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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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O-sak-it to me. – Day One!

Sorry for the pun in the title… maybe I’m not really. I made my way to Osaka, Japan for the first time in March! I split this in to two posts because, once again, I write a lot of details about my trips. I had a mild obsession with anime, manga, j-pop, and all the like when I was younger. My formative years from 11-16 were shaped by Morning Musume, Hamtaro (Hamutaro in Japan), and Card Captor Sakura. Though I’ve outgrown manga reading and anime watching as a hobby, I still enjoy listening to some J-pop and I love the language. I studied it when I was in university and I really wished I kept up with it… Anyway, life goes on.

I learned a lot of life lessons from anime and I really enjoyed being a part of the anime community. I attended conventions and rented manga from the library. I cosplayed. Japanese culture had a big influence on my life and I think I grew to appreciate it as more than just the land of anime and ramen. I started becoming interested in the culture and language as I grew older. I took the opportunity to visit Osaka because there was a Card Captor Sakura art event going on. I have a strong connection to that series because I grew up with it. I love the story of Sakura and Syaoran, and about being a magical girl in general. I even broke a light swinging my clow staff around.. Alas, I have grown to admire and appreciate the story of a regular girl doing something amazing. The art event was just one reason I wanted to go to Japan. I had always had the country on my bucket list. Osaka especially for the Kansai dialect and the Dotonbori.

I had booked my ticket in February, when Air Busan was having really good deals for international flights. I paid just over $200 for my roundtrip flight. I made my way to the airport at 1:30pm on Saturday afternoon for my 4pm flight. It kind of sucked not getting the earlier flight (they fly to Osaka 2x a day) but I used the morning to finalize packing so it was wpid-img_20150321_154323.jpgalright! I was through security in 10 minutes (Gimhae internation has 8 gates… lmao) and then had to kill 2 hours at the airport. I think I was more excited just to get on the plane. I hadn’t been on a plane since October, and the last plane I was on took my from Seoul to Busan… I was excited to leave the country I had grown to call home in the last few months. I watched as the airport worked waved to our plane as we taxied to the run way and smiled. It was cute just to watch this guy wave at our plane. Not to mention it was a beautiful warm day in Gimhae.

The Air Busan flight was super quick, and they served us a baked hotdog on the way there with a juice box. It was less than 2 hours to fly to Osaka. The longest part was going through immigration in Japan. It was very busy and Kansai airport is a lot bigger than Gimhae so it took a lot longer. I was headed into the train station from KIX at 6pm. I rented a wifi egg from Softbank, a provider in Japan. I’d recommend renting a wifi egg because Japan, unlike Korea, doesn’t have free wifi everywhere. This little egg made sure I was always connected to the outside world. I took a train to Namba station, it was about $10 (or 1000Y). I was super lost when I got out of Namba, I couldn’t find my hotel or how to even get to my hotel. I ended up walking around the station twice… missing some landmarks on the way. After bring super frustrated with Google Maps, I decided that I was just going to try to find it on my own, screw the virtual map. I started walking through a shopping area. I had my backpack on and my wheelie suitcase and all I wanted to do was eatwpid-img_20150321_202835.jpg and out my stuff at my hotel.

I ended up walking through the shopping area just outside of Namba all the way to the Dotonbori! When I came out of the shopping area and saw the brightly lit Dotonbori, my jaw dropped. I felt anxious because there were so many people and I was hitting them with my wheelie suitcase (accidentally). I wanted to cry in amazment and frustration. I did recall that my hotel was a 7 minute walk from the area. Also I found Shinsaibashi shopping arcade so I knew my hotel was close. I resolved to find my hotel and I did just that. I had to walk out of Shinsaibashi, down to the main street, then walk down that street. Al in all, Google maps made me more lost than I already was and Osaka really wasn’t confusing I just made it that way… Alright.so I made my way to my hotel: Capsule hotel Asahi Plaza Shinsaibashi. I loved this hotel! If you go to Osaka, stay there! They kept my luggage all day the next day for free, and they were great. It was a great hotel for a solo traveler, like me. Not to mention it is super close to the Dotonbori.

wpid-img_20150321_204507.jpgI checked in, dropped off my luggage, and then headed back out to the city. I was tempted to stay in the comfort of my capsule, but I didn’t go to Japan to sit and do nothing. I headed to the Dotonbori at 8pm and explored as much as I could. I sampled some takoyaki from one of the various stands. I’m not sure which one is the best but the one I had was pretty good. I took a lot of pictures of the amazing signs in the area, and then I got lost in Don Quixote, or Donki for short. If I wpid-img_20150321_213556.jpglived in Japan, I’d be in Donki every week. This store is AMAZING. There were 8 levels in the store in Osaka, and I made it my goal to go through every one. I filled my basket with weird candies and a nail polish or two. They had everything: I mean it, everything. From candy, to clothing, to sex toys, to fine jewelry. You need it? Chances are you can find it in Don Quixote. I explored and took pictures. Most of the stores started closing around 11pm, but Donki was open until midnight. I also walked into a few capsule arcades and tried my luck. It was just so cool to me to see all these things I had only heard about.

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Only the finest at Donki

I made my way to a Lawson’s (convenience store) to grab some onigiri and snacks, and then made my way back to my hotel. I also stopped at a Family Mart just to check it out. I ended up buying a Black Thunder bar (which is now one of my favorite chocolate bars ahhhh). I had some sea chicken (tuna) onigiri in my capsule and then settled in for the night. All in all, my first day in Japan was sort of like what I expected it to be: crazy and amazing. It was very busy, I saw some strange sights, but also some amazing things. I went to bed semi early (for me) to prepare myself for the next day.

wpid-img_20150321_213942.jpgMy post about Sunday will be up soon, I hope! Things have been more easy-going at work this week thanks to middle school midterm prep, but I have been given a few other tasks. (Like phone calls to students and creating another magazine.). I don’t mind it at all but I like making use of my downtime at work.

Anyway, I hope whatever you’re doing you have a great day/week/month, whatever. I have one month left as a 23-year-old and I’m super excited!

Until next time!

-B

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