24.05.2012 - 29.06.2012 23 °C
We spent 10 days in Japan, split evenly between Kyoto and Tokyo, and we’ve absolutely loved it! Miraculously, we’ve managed to stick to our £60 a day budget, but we would definitely splash out a bit more if we came again. We decided that we would spend our time in Kyoto seeing temples and other Japanese cultural and historic spots, and then spend our days in Tokyo seeing all that is weird, wonderful and modern. This turned out to be a pretty good way of doing things
We did so much in Kyoto, and I took so many photos so this entry (and probably the Tokyo one too) will be pretty long! Sorry!
The view over Kyoto from the Skywalk at Kyoto station
After catching a train from Kansai airport to Kyoto, we arrived at our hostel at around midnight and immediately came across two unique Japanese things – an aluminium bottle of Coke, and an all singing, all bum-washing toilet! Yay!
After a comfortable night’s sleep (first duvet in 3 months!), we got up early and moved to another hostel. We couldn’t have checked in after 11pm at the place we really wanted to stay, so had to stay elsewhere on the first night. This second hostel was amazing value for Japan and it had the exact same duvet and cover that I have at home – it was heaven!
This was a very exciting day for us as we met up with my friend Stu from uni who is doing the JET programme in Japan this year. We only had a few precious hours with him, but he taught us some invaluable Japanese phrases, told us what food we had to try and showed us the joys of Purikura. This is like a very sophisticated photo booth that girls love to use - it basically warps you out of all recognition and makes you look taller, cuter and prettier!
You could choose from 3 different leg lengths in this booth!
In the afternoon we went to visit a few of the bigger temples near our hostel and then wandered around the city centre in the evening. Our hostel was right in the middle of Gion, the Geisha district, but unfortunately we didn’t see any Geisha or Maiko (trainee Geisha) at all during our stay.
Today was an full-on sightseeing day, we managed to fit so much in and were so tired at the end of it! In the morning we got a bus up to Kinkakuji temple which has a very pretty golden pavilion on a lake.
We then walked along to Ryoanji temple which has a zen garden with some perfectly placed stones in. I didn’t really understand the significance of the placing as all the signs were in Japanese – but the gravel was raked very nicely!
The zen garden at Ryoanji
We then got the bus back to the centre of town and bought a (very Japanese) convenience store picnic lunch, which we ate by the river.
A sample of the random selection of foods you can buy in Japanese convenience stores
After lunch we visited Nijojo castle which had an interesting floor that squeaked so you could hear when an intruder was coming in – proving that the Japanese have been coming up with crazy inventions for centuries!
After the castle, we walked to the kaleidoscope museum. On our way we stopped to get a drink at a vending machine – these are EVERYWHERE in the Japan! You can’t walk more than 25m without bumping into one, and they’re often bunched together with two or three next to each other! We found another interesting Coke can, this one was massive (no lid though ) -
The ubiquitous vending machine!
The museum was really cool and fun! It was just one room but it contained about 50 kaleidoscopes and they were all so different. Some were really huge and so ornate; they looked just like antique ornaments. Unfortunately you couldn’t take pictures inside
In the evening we went to a sushi restaurant and it was so cheap and delicious! I tried pretty much everything (apart from salmon roe and raw prawns) and was very surprised that I liked all the raw fish! I’ve never been to a Yo! Sushi restaurant at home and have always wanted to go, but I don’t think I ever will now as I know it just won’t compare.
A real Japanese sushi restaurant
Today we took a day trip to Nara, which has the world’s largest wooden building (Todaiji temple) containing the world’s largest bronze Buddha.
Needless to say, both these world records were pretty impressive, but the best thing about Nara was the deer! The temples are situated in a big deer park and they are so tame. You can buy ‘deer biscuits’ and feed them and they all bow their heads to ask for the food. It’s crazy and we basically spent the whole day feeding the deer and trying to find the little scruffy scared ones to give food to as it seemed that all the big pretty deer got fed by everyone else!
Feeding the deer
This poor man got surrounded!
As well as playing with deer and visiting temples, we found the time to visit a pretty little Japanese garden. I also purchased my first of many Hello Kitty souvenirs – a phone charm with Hello Kitty dressed as a deer with a ‘deer biscuit’ that says Nara on it! Strangely, I purchased this inside the big temple as it had a gift shop.
Hello Kitty Nara!
We just did our usual wandering around the centre of Kyoto in the evening and discovered that the Japanese are able to make ANYTHING cute –even doughnuts!
Cutest doughnut ever!
I spent the day in bed today as a cold that had been brewing for the last couple of days had got a lot worse. Stephen was also pretty ill but he made it out for another full day of sightseeing. His favourite place was Fushimi Inari Shrine, which has thousands of red gates leading up to the top of a big hill.
Red gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine
We set off earlier than we needed to catch the bullet train to Tokyo as we wanted to take some photos of Kyoto station, which is huge and very cool. It contains food courts, sky walks, a rooftop garden, department stores and even a concert stage!
Just some of Kyoto station
We decided to pay the extra money to go on the fastest possible train as we thought we shouldn’t pass up the opportunity, so off we went to Tokyo at 230km/hr!
The bullet train