Stuff I'm getting up to on my year abroad =]

After Kyoto, we had but a scant few days left where Mitch and I had the same days off…. We made the most of them though! On the 20th we managed to get to Tokyo Dome; mostly for Gary to enjoy the Moomin Cafe, which is pretty adorable. I have to say, it was much better this time; I think they were better staffed? We also spent ages in the park nearby (even though it was raining!), and relaxed. Have some Moomins!

The next day was a bit more varied; we started at a cat cafe in Asakusa; then Mitch ran to work and Gary and I walked about the crazyness that is Asakusa. Definitely a great place to go for sightseeing with the shrine, the Skytree, the shopping street and the crowds.

The evening was filled with theme. First we met Mitch, our friend Linh, and her twin sister Thuy in Harajuku, and headed to the Kawaii Monster Cafe. It was amazing and weird all at once. The staff were all dressed up like Cyberdog shop assistants and we sat in a mushroom booth. I cannot do the place justice with my words; so here is the link and some piccies: http://kawaiimonster.jp/pc/en/concept/gallery.html#!/1

From this crazy and cute, we walked over to Shibuya for some crazy and scary; a bar called Lockup. It’s a prison themed bar with crazy drinks and silly food and it was pretty cool. I think with more staff it would have been great as the place felt a bit empty, but the principle was great! At some point the staff let the “criminals” loose and they come and scare the living daylight out of you by rattling the bars of the cell that serves as your room. The police staff come and save the day eventually, but not before you get to scream a bit! The toilet was probably the freakiest though…. I went to sit down and this speaker I hadn’t even noticed starts giggling and telling me terrifying things. I literally didn’t even pee; I screamed and pulled up my trousers before I realised there wasn’t anyone there! I warned the girls, so next time we all went together haha. Anyway; check out the cool drinks!

That day was pretty full of stuff! The last few days Gary was here I had to work 😦 But One day he came to the mall and bought some glasses 🙂 And the day before he left I had off so we could hang out a bit and play pool, as well as get him packed and stuff.

And that was pretty much it for the Gary holiday! We stayed up all night before he left because he had a super early flight. I slept at about 5am and then went to work, and the guys hung out at the airport until he had to say sayounara.

I’ll leave you with a picture of some hilarious game themed lube, and what we ended up doing with my Maple leaf tree.

The last Kyoto day~

Mitch got sick in the morning, so we spent ages at home waiting for him to feel better. We skipped going up into the mountains in the north, so we have something to do next time!

We had a bit of a mission trying to find a locker at Kyoto station in which to put our luggage; seeing as everyone else wanted to do the same! We did eventually find one and grabbed the train.

We headed over to the bamboo groves in the end, and explored the surrounding areas until our train home in the evening. It was beautiful, and the weather was much better, so walking around was really pleasant. We even found time to go into the fancy garden in the bamboo grove. We had a look to see if a guy I once bought a balancing dragonfly from was there, but I think the light rain kept him home that day. The garden had a secret quiet house which we spent some time dozing and enjoying the peace. I got to do a bit of calligraphy too!

After bamboo goodness we went for moss goodness. Another place I’d been before but again it was great to slow it down! The walk back to the station took us through another cool temple too which was a nice way to end the day.

We got back to the station in good time and ended up having Chinese food for dinner. It was really spicy, but super yummy. Gary and I got a crazy matcha dessert too 🙂 Then back to Tokyo/Chiba on another bullet train in pure styyyyle.

Day two in Kyoto! Possibly the most photogenic 🙂

Oh boy was it pretty! We went first to Fushimi-inari shrine. The one you always see in the photos with the millions of red gates! It was pouring down, but we walked there from home because it wasn’t too far and we had a nice river to follow most of the way 🙂 The shrine is actually on the side of a mountain, and goes up quite a way. We spent a good few hours there in all, and got plenty soaking!

We walked down the main street leading up to the shrine for lunch. I got some dango, we ate some strange mochi/flour balls which mitch really loved, ice cream (of course) and then found a cute cafe for some cheese on toast. I say toast… but in Japan they see plain old bread as this crazy luxury thing, so our bread was about an inch and a half thick.

The next stop was Kiyomizudera, another very famous and pretty temple. We ended up going the back way somehow and went through a huge cemetary, half of which had slid down in a mini landslide, so it felt a bit like we’d gone the wrong way! This was one of the ones Gary really like the look of, with its three water stream things to drink from for fortune. But apparently you’re only supposed to drink from up to two… or something. The water was freezing! But really tasty. So who knows; even if my health doesn’t improve, I didn’t dehydrate at least 😉 There was a particularly cool place to sit and have some more shaved ice on the side of a cliff over a river on some tatami matting… so naturally we stopped for a break before heading to dinner.

Dinner was a bit of a mission. We hoped to just find somewhere, but poor Mitch was really suffering with his wet feet. We went into a shopping bit to find him some second hand shoes but there wasn’t much to eat there. Eventually we found an info centre and the guy there helped us find an okonomiyaki place. It tasted fine, but boy was it out of the way and a little empty…. All part of the adventure 🙂 Mitch decided for sure that he didn’t really like okonomiyaki that night. Gary was a bit bewildered but seemed to like it! We went for a wander in the night before turning in; the river near the restaurant was lovely.

Bonus picture of the day’s loot!

Time for actual Kyoto! In three days we managed to hit most of the tourist spots and eat a good amount of ice cream 🙂

Our first destination was Ginkakuji; a big old temple I hadn’t managed to get to before. The scenery was really pretty, with sand sculptures and moss and praying mantis…

From there we walked down the Philosopher’s Path to the next temple, which turned out to be waaay cooler than we realised! You could go up the top of the gate in Nanzenji. It was cooler and shaded up there so we spent a good amount of time relaxing.

We carried on walking towards the town and the next temple; which I realised with a start I had already visited in my last trip! But all I remembered from last time was the sand garden bit. I didn’t realise that there was loads of stuff to do with Tsukumogami – everyday items that have been chucked away but took offense to this, gained a spirit and cause mischief. I did a wee essay on them for a module on my year abroad! It was great to revisit and have connections from before that I didn’t even know I had. Plus there’s cool dragon stuff there.

We literally stayed till close, and were walking out in this procession with a member of staff behind us like a shepherd XD We wandered back to the town and moseyed about, looking for dinner! We decided on Japanese curry, a favourite of Gary’s. He was amazed by putting cheese in it, but we swayed him pretty quickly 😀

I’ll end day one with a picture of all the tickets and stuff I got from the day 🙂img_20160917_210720

At nearly exactly 6 months since we moved to Japan, our Milton Keynes friend Gary came to visit us!! This was possibly one of the most exciting things to happen so far ^_^ We knew that out of all the people that promised to come out, Gary definitely would. We had such a good two weeks!

I managed to collect my monthly allotment of “weekend” days into a 6 day bunch when Gary was here, so we managed to go on a 3 day trip to Kyoto! It’s a gorgeous place. I had been once before when I came to Japan on holiday the very first time way back in 2012, but it was such a whistle stop tour that I mostly remember being very hot and tired (it was summer), and a few of the main sites. This time, we had a whole 3 days and the whole trip was much less rushed. Plus, this time I knew what I was doing and didn’t have to leave the organisation to someone else so it wasn’t all a blur!

We decided to walk to as many places as possible too; in comparison to my last trip where we mostly bussed around but I would recommend the walking option. We really got to know the city in the short time we had; where things were in comparison to each other and how big everything was. Plus you get to see so much more when you’re taking your time!

Anyway, before I delve into the Kyoto part; let me briefly go through the first day with a photo selection. We got Gary on the 15th, and then on the 16th my 6 days off began and we went straight to Narita itself for a morning at the hotspring. It was glorious! It was quite a walk from the station, but well worth it once we got into the baths. It was only 800 yen (£5.50 or so) and if you want to you can spend the entire day relaxing in the lounge area and baths. I met a lady in the baths who randomly gifted me with an adorable pouch she had made which was incredibly nice of her 🙂 We left at about 1pm so Mitch could get the train to work in Tokyo.

After the hotspring, Gary and I went to Narita-san, the  huuge temple. Gary was very much interested in the temples and stuff Japan has to offer so it was great to take him to such a big one so quickly.

 

After Narita-san we hopped on a train to meet Mitch in Tokyo, ready to grab the bullet train to Kyoto! It cost quite a lot, (about £150 return each), but compared to UK normal crappy trains and their prices, it was a steal! It’s about a 300 mile journey. The seats are giant, recline, and have so much leg room you can easily sit with a case in front of you.

I’ll end this one with a few pictures of the room in which we stayed. We got an AirBnB place for pennies, and it was lovely! Two double beds and everything that we could have needed, down to washing machine liquid. It was in a really easy place to get to and from as well 🙂

Tune in next time for the actual Kyoto stuff itself!

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