What a fun week this was! It started with me finishing my mid-point presentation for school, running travel related errands, and an employee party at Michael’s work. We finished Monday night with some rushed packing, then after four hours of sleep were off to the airport! We landed in Tokyo on Tuesday evening where we met up with my sister, Sara! The three of us then took a train into the city to our hostel in Shinejuku. We went out for dinner that night and truly had a feast! The meal included edamame, salmon sashimi, and a hot pot full of chicken and veggies. After a beer at a Texas themed bar, we called it a night.
The next morning we woke up early to catch a train to Kyoto. Once there we found our hostel, dropped off our luggage, and went out to explore the town. Of course this was only after a gigantic lunch consisting of all the sushi we could eat for around $10 a person. That day we went to Iwatayama Monkey Park (apparently it’s baby monkey season!), Ryoan-ji zen rock garden, and Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Temple).
On Thursday we took a day trip to Nara where we got to feed the (relatively) tame dear wandering the town. We also went to Todai-ji Temple where the biggest Buddha I’ve ever seen resides. Unfortunately, pictures just totally fail to capture how amazing this place is. Once back in Kyoto we went to Fushimi Inari Taisha (the fox shrine). This is one of the places I wanted to go when Michael and I were there last time but never made it to. It was absolutely amazing. It rained the entire time we were there and all of the architecture was bright red (a stunning contrast). That evening our hostel had a movie night so we got to rest our feet while watching Big Hero 6. We ended the day with more sushi, and boba tea. Friday was another day trip! This time we went to Himeji Castle, widely considered the most pristine castle in Japan. It recently went through a big restoration so props to us for our timing. We actually got to go inside the castle and walk all the way up to the very top. It was extremely crowded and we had to take off our shoes. These things combined with the narrow wooden staircases made for a somewhat harrowing experience but we all made it out alive with many pictures of the gorgeous view. We also went to the Koko-en Gardens in Himeji (which were amazingly quiet), and had traditional Japanese tea. We all pretty much felt like idiots, but the women who worked there were kind to us anyway. We spend the afternoon in Kobe looking for a good swimming beach. When we found one, it was strangely quiet so we waded and took pictures and then made our way back to Kyoto. That night we ate at a vegetarian place (my fav!) and had drinks at our hostel bar.
The next day (sorry guys, just two more to get through!) we left Kyoto and spent the morning in Osaka. After dropping our luggage at an Osaka train station we made our way to Kaiyukan, the Osaka Aquarium. It was a really cool aquarium, especially in it’s design. The main part of the aquarium is built around a huge fish tank containing big fish, giant rays, and a whale shark. The outside edges have tanks with seals, otters, and dolphins among other things. Most of the tanks in this area are deep (like four or five stories deep), and as you get to different floors you’re able to see the tanks at different levels. After the aquarium, we had a bit of time to kill before our train to Tokyo, so we visited Osaka Castle! It’s been rebuilt recently (and several times before that), but it made for a beautiful backdrop to our lunch and ice cream. Once in Tokyo, we saw Akihabara (Electric Town) and Shibuya Crossing. That night we also saw an unconscious woman in the subway station and a bicyclist with a (clearly) broken leg, so that kind of ruined the “nothing bad can happen on vacation” illusion. On Sunday, we finally got to sleep in! We started our day by finding a stand up sushi bar that Michael and I loved last time, then we went to Harajuku for some shopping, crepe-eating, and people watching. That night we got totally scammed at a restaurant before going to robot restaurant (they don’t have good food there). Unlike last year, robot restaurant was mostly full of white tourists and the production value of the show had gone up quite a bit. When the show was over, we quickly made our way to Tokyo tower to snag some quick pics of the view. That’s all for this week (phew)! Pictures to come soon on facebook.