After we shivered in the world’s tiniest hotel room with mystery fevers, we traveled north from Hakata to Osaka where we would base ourselves for the remainder of our time in Japan.
Osaka itself –sadly– we didn’t see much aside from nightlife. Being sick was really hard on us. On one hand, we were thankful that this was the ONE time we were really sick on the trip (OK and then there was the great food poisoning epidemic of early 2013) but all things considered, we’ve been lucky. We have not had to explore how our travel insurance works. HOORAY.
So, Dave already
gloated about not being attacked by chompy deer told you about one day trip to Nara, which was fun except when a pack of domesticated deer bit my hip and scared the crap out of me. NOT COOL, DEER! USE YOUR WORDS, DEER!
The next day we hopped on a slow local train to Kyoto. We were super excited about Kyoto. We wanted to see oldey timey Japan! Geishas! Palaces! Temples!
Here’s a little preconception about Japan that we were incorrect about. We totally figured Kyoto was a village. We knew Japan was densely populated, but we were unprepared for places that were so huge. Kobe – a city and area famous for Kobe beef—you’ve heard of it—MILLIONS of people. Fukuoka, the city that is a blip on tourist radars but home of Hakata ramen – over a million people.
Kyoto is not a small place. With a population of over 1.5 million, it’s twice the population of DC proper and has skyscrapers. WHERE AM I GOING TO SPOT A GEISHA AMONG SKYSCRAPERS AND FUTURISTIC BUILDINGS?
We did a flurry of a day trip to Kyoto. We bought a 500 yen day bus pass which ended up being the best $5 we spent in Japan — we hopped on every bus we could and still managed to walk our feet off– but our cost per use was down which pleased Dave greatly.
So in Kyoto you look one way and it’s temples and palace and quaint Japanese life. If you look downhill, there are skycrapers and a subway system.
But that’s ok because I SAW A GEISHA. We got caught up in the old city in some sort of classic car race (?!) and a geisha in a cab was stuck behind them. I couldn’t even snap a photo– all time stopped– I could barely breathe. She was sitting in the back of a cab, concerned about this extra traffic. She was so put together, so beautiful and so glamorous I feel like she was in front of me for three full minutes. I heard nothing. I didn’t breathe.
It was like, 30 seconds. Maybe.
I felt like at that point we could just go home. We saw what we needed to see.
The checklist looked like this:
Ladies in kimonos
Not just a beer vending machine (which had eluded us all of Japan previously)
A sake vending machine!
So that was Kyoto. The express train through it. On one hand, I’m sad we didn’t spend more time there. On the other hand, how many freaking temples can a girl look at and still appreciate them like the first ten? SERIOUSLY? I feel ok about it.
Because we were staying in Osaka which was super fun with great food. I feel like Tokyo is the New York of Japan without any of the real character and Osaka is like the Chicago. Flies under the radar except for everyone who knows how fun it is. Rules were a bit more lax there (FOR JAPAN), the food was delicious, and the city easy to navigate. We had a good time in Dontonburi amid all the mascots:
Oh and the other beer vending machine we found.
So in Japan summary — if we had to play the crass middle school game of Screw, Marry, Kill:
I think we’d
Kill Tokyo. And all the armbands. No actually we will inflict it no harm. We fear the armbands. Also our friends live there, so they’d be fine. We’d just make it more fun. Change the rules. Armband for fun!
So it was one more round at the super fun taiko drum game
And we were off to Dubai! We flew 10 hours to Dubai– had a 10 hour stopover which we’ll tell you about next– and then flew 5 hours to our favorite city in the world: Istanbul
Goodbye Asia… until a Turkish ferry takes us to the Asian side!
p.s. #2 London
p.p.s: #3 Seoul