokyo Disneyland right before it starts to shut down, and head straight to our hotel to go to bed so we can wake up early the next day for Tokyo DisneySea.

DisneySea opened in 2001 and (as you can guess) has a overall nautical theme for the entire park. They have areas that re-create Venice, Portofino, and the American Northeastern Seaboard from the early 20th century. This park was made more for adults and has some of the more “mature” rides, such as Indiana Jones and the Tower of Terror.

When I first saw this at DisneySea, it gave me terrible flashbacks and immediately made me curse my ex's name.

When I first saw this at DisneySea, it gave me terrible flashbacks and immediately made me curse my ex’s name.

Even though we didn’t ride many of the attractions at DisneySea, we still had fun and made a day of it.

Being silly outside of Toy Story Mania

Being silly outside of Toy Story Mania

Being silly at Triton's Kingdom (it's not a ride, but I just really wanted my picture on this prop).

Being silly at Triton’s Kingdom (it’s not a ride, but I just really wanted my picture on this prop).

DisneySea ended up closing about 4 hours earlier than usual and they gave us an option to return to Disneyland for an extra 2000 yen per person, but after all the walking around we did that day and the day before we just wanted to go back to our hotel and NOT do any more walking.

On our way back to the hotel, we were trying to figure out our dinner plans and decided that we would go for sukiyaki. After a bit of research, I found a sukiyaki place in the district we were staying at. We hop on the train and make our way over to Imahan in Ueno.

We get to the restaurant and immediately realize that we are extremely underdressed for the place. The prices on the website were a bit pricey but we didn’t really think anything of as we knew they were serving some quality Wagyu beef. I don’t think the staff knew what to do with us either; Jason dressed in shorts, an athletic shirt, wearing crocs and a baseball cap while I was dressed in Under Armour t-shirt and yoga-style pants, a hoodie, sneakers with my hair a mess and my nail polish half chipped off my nails.

Though we looked like a train wreck compared to the rest of the patrons, they didn’t seat is where we weren’t visible to the rest of the public (which we joked that they might do) and the service they provided us wasn’t hindered at all.

We ordered the “OGI Sukiyaki Set”, which was a 5-course sukiyaki meal and we upgraded to the “top quality beef”. Dinner was well over $120 per person but after planning to splurge over $300 per person at Sukiyabashi Jiro (which is a 3-michelin star sushi restaurant) but not being able to secure a reservation prior to us arriving to Japan (they book a month in advance and reservations were booked for the entire month of October on September 2nd), we decided we could spoil ourselves with some sukiyaki.

… worth… every… penny.

After an extraordinary dinner, we hop on the train and head back to our hotel to sleep.

Today was a very uneventful day. After about 12 hours of sleep, we slowly get ready for the day and then realize that we had no set plans. We talked about going to see the Buddha at Kamakura, or going to the Ueno Zoo but after all the walking that we’ve done over the last 2 days.. no, lemme take that back… after all the walking we’ve done this entire trip, we took the train to Shinjuku to eat lunch and did some window shopping til dinner time.

One crazy spectacle was the craft store in Shinjuku; a friend of mine from work asked me if I could bring her back a specific craft tool from Japan. I couldn’t find any stores that may have carried in the other cities we visited, so I looked on Google and found a couple places in Shinjuku. Once we found an arts and crafts store that carried this tool, we started looking.

… I have never seen so many people in an arts and crafts store in my life. Even Jason was pretty amazed to see the volume of people and the size of the store.

We couldn’t find this tool for the life of us. We searched, asked some guy working at the store (but he had no idea what we were talking about) and looked some more. After about 40 minutes we were about to give up when we finally found another employee to help us. Once Jason shows her the translation in Japanese and a photo, she walks us 2 feet from where we were standing and pointed it out.

I don’t know if we were pissed that after walking around the store 5 times we missed it or if we were relieved that the search was finally over, but I’ve never been so happy to leave an arts and craft store before.

We hop on the train back to Ueno, hit up a yakiniku place for dinner and then head back to the hotel. Jason is now sleeping after watching “Monty Python and the Meaning of Life” and here I am writing this blog and looking up random things on the internet.

Things I Have Learned During My Trip Thus Far
1. Japanese bakeries are going to be the death of me.

2. I really love Disney. Hell, I think everyone who grew up with Disney loves Disney.

3. I wondered while buying items in Tokyo Disneyland if I was buying them because it’s a “collector’s item”, or that was my excuse for being a big kid buying shit that I have outgrown years ago?

4. I don’t like Tokyo as much as I liked Osaka. Maybe it’s because Tokyo is so big but Osaka seems like a city that I would go back to over Tokyo.

5. It still amazes me the sheer level of love for Disney that Japanese people have.

Next Blog Post: Last day in Tokyo and Japan

This entire time, I thought that we would be staying in Hiroshima and making trips out to Miyajima but I found out on our way that it is actually the other way around. After the 2 nights we spent in Miyajima, I’m glad that we did.

We wake up and I’m already dreading the day; we are packing up our stuff and dragging it through the train stations to make our way to Hiroshima. I think Jason was also dreading it too, as I was able to twist his rubber arm for us to take a cab from our hotel to the Shin-Osaka Station. Though the price difference was about 2000 yen, I would have paid almost anything to not have to drag our luggage to Shinsaibashi, wade through the crowds to catch the subway to Shin-Osaka, and then continue to drag our luggage around until we reached our gate.

We failed to pre-book our tickets the day earlier but found that we didn’t have problems when making our trips out to Kyoto, Himeji and Kobe (we were even upgraded to first class for a couple of those trips) so we didn’t think that booking tickets in advance was really too necessary.

… we were sadly mistaken.

We get to the ticket counter for the Shinkansen to find out that all the tickets for reserved seating to Hiroshima are sold out for the next train (and for a couple trains afterwards). He tells us that we can just go to the non-reserved seat car on the next train, or we could book reserved seats on the next available train which was in 4 hours. We didn’t want to wait the 4 hours with all of our stuff and we wanted to spend that time in Miyajima so we opted for the non-reserved seat car. I was disappointed once again that we didn’t receive a train ticket for this trip but happy that we didn’t have to wait the 4 hours for the next train. Things were looking good…

… until we got to the platform.

Usually, we start lining up within 20 minutes of the train arriving so we can have first pick of luggage space (and to ensure that we have luggage space). When we arrived to the platform, there was already huge lines for all the cars that had non-reserved seating. We find a spot in what we thought was the shortest line and start plotting; the plan was for Jason to go on the car first, blocks the line to put our bags away while I circle around him and try to find us a seat as quickly as possible.

…. apparently, we were not the only ones who thought of this plan.

Jason was able to find space in our car to store our luggage while I frantically tried to find us a seat. I forgot that there are 2 entrances to a car, and the seats filled up quite quickly. I was able to secure seats for us and we were on our way. We were absolutely amazed to see how many people were in the train car; when we ride in reserved seating the car is never full but in non-reserved we had people sitting on other people, and standing in the aisle with little room to move around.

After an extremely stressful boarding, we kick back until we arrive to Hiroshima Station. We take a quick jaunt down the street and catch the train to the ferry station to make our way to Miyajima.

Itsukushima is an island located northwest of Hiroshima Bay, and is known as Miyajima. The island used to be the town of Miyajima until it was merged with Hatsukaichi in 2005.

I assume that these deer are like the Japanese version of "Lady and the Tramp" but instead of eating spaghetti, they wanted a rickshaw ride.

I assume that these deer are like the Japanese version of “Lady and the Tramp” but instead of eating spaghetti, they wanted a rickshaw ride.

The ferry ride is about 5 minutes and when we get off the ferry, we are greeted by deers just wandering the grounds in Miyajima. After a stressful morning, we drag our luggage through Miyajima enjoying the sight of the Otori Gate and head over to our hotel.

Jason booked us 2 nights at Mizuha-so, which is a ryokan (for your reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryokan_(Japanese_inn). There is no bed and we slept on futon mats on the floor. Breakfast and dinner are both served at the Mizuha-so. Though there was no public bath per sae, there was a single and shared bathing room for the guests.

After we drop off our luggage, we start to wander around Miyajima and eating street food from the multiple food vendors. We walk around the Otori Gate and enter the Itsukushima Shrine and head back to the hotel for dinner.

Otori Gate

Otori Gate

View of the Hirabutai

View of the Hirabutai

View of the Otori Gate from Honden (Main Sanctuary of Itsukushima Shrine)

View of the Otori Gate from Honden (Main Sanctuary of Itsukushima Shrine)

Dinner was absolutely amazing. I wasn’t too sure what to expect, but what we ended up getting was an 8 course meal which included a taster of plum wine. We order a bottle of sake and I order plum wine on the rocks and we both enjoy our dinner while being a little tipsy. We head back to our room and go to bed, as the relaxing part of our vacation has begun.

The next day we wake up and eat a fantastic breakfast at Mizuha-so. From there, we take the ferry and train back to Hiroshima to visit the A-Bomb Dome and exhibits.

After several name changes, the A-Bomb Dome was last known as the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. It was designed by Jan Letzel who was a Czech architect and construction was completed in 1915. At 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945, “Little Boy” was dropped on Hiroshima. In 1966 it was decided that they would preserve the ruins and renamed it the A-Bomb Dome.

After seeing the A-Bomb Dome, you can’t even fathom the level of devastation that they must have endured when the bomb dropped down. It was a very depressing yet humbling experience seeing the dome intact but not restored since that day. Though feeling very sad, I was doing quite well until we reached the Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students.

"During WWII, more than three million students over twelve years of age were mobilized for labor services throughout the country. As a result, more than 10,000 students were killed, including some 6,000 killed by the atomic bomb. They gave up their youth and studies for the nation. This tower was erected by concerned families and friends to console the souls of these victims who sacrificed themselves for their homeland, and who would have had a promising future had there been no war. This ferro-concrete tower is twelve meters high and gradually widens as it rises. The exterior surface of the five tiers are finished with Arita-yaki ceramic tiles. The sculpture depicts the Goddess of Peace accompanied by eight doves perched around the tower. On the centre pole are lights offered to God in memory of the lives that were extinguished" -- description of the monument

“During WWII, more than three million students over twelve years of age were mobilized for labor services throughout the country. As a result, more than 10,000 students were killed, including some 6,000 killed by the atomic bomb. They gave up their youth and studies for the nation. This tower was erected by concerned families and friends to console the souls of these victims who sacrificed themselves for their homeland, and who would have had a promising future had there been no war. This ferro-concrete tower is twelve meters high and gradually widens as it rises. The exterior surface of the five tiers are finished with Arita-yaki ceramic tiles. The sculpture depicts the Goddess of Peace accompanied by eight doves perched around the tower. On the centre pole are lights offered to God in memory of the lives that were extinguished” — description of the monument

… I started crying here.

After seeing a couple more monuments (and choking back tears) we head to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The admission fee is a extremely modest 50 yen (less than a dollar Canadian) and to tour around the facility was about 2 hours. You start the first half with a history lesson of what happened during the build up of WWII in Japan, and information regarding the Manhattan Project and how they picked their targets for the atomic bomb. The second half is of artifacts from the rubble and remains, with some history of the people who perished from the bomb. The saddest artifact was the remains of a tricycle that belonged to a 3-year-old child; the excerpt written about it made me almost lose my composure (and I’m actually tearing up thinking back to it). My heart was very heavy from this experience.

Tricycle from the Peace Memorial Museum

Tricycle from the Peace Memorial Museum

"I fought with myself for 30 minutes before I could take the first picture. After taking the first, I grew strangely calm and wanted to get closer. I took about ten steps forward and tried to snap another, but the scenes I saw were so gruesome my viewfinder clouded with tears" -- Yoshito Matsushige

“I fought with myself for 30 minutes before I could take the first picture. After taking the first, I grew strangely calm and wanted to get closer. I took about ten steps forward and tried to snap another, but the scenes I saw were so gruesome my viewfinder clouded with tears” — Yoshito Matsushige

We leave the museum and continue walking around the Peace Park, looking at more monuments and all the paper cranes. The paper cranes initially started by a 12-year-old girl named Sadako Sasaki. She was a victim of the A-Bomb and ended up developing cancer. In hopes of finding a cure, she started to fold 1000 paper cranes but met her demise prior to completion. People all over the world now fold 1000 paper cranes and donate them to the HIroshima Peace Park, where they are displayed.

Each row contains 100 paper cranes.

Each row contains 100 paper cranes.

Hiroshima is very passionate about getting rid of nuclear weapons and have written over 600 letters in protest of nuclear testing and development to various countries.

This place will definitely humble you. People have made jokes on how “Hiroshima is the bomb”, or think that the Japanese “got what they deserved for WWII”, but I can guarantee that you will quickly change your tune within the first 10 minutes of being at the A-Dome/Peace Park/Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. No one ever deserves to suffer that fate.

After a very depressing afternoon, we walk around Hiroshima and go to eat lunch. I now think that I’m an emotional eater, as we gorged on a variety of food and I felt not unhappy after we ate. Jason introduced me to horse meat during lunch. I wouldn’t say that it is my favourite thing to eat, but wouldn’t necessarily oppose eating it again either. We ate, felt better, and head back on the train to catch the ferry to Miyajima.

We have another relaxing night in Miyajima and the Mizuha-so served us yet another 8-course dinner, this time complemented with plum brandy. After dinner, we went back to our room to relax and prepare for our trip the following day.

Things I Have Learned in Japan Thus Far
1. Always.. always…. ALWAYS pre-book your tickets on the Shinkansen if you have luggage and never… ever… EVER go to the non-reserved car.

2. Convenience store fried chicken is fucking delicious. Jason and I saw an episode of (what I think was) No Reservations, and Anthony Bourdain was interviewing one of the top chefs in Japan. During his interview, the chef admitted that he always eats food from convenience stores because they are great. Thinking about the quality of food that we get at our local 7-Eleven, I was quite skeptical. One of the nurses I work with recommended that I have to try the fried chicken at Lawsons (which is a Japanese convenience store). Jason and I finally stumble upon one and give in to the fried chicken.

… seriously the best fried chicken that I’ve ever had.

3. People here are very serious about recycling; again, you will find a million recycling bins before you find a garbage can but when people are throwing out a bag of garbage they’ve collected while riding the train, they will stand in front of the recycle/garbage can and take the time to separate everything.

4. They serve alcohol from vending machines and you can drink anywhere in public. What I find very interesting is that they have vending machines for cigarettes but you need to have an RFID identification card to scan on the machine if you’re buying smokes (and it won’t let you buy unless you scan). However, the same is not for alcohol; you literally put in money, make your selection and that’s it.

5. I’m not a huge fan of wine or brandy, but man… that plum wine tasted like candy and the plum brandy was unreal!

Next Blog Post: Beppu

It’s our last full day in Osaka. After having various adventures in Osaka, Himeji, and Kyoto, we decided to have a bit of a lazy day.

…. we still woke up insanely early, though.

We take our time getting ready for the day and decide that we are going to see Osaka Castle. The guide books for Japan say that it’s not as magnificent as Himeji (some say that it’s not necessarily worth the trip) but we figured to check it out anyway.

We hop on the subway and make our way over. It was a terribly hot and humid day, so we tried to walk in the shade as much as possible. We get to the grounds at bask in the beauty that is Osaka Castle.

Osaka Castle before you cross the moat

Osaka Castle before you cross the moat

They started construction on Osaka Castle back in 1583 and was completed in 1597 with multiple restorations over the years. Osaka Castle is a very famous castle in Japan, as it played a major role in the unification of Japan during the 16th century.

Up close and personal at Osaka Castle

Up close and personal at Osaka Castle

Admission to Osaka Castle was 600 yen per person; which is higher than the admission to Himeji Castle. With admission still being fairly reasonable we enter the facility. They direct you to the 8th floor of the castle and ask you to start there and make your way down.

Personally, I was not a big fan of Osaka Castle and even Jason stated his disappointment. It was created more as a museum, and the interior was completely redone and did not portray any original parts of the castle. There was, however, a lot of information regarding the history of the emperors and various clans during the era when Osaka Castle was occupied.

If you plan on doing both Himeji and Osaka Castle, go to Osaka Castle first. After spending time in Himeji Castle, Osaka Castle seemed to lack lustre and wonder in comparison. If you’re a huge history buff, it is still very worthwhile to check out. My honest opinion is just to save your time and money and to check out something else instead.

Once we were done at Osaka Castle, we have a quick little snack in the park and decide to “get lost” in Osaka. We hop on the Osaka Loop subway, and decide that we were going to ride the entire loop to see the city. After a bit of chatting on the train, we talk about how close Kobe is and decide that today is the day we eat Kobe Beef. We hop off at Shin-Osaka train station to reserve our seats to take the Shinkansen to Kobe. The guy at the ticket booth said that since it’s such a short trip that we didn’t have to book tickets and just to hop on. I was slightly disappointed, as I’ve been collecting our train tickets from all of our trips. We grab a quick late lunch at a ramen place in the train station, and then we were on our way.

Miso ramen at the Shin-Osaka train station.

Miso ramen at the Shin-Osaka train station.

Selfie of me being excited for Kobe Beef on the Kobe Local Subway line.

Selfie of me being excited for Kobe Beef on the Kobe Local Subway line.

From Shin-Osaka Station, the trip to Kobe was a bit less than half an hour. Once we arrived we realized it was way too early for us to eat (considering we just ate ramen about 40 minutes prior), so we hop on the Kobe Subway and start wandering. We get off at the station that was fairly close to the restaurant that we wanted to stop at, and start walking. Jason wasn’t feeling to well, so we took it pretty easy walking around and contemplated whether we should head back to Osaka or stick it out in Kobe. The trip itself was short and it wouldn’t have been a loss cost wise seeing that the trip was already included in the cost of our JR Rail Pass, but Jason said that he probably would regret not taking the opportunity to eat Kobe Beef and stuck it out.

Now, you might be thinking “But you can eat Kobe Beef in Edmonton”. Yes.. you can eat “Kobe” sliders and “Kobe” beef in Edmonton, but it’s not real Kobe Beef. Only within the last year has North America started importing beef from Japan (due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease). With that being said, with approximately 3000 cattle of what is considered to be Kobe beef I doubt that so many restaurants would have so much of it readily available (and for as cheap as they are selling these entrees for).

“Canada – The Great Kobe Beef Myth”: http://www.meattradenewsdaily.co.uk/news/010512/canada___the_great_kobe_beef_myth_.aspx
“The Great Kobe Beef Lie”: http://www.forbes.com/sites/larryolmsted/2012/04/12/foods-biggest-scam-the-great-kobe-beef-lie/

… one of the many reasons why Jason stuck it out.

We wander Kobe for a bit and find ourselves at the Port of Kobe. The view from the port was very calming, and we sat at the end of the dock just watching the waves crash on the rocks. We both agreed that this was a great way to spend our last lazy day. The tide started to get higher and after being spritzed enough times in the face with fresh salt water, we decide to walk around and started to make our way to the restaurant.

Selfie of Jason and I at the Port of Kobe

Selfie of Jason and I at the Port of Kobe

One of the many views at the Port of Kobe

One of the many views at the Port of Kobe

After much wandering around, we finally find Steakland. It was setup in a teppanyaki style restaurant.

Steakland in Kobe

Steakland in Kobe

Our waitress takes our drink order and helps us with the menu (though she looked like the most unhappy person ever. I have never seen an unhappy person in Japan yet until her). When inquiring, she told us that there are only 2 items on the menu that are real Kobe beef, and the rest is just regular Waygu beef (also from Kobe). Jason ordered 200g of Kobe Beef while I ordered 200g of the Special Kobe Beef. Our chef comes out and displays the raw Kobe beef and asks how we would like them cooked. And then, he’s off to work.

Cooking Kobe Beef

Cooking Kobe Beef

The one thing that I did appreciate about this place is that the chefs weren’t doing anything fancy behind the grill like they do at Japanese Village. They were literally just there to cook and even explained part of the cooking process. Less cheesiness = win.

We are served both steaks at medium-rare. After our first bite, you could definitely tell the quality difference in the type of beef that was being served. Even the comparison between Jason’s Kobe Beef to my Special Kobe Beef was night and day. We slowly ate our dinner, savouring every bite. The entire time we were eating dinner, I thought to myself “If my dinner tastes this good, I wonder how good the super high quality Kobe Beef is?”.

Even though the restaurant did not provide the best quality of service due to our extremely miserable waitress who probably just wanted to throw herself in front of a moving train, the food definitely made up for her lack of customer service.

Though Jason toughed it out at dinner, he was still feeling quite sick so we hail a cab to the train station and then catch the Shinkansen to Shin-Osaka Station. Once we arrive to Shin-Osaka, we discover that the subway we need to take is not in service (or we assume it’s not as they wouldn’t let anyone on) so we hail a cab to head back to our hotel.

Once we arrived to our hotel, we hit up the public bath, do some pre-packing for our departure the next day to Hiroshima and Miyajima, and call it a night.

Things I Have Learned in Japan Thus Far
1. An interesting discovery (for me, anyway) is realizing how far away the Shin-Osaka Train Station was from our hotel. We usually pay about 230-270 yen each for the trips from Shinsaibashi Station to Shin-Osaka Station and takes about 10 minutes tops to get there. When we took the cab, it probably took us close to half an our with the cab fare totalling around 2500 yen (over $25).

2. Under Armour clothing is very much worth its money; wore Under Armour pants and shirt during our outing and I wasn’t ready to kill someone from being too hot and sweaty. Don’t get me wrong, I was still hot and sweaty but Under Armour clothing made it a LOT more bearable.

3. Kobe Beef is absolutely amazing. I’ve always had a lot of pride in our Alberta Beef but man… this may have ruined steak for me. The last time Jason and I had beef remotely this good was when we ate Beef Wellington at Gordon Ramsay’s Steak in Las Vegas earlier this year, and I was raving about that for months!

4. I have been loving the Shishedo products. Contemplating bringing some home depending on the price point.

Next Blog Post: Hiroshima and Miyajima.

I think this day Jason and I slept in til 08:00h after the long days we’ve been having in Osaka. After our morning ritual of breakfast at the Dormy Inn’s restaurant, showering/using the public baths, we slowly get ready for our trip to Himeji.

We walk over to Shinsaibashi, hop the subway to head to Shin-Osaka station and purchase our reserved seating to Himeji on the Shinkansen Tokaido line. The trip itself is less than 30 minutes with multiple stops along the way. Once we reach Himeji station, we walk over to see Himeji Castle which is about a 10 minute walk to the grounds straight down the street.

Grounds outside of Himeji Castle

Grounds outside of Himeji Castle

We walk around and enjoy the sites on the grounds (also, hiding in the shade for a bit while I find a place to smoke) and we cross the inner moat to head into Himeji Castle.

View of Himeji Castle

View of Himeji Castle, minus the Main Tower (which is in the building).

Main gate leading to Himeji Castle

“Diamond Gate” – main gate leading to Himeji Castle

The construction of Himeji Castle dates back to 1333 and is considered one of Japan’s National Treasures. It was also the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites for Japan registering in 1993. Himeji Castle was completed in 1609 and since then has had over 30 documented restorations.

We were both quite surprised to see a structure around the main tower of Himeji Castle. When Jason first did this trip in 2010, he said that they were starting restoration on the castle but we thought it would be over by the time that we arrived. Back during his visit in 2010, the main tower was still somewhat visible but surrounded with scaffolding. We discovered upon our arrival that they have been starting restorations since 2009 and anticipate completion in the year 2015. Even though it was slightly disappointing, the trip was still well worth it.

We walk through the main gate and enter in one of the towers where they were showing artifacts from Himeji ranging from stone/clay work detailing the castle to a variety of armour used.

Armour display

Armour display

After walking around, we discover that we can enter the structure that was built around the main tower. After paying another small admission, we enter the building and find out that we actually get to see the process of the restorations, and they’ve turned it into an exhibit with information regarding the Himeji Castle.

On the 8th floor of the structure built around the Main Tower at Himeji Castle. They are currently restoring the roof and parts of the exterior.

On the 8th floor of the structure built around the Main Tower at Himeji Castle. They are currently restoring the roof and parts of the exterior.

Viewing the restorations, with an informative video of them documenting the process.

Viewing the restorations, with an informative video of them documenting the process.

We were absolutely fascinated with the process, detail and the amount of effort that was placed into the restoration. We spent a good hour touring around the facility looking at the various methods they used and reading the ever so detailed and intriguing history of Himeji Castle. We make a small donation to the restoration of Himeji Castle and continue walking the grounds.

Outside of the Main Tower; the building that surrounds it.

Outside of the Main Tower; the building that surrounds it.

Even though Himeji Castle is under restorations, if you’re planning a trip to Japan prior to 2015 I would still recommend checking it out. There is still quite a bit to see when you walk around the grounds, and you can still visit the West Bailey (which is where the Princess’ quarters was located) and the scenery is quite captivating.

… goodbye Himeji Castle. We will hopefully see you again soon.

Once we finish walking around the castle, we meander over to Nishioyashiki-ato Garden which is about 10 minutes away.

One of the nine gardens at Nishioyashiki-ato

One of the nine gardens at Nishioyashiki-ato

Nishioyashiki-ato contains 9 different gardens with a tea garden. The gardens was constructed and opened to the public in 1992 to commemorate the centenary of Himeji Castle.

We enter the facility and notice there is a small restaurant. We look at the menu and decide to go in to eat (you guessed it) cold soba. From there, we continue our jaunt through the gardens. We reach the tea garden and see that they also do a tea ceremony. We pay 500 yen and go in to enjoy some matcha tea and a snack.

Matcha Green Tea and Sweet Dessert Mochi

Matcha Green Tea and Sweet Dessert Mochi

Once we are done touring the garden, we walk back to Himeji station to jump on the train back to Shin-Osaka.

That evening, we meet with an old colleague of Jason’s (who also happened to be in Japan) at Yakiniku Rokko for dinner. I was initially planning on partaking in their all-you-can-drink special; however, this option is only available if all guests in your party partake (and I was the only person who wanted to get shitfaced drunk that night). After 4 hours of eating, drinking and talking, we leave the restaurant at midnight and head back to our hotels to call it a night.

Things I Have Learned About Japan
1. They do bathrooms right here. Though the public bathrooms scare me at times (due to the lack of “Western toilets”), the majority of  bathrooms in restaurants/hotels have one or more of the following:

  • Bidet feature
  • Toilet sensor (either to flush or to drop the seat the moment you enter the stall/bathroom)
  • Toilet seat warmers

At first the idea of using a bidet was slightly distressing, but after using it a few times (the first time being Jason turning it on without my knowledge [apparently me shrieking because warm water was violently being shot at my butt is hilarious]) I have grown quite accustomed to them. But I still can’t wrap my head around the non-western toilets.

Seriously, how am I supposed to use this without taking my pants off completely and not falling in?

Seriously, how am I supposed to use this without taking my pants off completely and not falling in? Which way would I even face to use this thing?!

… when I see this, I turn around thinking to myself “Well, I don’t have to go THAT badly…”.

2. The wifi sucks in Japan. All of the places that we’ve stayed at so far offer free wifi but the problems are that the signal is weak, it constantly disconnects, or the moment you think you have a good signal it immediately drops down (even though you haven’t moved or loaded anything). No one seems to say anything but I assume that most people use their data off their phones and the speed is usually faster than wifi.

3. I really could have packed less. We thought that the weather would eventually get colder depending on where we were and that there was no laundry facilities available in our hotel so I literally brought enough clothes to adjust to various weather conditions and to last 16 days.

… 2/3 places have offered laundry facilities and it’s only been hotter than balls here.

All of the places we have stayed at also have a public bath and offer the following to all guest:

  • Disposable toothbrush
  • Single serving toothpaste
  • Disposable hair brush
  • Shampoo, conditioner, body wash and facial soap
  • Hairdryer
  • Disposable razors

I usually bring my own shampoo/conditioner/body wash/face soap because I’m not always a big fan of the products that the hotels carry (and my own hairdryer because I don’t like the hotel ones), but all the blowdryers have been quite upscale and from what I’ve seen the default product for shampoo et al  is Shiseido.

… I can live with that.

4. Riding the Shinkansen and subways is a lot better and more enjoyable when you’re not dragging your luggage everywhere.

5. Alcoholic cocktails in Japan are fucking amazing but oh so dangerous. They’ll creep up on you, that’s for sure.

Currently in Miyajima right now but I will hopefully be caught up with my blog posts when we arrive to Beppu tomorrow.

Next blog post: Lazy last day in Osaka with a trip to Kobe

Jason and I have been waking up pretty early on our trip to Japan thus far; we were up again at 06:30h and got ready for our day trip to Kyoto.

When we were about to leave the hotel, it was pouring rain. I suggested that we should wait 30-60 minutes to see if the rain stops but Jason was quite insistent that we just hail a cab to the Shinsaibashi train station. I pop into the convenient store next door to our hotel and buy 2 umbrellas at 500 yen a piece. Jason was able to hail us a cab and we were on our way to Shinsaibashi station.

… but of course after we get into the cab, literally 30 seconds later it stops raining.

From Shinsaibashi station, we hop onto the train and head towards the Shin-Osaka station to catch the Shinkansen to Kyoto. We booked our tickets on the Tokaido line for the next available train to Kyoto and we are on our way. The trip itself was pretty quick, as it only took us maybe 20 minutes to get from Shin-Osaka station to the Kyoto station. From there we start walking to our destination: Kiyomizu-dera.

Looking back at this now, it was a very poor idea. The walk itself is about 45 minutes from Kyoto station, and the weather was atrocious (and by atrocious, I mean sunny with a temperature of 30 degrees and insane humidity). We stop by a couple stores and Jason found a place where they make chef knives from Japanese steel. We make a mental note of it and continue on our way. By the time we reach the Kyoto National Museum (about 25 minutes away walking from Kyoto station), I start to develop starting stages of sun stroke and become very irritable. We hail a cab to take us the rest of the way.

Traffic was terrible but our cab driver dropped us off as close as she could without racking up our fare for the cab. We thanked her profusely for her consideration. We take a small break in Chawan-zaka (shopping area) so I can grab a drink of water and sit in the shade for a bit, and then we start walking over to Kiyomizu-dera.

Outside of Kiyomizu-dera

Chawan-zaka (Teapot Lane), Outside of Kiyomizu-dera

Kiyomizu-dera is a Buddhist temple that contains a variety of shrines, and is considered to be one of Japan’s National Treasures.  It was founded in 778 and was built without using a single nail. Though many people may not have heard of it, I’m sure people have seen pictures of the Main Hall and Deva Gate.

This is probably the most photographed angle/view of the Kiyomizu-dera.

This is probably the most photographed angle/view of the Kiyomizu-dera Main Hall that I’ve seen.

Deva Gate at Kiyomizu-dera; a very popular attraction.

Deva Gate at Kiyomizu-dera; a very popular attraction.

Kiyomizu-dera is quite impressive. There is the Tainai-meguri; I’ve never heard of it before that day and even looking for information about it, there doesn’t appear to be much. When you arrive, you are asked to take off your shoes and provide a donation of 100 yen. From there, they lead you to a dark staircase and tell you to follow the wooden handrail throughout the course of your visit. It made me somewhat uneasy, as it was pitch black and you couldn’t see anything in front or behind you. What this is supposed to symbolize is blindly entering the womb of Daizuigu Bosatsu (mother of Buddha). You eventually get to an area where there is a thick round stone the size of a pizza pan with “womb” written in Sanskrit under a small light. They say that Daizuigui Bosatsu could grant wishes, so you are to turn the stone and make a wish. The experience was somewhat frightening (just because you’re literally walking around in pitch black, grasping at this handrail to lead you to your destination) but it was also quite humbling. If you’re not afraid of the dark or claustrophobic, I would recommend checking it out.

After seeing a variety of shrines and the “Love Stone”, I start to feel lightheaded again so we stop for lunch. Again, we eat cold soba. Why? Because we can and it’s fucking delicious!

DSC_0244

Beside the restaurant that we stopped at was the Otowa-no-taki; it’s a waterfall of “sacred water” that has 3 channels of water leading to it. They say that those who drink from the waterfall are blessed with longevity, health and success.

People drinking from Otowa-no-taki

People drinking from Otowa-no-taki

We walk around for another hour and leave to buy Jason’s chef’s knife. When we initially planned our trip to Japan, we talked about buying a new knife for our kitchen that was handcrafted, and made from Japanese steel. We head back to the knife shop where Jason peruses the knives (while I suffer from full on symptoms of sun stroke). The woman who owned the shop was very friendly and ensured that we were taken care of (not only did she help Jason out, but she provided me a chair to sit on while he was shopping and 2 origami cranes because I looked just terrible). Jason purchases a knife and a wet stone, and asks if he was able to get a picture of her for our trip. She bashfully agrees, fixes her hair and poses in a photo with Jason.

Jason and the store owner, after purchasing his knife.

Jason and the store owner, after purchasing his knife.

She looked at me concerned before we left the store, and Jason tells her that I’m ill due to too much sun. She looks at me thoughtfully for a second and then provides me with another gift; a handmade fan to help me with the heat.

When we asked, she said that she made and painted them herself.

When we asked, she said that she made and painted them herself.

We take refuge at a McDonald’s so I can have some fluids and get out of the evil sunlight, and we start ranting about how delicious soba is. One thing leads to another and the moment that I felt well enough to meander in Kyoto, we hail a cab and head towards Shijo Street, where Jason knows of a good soba house.

Well, we couldn’t find it but we ended up eating delicious katsu. Realizing we are well beyond walking distance from the Kyoto train station, we hail yet another cab and make our way back to Osaka from the train station.

I think we both had way too much sun that day, because we were both in bed and passed out before 8:00pm Osaka time.

Things I Have Learned About Japan Thus Far
1. The JR Rail Pass is a definite must for Japan. We purchased a 14 day pass for about $450 CAD each before we left (you have to purchase it before your trip and have it mailed to you, as it’s only available to foreigners), and I first initially thought that we wouldn’t really get our money’s worth from it.

… oh how wrong I was.

Considering all the day trips that we’ve been taking, and that we are going from Tokyo -> Osaka -> Hiroshima -> Beppu -> Tokyo, it was well worth it. The Shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka alone is over $150 CAD. We are still paying for local transit (aka train rides in the city where the JR Lines don’t go) but $2.50 CAD to take a transit in Osaka is nothing. Also, always book the Shinkansen over the JR lines; it might say “JR SuperExpress” but it will take longer to get to your destination over the Shinkansen lines (didn’t learn this by doing, look at the timetables and you’ll see the difference).

2. I have eaten cold soba more than I would like to admit on this trip.

3. I really really REALLY hate the heat and humidity on this trip. Every day I’m caked in sweat and my clothes feel heavier than they should be. I have never experienced “swass” before but I’m telling you, it has been quite the swassy trip. If I end up losing any weight, it’s not because I’ve been eating healthy and Japan bans GMO’s; it’s because I sweated away all my pounds.

4. Favorite drink is currently either the Cafe Latte by Boss or UCC, or the Royal Milk Tea. Every time I see a vending machine, I’m eyeing that bitch like a meth addict looking for their next fix.

5. Sun stroke is not a fun time in Japan; was hoping to hit up a couple more sites in Kyoto but we both thought it was for the best if we just took it very easy.

… thanks, sun stroke. You jerk.

Next blog post: Day trip to Himeji Castle.