Last week was my school’s summer vacation, and I took advantage of the full nine days off by visiting Japan. Daniel only had five days off, so I spent the first four days in Tokyo by myself and then met him in Kyoto.

My first day in Japan was a bit of a disaster, with lots of minor mishaps, the biggest being that my Korean bank card did not work there… but thankfully everything got sorted out. After checking into Khaosan Original Hostel, I wandered the neighborhood of Asakusa and explored the Nakamise-dori market and Senso-ji (temple).

nakamise-dori market

kaminarimon ("thunder gate")


On Sunday I had hoped to see some “Harajuku girls” and headed to Jingu-bashi (a bridge), as directed by my Lonely Planet guidebook. Unfortunately, I found that they no longer gather there, and was sorely disappointed. Instead I visited Meiji-jingu (shrine), Yoyogi-koen (park), and Beer Museum Yebisu.

sake barrels at meiji-jingu

shinto wedding ceremony at meiji-jingu


the highlight of beer museum yebisu

Monday I had booked a day trip to Mt. Fuji with a tour group. First we headed to the fifth station, which is where everyone starts the hike. It was so cool up there, a welcome treat after the heat and humidity of Tokyo. It was pretty cloudy, but I was able to see the peak and of course took lots of photos. After a stop for lunch (which I didn’t get included with my package so I wandered around the nearby amusement park), we took a cruise across Lake Ashi to the Hakone Aerial Ropeway. The gondola took us to the top of Mount Komagatake, where it was so foggy you could barely see five feet in front of you!

mt. fuji

lake ashi cruise

hakone aerial ropeway

me and the fog on mount komagatake

Monday night I went out with some people from the hostel for dinner and to the hostel bar, where we enjoyed traditional Japanese storytelling.


"the thunder farting daughter-in-law"

me and olga

Tuesday was my last full day in Tokyo. I took a cruise on the Sumida River to Hama-rikyu (garden). When I couldn’t take the humidity any longer, I hopped on the monorail and went to Odaiba, the island in Tokyo Bay, where I hung out in an air-conditioned mall for the rest of the afternoon. 🙂

sumida river cruise


On Wednesday I took the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto. There I met up with Daniel and we checked into K’s House Kyoto Hostel. We spent the afternoon exploring Higashi Hongan-ji (temple) and Kyoto Station before meeting up with Nate, another teacher from Bundang (Daniel’s met him a few times before and they had the same flight to Kyoto). We had dinner and then stopped at what appeared to be a traditional Japanese bar for some beers. Unfortunately, the bartender took advantage of us charged us 800 yen (about $10) per beer! Luckily we had only ordered one a piece!

fountain in front of higashi hongan-ji

kyoto tower

daniel and me with our 800 yen beers

Thursday was a little rainy, but Daniel and I took the bus to Daitoku-ji (temple) and then just happened to stumble across Imamiya-jinja (shrine). For lunch we enjoyed meat on a stick at Nishiki Market.

buddhist monk at daitoku-ji

garden in daitoku-ji

hiragana prayer plaques at imamiya-jinja

octopus on a stick + asahi beer = happy daniel

Friday we took a train to Kameoka and then floated down the Hozu River on a wooden boat, rowed with oars and bamboo sticks (by Japanese men so all we had to do was enjoy the view!). We ended up in the Arashiyama area of Kyoto, and we saw the bamboo forest, a cemetery, and yet another shrine, Nonomiya-jinja. That night we met up with Nate again and wandered down Ponto-cho (a popular “traditional” street), drank and watched street performers by the river, and had dinner and more drinks before calling it a night.

hozu river trip

bamboo forest

purification fountain at nonomiya-jinja

Saturday was our last full day in Kyoto and we headed to what I thought was the highlight of the trip, Fushimi-inari Taisha (shrine). There were hundreds of orange torii gates and also many fox statues, as Inari is the Shinto god of rice, and foxes are thought to be his messengers. Nearby was Tofuku-ji (temple) so we also visited it, and then that night we had dinner in Gion.

fushimi-inari taisha

statues at tofuku-ji

good except for the seaweed 😦

We had a late flight home on Sunday but we were tired and hot, so we visited the Kyoto International Manga Museum (air-conditioning!) and had our last meal in Japan before heading back to Korea.

you weren't allowed to take photos inside...

daniel's favorite meal

Upcoming trips:
DMZ this weekend
Beach/railbikes next weekend
Lake/cave in September
Taiwan for Chuseok

-Jen Pace



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7 responses to “Japan!

  1. Mary Baumgartner

    Thanks Jen for the wonderful pictures of your trip to Japan. What’s Dan’s favorite dish that he’s eating near the end of the pix? Also, you probably won’t get my birthday card and check in time for your big day so: HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!
    Love, from Grandma

  2. don

    Best blog yet..!

    Bet the bamboo forest was really cool. Photo was very impressive. Would really like to see that.

    Dinners looked really tasty.

  3. cindy

    I did not thik the meals looked tasty at all!!! That one looks like there are spiders all over it!! Nice pics.
    and yes, that last meal, is Daniels favorite meal! Ramen Noodles!! and his brothers! 🙂

  4. I’m going to Japan (tokyo, kyoto, hiroshima, and toyama -my aunt lives there) tomorrow and enjoyed this post. found it on daves 🙂

    i’m worried about my KEB card. it says global but i have a bad feeling…

  5. Jen Pace

    awesome! daniel has a KEB card and it worked there. good to have a back-up plan though. my hana bank card did NOT work, even though they said it did, so i had to email my mom to put money in my american bank account and use that debit card. it was quite the hassle!

  6. Pingback: K is for Kyoto, Kuala Lumpur, & Ko Phi Phi « Grown in Southern Ground

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