What a Wonderful Weekend – Kyoto, Japan

Osaka Castle

September 13 – 15, 2014

Despite being eaten alive by ninja mosquitoes, I enjoyed getting lost in Osaka and Kyoto, reuniting with old friends, and ending with a photo shoot. Those super fast, sneaky, probably really small ninja mosquitoes are nothing compared to how happy I was this weekend!
I’ve been always on the go ever since we adjusted to Japan time, so it has been difficult to find time to write. So, this past weekend (13-15) was a 3-day weekend for most Japanese people, some kind of holiday, which lands on every 3rd Monday of September.

Saturday, September 13:
This was our first full day to explore. No luggages slowing us down. No heavy backpacks causing back pain. Just a simple, easy day to travel. We chose to go to Osaka.  Didn’t really plan on what we were going to do there thoroughly, so probably not the smartest idea…and the fact that we were still really jet lagged probably didn’t help much either.

After being lost in transition of thinking about what we should do, I finally said, “We might as well go to Osaka Castle first!” As we were traveling there, we noticed a lot…and I mean A LOT of young people dressed up in traditional costumes.  Eventually, we asked someone what was happening and what a wonderful coincidence that we chose today of all days to go to Osaka and experience a local festival/competition. The funny thing was that this festival was happening in the park near the castle, so it would’ve been on our way up.  Lucky us!  Massive amounts of people gathered together and formed multiple groups. We saw groups practicing their dance, archery skills, samurai swords, etc. When we walked closer to the stages, we saw a variety of food stands, a few scattered tents built up with a couple benches inside-the only shaded areas were under those tents. With the intense heat, and the sun shining bright, but blazing down on you created an unfortunate experience. It felt like a desert with no place to hide. I chose the wrong day to forget sunblock….

We made it to the top with a few stops in between and came back down to watch some of the performance and eat some delicious yakisoba noodles! We enjoyed watching the traditions of young locals join together in dance. Friends and strangers laughing and jumping up and down together singing is the same kind of feeling when dancing to Casper Slide, Electric Slide, or the Macarena. Probably more equivalent to the Macarena judging on how ridiculously silly the moves were.

In between the heat and jet lag, we were exhausted after 4 hours and went back home to our little Kyoto apartment. Kevin took a brief nap while I fought back the droopy eyelids, and the constant yawning, with success in not giving into the jet lag.  As soon as I realized I wouldn’t be able to fight it for long, I woke Kevin and we got lost within Kyoto walking towards the Golden Temple-which is very close to the apartment. Walking past little shops and small family-owned restaurants, discovering another temple, but it was closing as we entered through the gate, and ended our exploration walking back home.  I don’t remember if we ate anything for dinner. I know that we snacked a bunch and had a very late lunch in Osaka before we returned to Kyoto and that was the yakisoba noodles. It was a blur of a day that was filled with exploration and exhaustion.

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Sunday, September 14:
I have been waiting for this day since I told my Japanese friends I was planning on visiting Japan to visit them after graduation.  That was before 2013! A year longer than expected plus a couple more months and the day finally arrived! We met at 10 AM ish at the Golden Temple. It was if I were in a dream-like state! “Rebecca!” whipping around so fast seeing my four friends, thinking back to January 2012 on how I left them at the international dorm in Tianjin, China. Feeling a bit nostalgic and running to greet them with a big hug and a huge smile on my face! Natsuki, Manami, Kayo, and Asuka! Oh, how I’ve missed them! It felt so unreal that we stood there in silence for about 2 minutes in awe that we finally made it!

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We make an interesting group to be speaking in broken Chinese, Japanese, and English.
We didn’t stay long at the Golden Pavilion. There wasn’t much to see. I still can’t believe how gullible I was when Manami turned to me with such a serious face and a matter-of-factly voice saying, “Someone lives there!” I’m shaking my head as I remember what happened. Oh man, that was dumb of me!  That became the main joke the rest of the day.  😦

We rode the bus to Arashiyama Forest.  Before entering, we walked around the main shops and ate lunch at one of the Udon Shops.  Oh my gosh, that was the first meal in Japan that was beyond delicious and what made it even better was enjoying it with my friends!

Although, my friends were right about Arashiyama being 没什么意思 (not very interesting), just bamboo trees everywhere, it was a beautiful view.  Walking through the forest of bamboo was a peaceful experience.  It wasn’t what I had imagined it to be, but I wasn’t disappointed. In my mind, I didn’t picture a designated pathway leading through the forest, I also didn’t know there would be a dead end and needing to walk back down the way we came up.  For some reason, I was hoping that tourists would be free to roam the bamboo forest, but I understand why there was a pathway set up with tall strands of hay(I think), built up to form a barrier.  I was also thinking there would be something at the end of the forest, kind of like when you walk through a museum, there’s a gift shop trapping your escape route in order to get you to buy stuff.  I’m glad I went with my friends, I think it would’ve been boring with just the two of us.  It was a lot of fun to explore with some of my closest friends.

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As the day progressed, we grew closer, more talkative, goofed around, and laughed a lot.  The final place we went to was the Kiyomizu Dera. It was a cool spot with multiple shops leading up to the temple.  I feel like we walked into about 70% of the food shops in there just to try the free samples.  DELICIOUS! I love munching on snacks and these were the best way to do it, walking up the hill to get to the temple amongst friends who also enjoy eating.  We made it to the temple right when the sun was setting and OH MY! What an amazing view!  Every guest at the temple was taking pictures of the beautiful sunset.  Both our cameras are filled with sunset pictures, temples, the sun with temples in the background, or different angles of the temples with the light from the remaining sun, and a bunch of randomness from Arashiyama Forest.  I’m not a photographer, but I love playing around with the light provided for me.

It was dark by the time we walked down, with all the shops closing down for the end of the day.  My friends heard of a local yakitori place that young people often go to.  We ordered quite a bit of food and it was all delicious.  Kevin and I ate at a yakitori place near our place in Kyoto, but that one was not nearly as good as the place we went to in downtown Kyoto.  In fact, the one near our place was so bad that it was not in the least bit enjoyable.  I am so thankful for having amazing friends who planned this whole day filled with events that went beyond what I had hoped for.  It was fun catching up with them after 3 years.  A lot has happened since we left China, but it’s always good to know our personalities haven’t changed so much.  Dinner was a nice touch to the end of the night.  A good way to relax and have good conversations after a long day.  While Asuka and Manami stayed another hour, Kayo and Natsuki had to leave early to make the last train back home.  I felt so special that my friends came out just for this one day to meet me and see each other again.

Monday, September 15, 2014:
Sleeping in after such an eventful day was wonderful.  We ate breakfast at a local restaurant and the owner was an old man who had a tint of green hair.  I wished I had gotten a photo with him, but I didn’t expect to not go back before heading to Tokyo. It was the day of my photo shoot. First one back since May and it was in Japan! 😀 Stay tuned on an upcoming post about the photo shoot with an amazing photographer.

I remember taking the train to meet him, getting lost, and feeling sick about midway through the shoot.   I stuck through it though because I wanted to make the most out of the time.  Who knows when we’ll get a chance to work with each other again and he is an exceptional photographer, so I ignored the pain.  Besides it wasn’t so unbearable until we got on the train to head back home.  In search of the perfect place to eat, we ended up eating at a Korean BBQ place that did not taste very good.  Exhausted me + Pained me = unaware of my attitude/not fully present in the now me.  During dinner, I became snappy and about halfway, fell “asleep” while still feeding myself and vaguely remembering about complaining how rotten this meal tastes.  Poor Kevin, not only did he accompany me to my photo shoot, but I was being a complete grouch. After dinner, I remember clearly that I decided to sprint home to get there faster, so I could crash sooner, which happened.

The Monday night madness has completely been shunned and tossed out of our memories to make room for the positives of how enjoyable the past weekend was.  At least the first 90% was a grand experience filled with laughter and joy.  Kevin and I were so happy, we believed our next weekend in Tokyo wouldn’t compare to this amazing weekend in Kyoto.

Coming up: Talk about an awesome photo shoot and more Rebeisuke’s traveling adventures….

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