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Geishas, Pumpkin Lattes, and Chicken Hearts.

I lied in my last post, unless “really soon” means two months later? I’m so sorry about that… Let’s get to it anyway.  Why do I keep naming my posts in threes? Well, it’s just so interesting right? I think so at least. When I last left my posts about Kyoto, I had went to the Golden Temple, ate some yummy ramen, and explored Kyoto Station. Well now I was ready to head off into Gion, arguably one of the most famous regions of Kyoto. fb_img_1451365497396.jpgGion is famous for being one of the main areas where geishas live and work. Though the geishas of today are not like those of the past, they are still women who are performance artists. It is not very likely that you will find a geisha or maiko (geisha in training) wandering around Gion. If you’re lucky enough to see one (like I was!) they’ll be rushing around, hoping not to be spotted and swarmed by tourists. It’s kind of scary to be followed around, like some sort of semi-celebrity, so I don’t blame them for running. I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a beautifully dressed girl in a blue kimono. She nodded at me and I at her, and she scurried down an alley before anyone else saw her. Probably one of the coolest experiences of my trip, though it was fleeting.fb_img_1451365500702.jpg
Gion had a wonderfully old school charm to it. Old wooden buildings, small shops. I wandered through the streets happily, after downing a sweet caramel pumpkin latte from Tully’s.
Which was probably tastier than a pumpkin spice latte, I haven’t had one in years now so I’ll compare this fall… I looked through the shops in Gion, buying some konpetti and the traditional Kyoto cookies made from cinnamon called yatsuhashi/bridge cookies (that are amazing!). I just enjoyed being a tourist. I loved Kyoto and how it felt being there, I did everything I wanted to do and then just sat down and people watched for a bit. I was on the edge of the Kamo River, watching the sun go down under a willow tree. The buildings lit up and I felt like I was in a fantasy world. It seems to cheesy to write something like that but I really did feel content with my life.

fb_img_1451365517448.jpgI wasn’t just waiting for nothing though, a friend from highschool was working in Kyoto and she agreed to meet with me for dinner. She took me to Fushimi Inari and we saw all the cool torii gates, as well as some cute cats and a tiny lizard. It was an interesting experience because it was night-time and the area is not brightly lit but it was still cool. We saw many shrines and small foxes. I would’ve liked to eat some kitsune udon while I was there but I’ll save that for next time I’m in Kyoto…

fb_img_1451365554621.jpgWe finished up at Fushimi Inari and then headed to an Izakaya for dinner. Izakaya are Japanese bars, but are kind of like a snack and alcohol bar. It was all fairly inexpensive for several drinks, a delicious cabbage dish (that was refillable and free!) and many fried foods. I had stuffed peppers, chicken skewers, and even chicken hearts. Not my favourite thing but when in Japan… Haha. We settled up the bill and hurried back to Kyoto station so I could make my train back to Osaka on time. A short ride later i was back in Osaka and I hit the motherlode of kitkats in the station. I figured they’d be good gifts to bring home and also it was going to be my last time in Japan for a long time so I might as well spend the money I had.

I saw lots of people in Halloween costumes too which was nice, people in Japan love Halloween! It was refreshing to see a country love a holiday that much. After rushing to the subway, I made the last train back to Doubutsuen-mae, and then back to my hotel.fb_img_1451365535906.jpg

I was thankful for a lovely solo trip and I enjoyed spending my last bit of yen on things in Japan. I know I’ll be back in Japan one day but since I don’t know when that will be, I can reflect and know that I did enjoy exactly what I wanted to.
So ends my trip posts. I haven’t been on any trips since being home, and I’ve been home nearly six months. I’m itching to go somewhere new, and I hope you’ll stick around for it.

Coming next are some posts from home and I hope you’ll enjoy them too. Thanks for sticking with me!

Until next time,
B.

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Temples, Traditions, and Ramen

Early Sunday morning I hopped on the subway from Dobustsuen-mae to Osaka station. I tried grabbing some delicious ebi-mayo rolls but the closest conbini was sold out… I settled for some pastries from a bakery in Osaka station and then made my way to the train.

A ticket from Osaka to Kyoto was only $6. I didn’t expect it to be so cheap and I was pleasantly surprised. I was kind of lost waiting for the train but the signage was abundant and I had enough WiFi to give me some google maps directions to exactly what train to get on. We pulled in to Kyoto station just after 11am and I was speechless.

fb_img_1451365423762.jpgKyoto station is HUGE! I wandered around for a bit, not really knowing where to go. I wasfb_img_1451365427726.jpg by myself, with a few goals in mind of where to go, and that was it. I looked for the kitkat
store with no luck, grabbed a pumpkin milk tea and then went outside. It was a warm autumn day and I was so happy. The station was bustling with people, all eager to explore the city like I was. I purchased a $5 bus pass, which  was good all day for any bus in the
city. I had three places in mind to go to in Kyoto and all day to do it. The only set plans I had were not until the evening, where I’d meet a friend for dinner and Fushimi Inari.

I set off on my first bus, to a place I’d dreamed about going for almost a decade. The bus was long and full to the gills, but I was so excited. I had my kindle with me so the journey was easy enough, and before I knew it the bus was emptying at our stop. I walked quickly up the road to see a bunch of small shops and restaurants full of life. The temple was across the street in a wooded area. I paid my $5 entry fee, completely worth  it, and made my way inside. Kinkakuji temple, or the Golden temple, completely took my breath away. I was shaking, nervous and excited. It’s completely ridiculous to feel that way about a temple but this place was beautiful. This place solidified my love for Japanese architecture and allowed me to grow as a person. I went from a teenager who wanted to go to the land of anime to a young woman eager to see more of the world.fb_img_1451365445815.jpg

It was all thanks to my friend James. He had been to Kyoto during his exchange year in Japan. We sent emails all the time and the pictures he sent me were burned into my mind forever. I was kind of teary eyed looking at the temple, I took my time, took it all in and took many pictures. Kinkakuji has been on my small bucket list of places to go for years, it was possibly the first entry on that list and I finally made it. I wandered the temple grounds, basically floating from place to place. I bought some mementos but I knew this place would be a part of me forever.

After a thoroughly enlightening experience, I wandered slowly back down the street. I stopped in the shops along the roads and looked at all the souvenirs they had to offer. I wasn’t really in a shopping mood, and that’s an odd feeling for me. I was completely and utterly happy. I fb_img_1451365480169.jpghopped on a bus back to Kyoto Station (my centralized point) and decided it was time for lunch. As I ascended the many escalators in Kyoto Station I was treated to a wonderful performance by a high school orchestra. Not only were they really good, they were also playing Disney songs. I sang along and sat and enjoyed the show before heading to Ramen Street. Ramen Street is a name for a section of the department store in Kyoto Station. Famous enough to have its own name but I didn’t think it was the greatest. The restaurants all seemed to serve the same stuff and they all had varying lengthy lines out front. I figured I couldn’t go wrong with ramen in Japan so I just picked one that looked appealing and bought my ticket. Turns out I was not wrong, and I enjoyed the second best ramen I’ve had  in Japan. Nothing beats that creamy delicious ramen I had in Shinjuku though… After filling up, I headed back out to Gion, where I’d explore the historic area of Kyoto, maybe catching a glimpse of a Geisha…

Originally this was only going to be two posts but to save your eyes I’m going to make a 3rd post. It’s hard to believe I was only there for 2 days but my last trip to Japan was one to remember. Sorry for the delay in my posts, lots of stuff going on at home so I’ve been a little busy!

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Next post really soon!
Until next time!
B