Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Japan 2013 Part I.

Last month I had the pleasure of revisiting Japan during a brief holiday from work. With only five days to go out and explore, I decided to go back to Kyoto for the majority of my trip. Kyoto is easily one of my favorite cities I've been to throughout my travels. It has so many beautiful temples and gardens and traditional crafts that my mind practically bursts with inspiration. This was my second trip there and I'm still not satisfied with the amount of time I've spent there. I'm already envisioning a third trip in my future to go back and fulfill my other goals. Third time's the charm, right?

Alright, getting back on track. I flew into Tokyo late on a Tuesday night with plans to take the train Wednesday morning to Kyoto. While I was waiting for the shuttle bus to my hotel, I met a lovely couple also on vacation from teaching in Korea. They suggested I look into a cheap flight instead of the bullet train which is notoriously expensive. I checked the prices on my phone and found a flight through Jetstar the next morning to Osaka for nearly 1/3 the price of a train ticket. Sold! It also happened to be the same flight the couple was taking, so the next morning we caught the shuttle back to the airport, took a plane to Osaka followed by a train to Kyoto together.

For this trip I decided to try out  for my lodging. Airbnb is a website where people will rent out their extra rooms or apartments to travelers for a fee. Some are just like a bed and breakfast where they will cook you a meal, and other are a little more hostel style. You can even rent out a private apartment for a very reasonable price if you find the right host. The place I stayed at was very inexpensive and hostel style. The owner was a nice lady who uses her second home to rent out to travelers. Some rooms are for permanent tenants(usually local students), some are private rooms for multiple people. I was in a room with two other girls but we all had beds which was nice. The metro I needed to take was closed down because of flooding from a typhoon they had just days earlier, so the owner was kind enough to drive down to the train station and pick me up in person. She also brought up some traditional sweets for the guests to try since it was the moon festival. I look forward to using Airbnb more in the future.

You can see how high the flood waters were by the grass that was ripped out and caught on the bridge.
My first day in Kyoto consisted of walking around, and going to the Traditional Handcrafts Museum. The Museum was pretty cool but didn't allow any photography inside of the building. Certain displays included professional artists sitting and doing their work in person for visitors to see fist hand. After that I met up with a local from Couch Surfing and we got dinner and walked around Gion. He showed me all sorts of interesting places and talked about Geisha history and traditions. We even spotted some Geishas walking around the area. My new friend also recommended a traditional Kyoto restaurant to try out later in the week for lunch (Look for it in Part III).

While walking around Kyoto it is easy to stumble upon many temples and shrines. I think visitors poured water on the lion statue for good luck.

Wishes at the temple written on wooden ornaments that are then hung below a tree.
Gion at night. The lights look so pretty on the canals going through the neighborhood.
Entrance to a very famous Geisha house.

The entrance to Takuma, the restaurant I will return to shortly.

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