Saturday, May 8, 2010

5月3日〜5日 Day 40-42: GOLDEN WEEK IN KYOTO!

Hey everyone, sorry for the horrendously long wait for an update-- I've been busy enjoying the beautiful weather! FINALLY! (The last 2 weeks have been doom and gloom)

So Golden Week was kicked off with some excessive partying (see last post) and finished off with doing lots and lots of touristy things around Kyoto. I swear, I must have seen about a BILLION temples and shrines!

Golden Week is Japan's only national week of holidays. It starts with Showa no Hi on April 29th, and then has Constitution Day on the 3rd, Midori no Hi (Green Day) on the 4th, followed by Kodomo no Hi (Children's Day) on the 5th. Yes, we had to go to school on the 5th and 6th... what kind of retardedly placed holiday is that?! Anyway, my friends and I decided to spend our one and only holiday outside of Tokyo-- to get a glimpse of the other side of Japan: KANSAI!

We took a 7 hour bus ride from Tokyo to Kyoto for about ¥12,600 round trip, which is less than half the price of a shinkansen ticket. Talk about student travel. IT SUCKED. It was so cramped and I barely slept, but at least it was cheap.

We stayed with Yuko-sensei, my mom's kick ass Japanese tutor. She was the absolute sweetest because she literally showed us everything Kyoto has to offer. Unsurprisingly, we saw everything in 3 days! (That's why I'm glad I'm studying abroad in Tokyo... hehehe.)

One thing we saw in Kyoto that we didn't see in Tokyo was STEVEN SPIELBERG. YEAH. We saw him getting off the train in Kyoto Station with Cate Capshaw, totally nonchalant. CRRRRAAAAAZZZZZZY! We were so completely tripped out that we had seen Steven Spielberg that we didn't even ask for a picture. It was also really clear that no one else recognized him, and he was enjoying that.

Anyway, here are the less exciting (jk) highlights of the trip:

Photo © Jordan

The first thing Yuko-sensei did was take us out to lunch at this place called ODEN. I've never been a huge fan of udon, but this place made me change my mind... fast. It also had the greatest gobo I've ever tasted. (Sorry, Grandma)

Kyoto Tower! It's shaped like a Japanese candle! Did you know that? NEITHER DID I!

Yasaka Shrine. What an awesome view of greater Kyoto!

Walking through Gion to get to Yasaka Shrine-- holy balls it was crowded! I think everyone pilgrimages to go to Kyoto during Golden Week to feel more Japanese.

Hence, why touristy girls pay tons of money put on geisha make up and strut around Gion. (Notice how they're being directed) Lots of tourists take pictures with these posers thinking they're real geisha, but REAL geisha don't waste time on petty tourists, as they have real (refined) work to do.

Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavillion. It was gorgeous! I bought 3 omamori (good luck charms) from here for some very special people who will receive them in the mail in time for their birthdays ;)

The only thing I didn't like about Kinkakuji was the fact that everyone was just there to take pictures of it. The whole experience can be summed up as, *CLICK CLICK CLICK* leave. The guy directing the masses of people around Kinkakuji even said, "Please take your pictures quickly so others can have a chance." Hm, I guess the history of the place isn't as interesting as the fact that you've been to it.

Trying to get coins in the dish for good luck.

I'm sure these buddhas had faces at one point, but the constant misses in that bowl have cost them their identities.

I think this long market street was called Nishiki, but I could be wrong. It was full of every type of Japanese food, spice, ingredient, herb, etc. that you could think of. Somewhere my mom could have easily spent 5 hours in.

Here are my friends, Jordan and Joelle, looking at some nuts. Nuts in Japan are VERY hard to find!

Heian Jingu: The Biggest Torii Gate in Kyoto!

On Wednesday, our last day, we went to Yuko-sensei's parents' house. They told us there was going to be a big parade/festival that came right in front of their house so we made sure to go.

They carried a mikoshi (portable Shinto shrine). There was one carried by all women (for some kind of female kami) and one carried by all men-- which was probably the more important one.

The one the men carried had no support whereas the female one was on a cart. The men carried their mikoshi all the way to Inari Jinja! We ran into them later! I couldn't believe they had carried it for so far-- it was SO hot! They also had to bounce it up and down on their shoulders which looked REALLY painful!

Anyway, Inari Jinja was our last touristy stop. Inari Jinja is the shrine you see on all the postcards, with the endless path of torii going up the mountain. I CLIMBED IT!

Outside the shrine, we saw lots and lots of foxes. Foxes are some kind of guardian for Shinto Shrines. I would tell you why, but my stupid religion class isn't really teaching me anything.

Hand drawn foxes outside the shrine.

Me and the gates. I always thought they were red, but guess what? They're orange!

After we got back from that hot hike through the Senbon Torii (Thousand Torii), we came back to Yuko-sensei's parents' house and had snacks and lunch. They insisted on getting something delivered!! X_X

Photo © Jordan

Photo © Jordan

MOUTHWATERING KAWASHI MOCHI! It's seasonal! It's wrapped in oak leaves! BE JEALOUS!

Photo © Jordan

BENTO FROM HEAVEN. GAHH I don't even know how I can thank Yuko-sensei's parents! They sent us home with cake and green tea too! (X_X)

The saddest part of the trip was saying good bye to Hal, their dog.

Right before we left, Yuko-sensei took us to a local shrine where they had tons of carnival-type games, FOOD, and horse riding demonstrations.

All the games involved scooping something out of water and winning goldfish.

The horseback riding was interesting because all the guys were trying to do tricks down this long track. Not too many successes though...


ZOMG TAKOYAKI *droooooooool*

Then we had to leave for our 7 hour bus ride back. NOT WITHOUT SOME OKONOMIYAKI THOUGH!

Photo © Jordan

Kansai people get really pissed at the way Tokyo people eat okonomiyaki. Yuko-sensei said she didn't mind, but I'm glad she told us the proper way to eat it. Tokyo people eat okonomiyaki like a pizza, cutting triangle slices from the middle. Kansai people cut it into vertical strips, starting from one side, moving to the other. I guess eating it the Kansai way is better considering okonomiyaki was invented there. Eating it the Tokyo way would be the equivalent of eating a taco with a fork or something...

Photo © Jordan

We finally left Yuko-sensei's apartment at about 10pm. I had to admit that I sort of enjoyed sleeping on the floor with my 2 friends. It was like a slumber party! A tatami slumber party! ^_^ Don't worry-- I made sure we cleaned up~!

The trip was so much fun, and it was a great escape from Tokyo. Tokyo can make you feel so claustrophobic with all of its buildings, neon signs and lack of greenery. Going to Kyoto was a nice change of pace and perspective, but it also made me realize that I can never be too far from bright lights and a big city... I'll always have a piece of my heart in Tokyo.

1 comment:

  1. that line about the buddhas losing their identity's made me crack up