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).
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.
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!
Monday night I went out with some people from the hostel for dinner and to the hostel bar, where we enjoyed traditional Japanese storytelling.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
DMZ this weekend
Beach/railbikes next weekend
Lake/cave in September
Taiwan for Chuseok