Travel Stories

A travel blog for a long-term expat, backpacker, traveler, ESL teacher, and photographer. 

Osaka Pods / Kyoto Temples

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Well, haven’t I been procrastinating on my blog? My thesis? Lesson Planning? Okay, fine, what haven’t I been procrastinating on?Japan! Well, I went to Japan after Taiwan back in January so let’s talk about my trip (besides the monkey post I already did!).

The way my flights worked out, I had a 14 hour layover in Osaka before my flight to Taipei so I decided to spur of the moment, not sleep in the airport and get myself a pod hostel in Osaka. As I had not yet gotten paid yet (was due to get paid 2 days after), I did not take out a lot of pre-exchanged cash in Korea. I had maybe 30 bucks in yen. Well, that’s all well in good, I have traveled now to twenty one countries, i'll go find an ATM, withdraw, it’ll be fine. Never had an issue before with my cards so why would it magically start in Japan? Tried to take out some cash in the airport, it didn’t work, I shrugged it off and took the train into Osaka Namba.

 

 

 

The first thing I did was stare at the LED signs and the bright lights around me. The streets were glowing with different colors and there were shops on almost every corner. It was totally gaudy and over the top but nonetheless amazing. It reminded me of when Hiro from Heroes would teleport back to Japan. (speaking of which, they are making a new season, WHAT’S UP!?). I also noticed that Japanese men have facial hair and long hair. I felt like I was seeing men again. Korean men prefer to be “cutesey” and “feminine” and that is what is considered handsome here whereas men in Japan had their own styles which were definitely refreshing to observe. In addition, the Japanese women were curvier than Korean women and that was even more refreshing to see because there were many varieties of being a human in Japan compared to Korea.

Anyways, I found my hostel eventually, used the last of my yen and decided it was time to go find an ATM. I walked back around the station assuming there would be atms. Every one that I tried rejected my card and I soon found out that the airport train didn’t accept cards either. Also, apparently, ATMS close after 10 or 11 PM until around 7 AM. My airport train was around 5 AM. I got so stressed, almost started crying because I thought I was going to miss my flight. After trying maybe 15 ATMs (and three different debit cards from Poland, US, Korea), I went back to my hostel on the verge of tears. They told me there was a 7-11 nearby and to try there. Perhaps, the most relieving moments of my life (besides peeing after holding it in after a long period of time) is when I put my card into that 7-11 ATM and 100 bucks in yen came out. Magic!

Then I decided to eat at an Indian restaurant next to my hostel. The waiter was so over the top helpful that I just assumed I should tip. I mean in Poland it isn’t assumed that you will tip but it is nice to give sometimes. I thought I could do similarly in Japan. WRONG. This was my least planned trip. Tipping is a no no. The Japanese waiter chased me onto the street with the tip money and refused it. OK, got it. Sorry! 

After, I decided it was time to crawl into my little pod and breathe a little. The pods are pretty cool. It wasn’t co-ed so there was a women’s floor and a men’s floor. I needed to put my key into a light switch sort of thing to get into the women’s floor too as an added security measure. Each side of the room had two stories. Each pod had a bubble styled TV, blankets, a radio, and an alarm clock. To close it off, you pull down a shade at the end and leave your bag outside on the floor. 
In conclusion to the first part of my Japan trip, I made my train to the airport after a few hours of temporary stress (and a phone bill of 130 dollars due to roaming trying to find ATMs on my data). Anyways, the next day I went to Taiwan and did not return to Japan for a week.

The first day I was back in Japan was spent with monkeys so please refer to my monkey post for more details. ^^

I took a very comfortable bus from Nagano (the monkey place) to Kyoto. The buses had seats that had an aisle between them. I basically did little to no planning for my Japanese trip (obviously since my atm problems happened and I didn’t do the research). I started my trip at the tourist information desk at the main station in Kyoto. I went to the elderly man working and said, I have two days, plan my trip! He gave me a map and pointed out all the best places. He recommended that I buy the two day transportation pass for all of Kyoto’s public transport (20 dollars). This was a brilliant idea as it cost me 5 dollars just for the bus from where I was staying to the station. 

My first trip was to Fushimi Inari-taisha. This is in a suburb of Kyoto in a place called Inari and the highlight of the place is a gigantic shrine dedicated to foxes. It is known for its many toriis which is a gate that leads into a Buddhist temple normally. Basically, there were hundreds of these orange gates one after another that went through bamboo forests. Every so often, there would be a gap in the toriis and you’d see smaller shrines with fox sculptures.

My second stop for the day was to the Silver Pavilion temple (Ginkaku-ji). This was yet another temple with bamboo forests and a large lake surrounding it. I don’t really know what to write about it because temples are temples and they’re pretty.

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My next stop was Gaia. Gaia is the last geisha district left in Japan. Basically, in my mind, I was going to go geisha hunting. It was like a random Tuesday so there wasn’t much of a chance in reality but I wandered the district for an obscene amount of time trying to find them. I did, however, find Japanese women going for a stroll in their kimonos in Gaia, close enough.

After, I paid to watch a tea ceremony. Basically, this is a four hour ceremony where they mix tea, make tea, eat a biscuit and yeah. Four hours? Not sure if I like tea enough for four hours of sitting and being pretty. The lady showed us how to do everything in an elegant and proper way and where to place the stirrer and how to eat the biscuit properly. Anyways, thankfully it was only an hour rather than four. It was nonetheless interesting to watch and there is no doubt in my mind that it is a beautiful cultural custom of Japan – just time consuming. 

The second day was spent going to Nijo castle and ….take a guess… I dare you…… MORE TEMPLES. <insert clapping noise here>. Nijo castle was recommended to me but I wasn't completely amazed by it. Most of the buildings were closed off and most of the signs were not in English. The grounds were aesthetically pleasing but because it was winter, most of the nature was dead/bare so there was a rather dour feeling to the place.

After the castle I decided to go see the Golden Pavilion temple (Kinkaku-ji). Ummmmm. What to say.. What to say.. IT WAS GOLDEN. Yeah, that’s right, golden. It was a temple. It was a golden temple.And then… I went to another temple I randomly found which wasn’t on the tourist map. This was my favorite one because it was the least touristic and actually allowed me to go inside and explore.

My last stop was a bamboo grove. I stalked some more Japanese women in kimonos for a nice photo and then laughed at the carriage here. There were men carriages rather than horse drawn carriages. It just looked rather comical and entertaining. 

Japan was interesting as it definitely has its own quirks but I am not so sure it was my favorite place or a place I would go out of my way to live in. I found things to be too orderly and controlled for my liking. As for the people, they absolutely friendly, in fact, one lady even saw me looking lost and had me follow her to Namba. But all in all, it was a packed trip and probably exhaustion made my trips lightly less interesting.