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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

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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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