Remember when I said the Japanese rail system is confusing? Well that bullet train that we were on in my last post we got kicked off of it. Before coming to Japan we got a Japan rail pass which allowed us to take any train that is run by JR and almost all bullet trains for no charge. We ended up on a Nozomi bullet train which is basically an express train from Tokyo to Kyoto; there are only 2 bullet trains we aren’t allowed on the Nozomi and another one. So she kindly asked us to get off at the next stop, which was funny because we had already almost made it to Kyoto. With only 45 mins left in our 2 and a half hour journey I feel like we got the better end of that deal. Anyway it was pretty easy to find a non Nozomi train and with a few more added stops it didn’t really make too much of a time difference. After arriving in Kyoto it was time for us to find our airbnb for the next 4 nights. We got checked in no problem and our airbnb was a sweet little house on the North east of town, we all had double beds and it was more than enough room for the 6 of us.
Once we got all settled in it was getting pretty late in the day and all decided that the famous Geisha district would be a chill place for us to just roam the streets and check it out. Along the way we had some eel for dinner, very expensive for not very much food. When we finally made it to the area we were all a few drinks deep not sure how we made it to the river but while there we met these really crazy Japanese guys that insisted we walk with them through the river to the other side. It didn’t really take much convincing and we were all on our way, with all our clothes on. This was relatively early in the night so after we chanted “WE LOVE JAPAN” with these crazy guys we started checking out the different backstreets and side roads while dripping wet. Walking across the river with our clothes on wasn’t the best things we could’ve done but it was hilarious and a great story. The metro in Japan stops running at around midnight and doesn’t start up again until 5 am so if you have a late night you always have to plan to cough up a TON of money for a cab, the prices are ridiculous here.
The next morning we didn’t wake up till late, the weather wasn’t the greatest so we decided to head to Nishiki food market which was covered. We got to try some weird stuff and get some cool souvenir; the day wasn’t ruined by the rain which is always a good thing. When things got dark we wandered over to Fushimi Inari-taisha which is a famous shrine in Kyoto which has thousands of Torii (traditional Japanese gates) tunneled to get to the peak of this mountain. We thought it would be more lit up at night but they only kept a few lights on so we couldn’t grab very good pictures but it was still really cool to see. The trip to the shrine was shorter than expected so we decided to head over to the center of Kyoto for some karaoke! Karaoke is very popular here so we thought we should give it a shot… it’s also different in the sense that you rent private rooms and it’s just your group in there with food and drinks. We sang the night away and didn’t end up leaving the karaoke bar until 4 am! We had no choice but to take a ridiculously expensive cab home, but it was worth the great time we had.
With not much sleep the night before our third day in Kyoto, it needed to be pretty relaxing and chill. We thought what better way than to hang out with monkeys and walk through a bamboo forest. Our airbnb was about a 25 minute walk to the Arishiyama Monkey Park which was located halfway up this hill overlooking all of Kyoto. It was about a 20 minute hike up. There were macaque monkeys everywhere once we got up. It was fun to feed them and see them playing and attacking each other. They had a lot more warnings about the monkeys here than in any of the other places I’ve seen monkeys… and more rules like not being able to kneel or avoid eye contact with the monkeys. After we were all monkey’d out we made our way to Arishiyama bamboo forest which was extremely packed with tourist and locals. I think it would’ve been a pretty cool and relaxing place if there were less people but we choice to go on a Saturday afternoon, our fault.
For our forth day in Kyoto we decided to hop on the train for a day trip to Osaka. With only 30 mins separating the two major cities by train we thought why not? We only had a few things we wanted to see in our short time there. First stop was the Osaka Castle which was pretty cool, in the middle of the city this massive Japanese style castle arose; it was surrounded by a moat which was an added bonus. Around the castle were many food truck vendors parked for the day which was convenient for my soft spot for street meat. After the sunset we made our way to the most famous street in all of Osaka which is called Dotonbori. This street has everything you need; shopping, eating and tons of entertainment. It was especially busy on this day because it was Halloween weekend and everyone was out showing off their costumes. We explored around for an hour or so until we stumbled on this Kobe beef restaurant right on the river. We all wanted to try Kobe beef one time before we went home so this seemed like the perfect chance to try it. The restaurant was small and busy so the wait was about an hour and a half but I would say it was worth it. It was very expensive but was worth it for the experience, we got to choose between 10 or so cuts all ranging from 750 YEN ($10 CAD) to 5000 YEN ($65 CAD) for just 50g.
The next day it was time for Mary to leave us and continue her trip. She will be traveling on her own for the next 2 weeks. The rest of the group got to sleep in a little bit before we had to check out of our airbnb. The train back to Tokyo was about 3 hours and pretty uneventful other than seeing Mt. Fuji from the train; there were clouds around the peak so it wasn’t too visible but still pretty cool to see. Once we got all checked in to the hostel we went to Shibuya crossing which is the famous crosswalk in downtown Tokyo. There were sooo many people there, especially the night we went because it was Halloween so everyone was out in the streets, drinking and having a good time. Shibuya is a really cool part of the city and just wandering the lit up streets and checking out the different Japanese pubs (called an Izakaya).
For our final full day in Tokyo we decided to check out Ueno Park right in the heart of Tokyo, a huge green space full of fountains, a zoo, boardwalks and a lot of Pokémon Go players. It was a nice and relaxing afternoon and I’m glad we got some time to just hang out and not really do anything because the last week and a half of fast paced travel has been hitting me. Later that night we went to the robot show which was actually pretty awesome. It was basically just dancing, singing, music, robots and fighting all in one show. The people who put on the show and even if it cost us about 90 CAD it was hilarious and worth it. After the show was over we explored the area a bit and stumbled on this all you can eat BBQ which we destroyed. The next morning we checked out the Tsukiji fish market, the biggest fish market in Japan. It was really interesting to see all the vendors and see the inner market where all the workers were just finishing up their shift at 11 am. I tried swordfish for the first time and I’m in love, for sure the best tasting fish I’ve had. It finally came the time for us to fly out, we made our way to the airport and had one final beer before stepping on the plane to go home.
This trip has been really good. I learn a lot from every trip I go on but travelling with a big group you learn new things. Mostly, with a group of 6 everything takes so much longer, eating becomes an event on its own. People want to see different things and you just need to compromise and sometimes sacrifice things to please the group. Travelling with 6 was too much; at least it was for me… The most I would travel with is 4. Also talking about things I’ve learned from my different trips is comparing Japan to India. Its night and day, no garbage on the ground, trains are NEVER late and everything is organized and easy. India is the opposite, but I’m not saying India is any less of a country because I enjoyed both in different ways.
I kept a rough list of all my purchases just to get a good idea of where I blew my budget… I think I did pretty good spending wise both in Hong Kong and in Japan, just taking a quick look I was averaging a day around 11,500 YEN ($150 CAD) in Japan which includes everything, transportation, food, accommodations and any extra things. For Hong Kong it’s cheaper at around 690 HKD ($120 CAD) a day which also includes everything. So definitely not the cheapest place you could go, but it doesn’t matter because we made some good memories. I leave for Morocco on November 7th with my beautiful girlfriend Sara and her sister Leah and friend Shelly. I’m really excited to see what Morocco is all about!