Post number four – I’m impressed I’ve made it this far 😉. I’ve been staying at James’s for the last week and haven’t had time to write. However I’m currently sitting on a seven hour flight to Bangkok and a five hour stop over then an hour onto Laos so I definitely have time 👌. Heads up – this may be a long post so I’ve kindly included headings in case you want to skim read the larger sections (no hard feelings).
1st February – Kyoto
After my two days of mishaps, I decided maybe it was best to spend the next couple of days with people.
Already in the mindset to visit Kyoto, I messaged a friend I had met at the hostel (hi Jacob if you’re reading this 😊) who was staying there.
Kyoto is around three hours from Tokyo, most people spend a few days there but again I found this out too late. So I got up at 6.30am to get a 7.30am tube, then an 8am BULLET TRAIN (so exciting). We planned to meet outside McDonald’s in the station, but guess what, I got lost! I went into a shop and tried asking two Japanese ladies, but they had no idea what I was talking about. I checked the wifi and phew there was some available, so got up a photo of the McDonalds sign 🙈. Who had I become! Anywho I soon after found Jacob.
Our first stop was the Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine. I thought it best to let Jacob navigate 👌. Poor boy, I wouldn’t stop talking after spending the last couple of days alone.The hike to the top of the temple was a two hour round trip, which we were unaware of at the time. It was 100% worth it though, as the views (and exercise) were my favourite part of the day. Following the walk, we were both starving (not just me for once), so decided to get food at our next stop – the Golden Temple. I wasn’t going to make it so en route bought octopus on a stick from a stand – I love Japan! Although I did convince myself I was going to get food poisoning 😂.
After quite a long (as we went to wrong way) but amusing bus ride (another highlight), we arrived at Kinkaku-ji. Grabbing some food and a beer, we then ventured around the beautiful Golden Temple. Our trip later took us to the Philosopher trail, which is both stunning in winter with snow and spring with cherry blossoms. We fit into neither of the ‘best season to visit’ 😂. But we still enjoyed it anyway and also found another cute little temple with lanterns. A let down of the day was our visit to Gion, which is one of the few places Geisha’s still live in Japan. Being weirdly obsessed with reading Geisha books when I was younger, I was desperate to finally meet one. However luck wasn’t on our side, even after arriving at 5.30pm which was the time we had been advised. Turning a negative into a positive – all it means is I’ll just have to visit Gion again 😉 and why not go skiing in Japan as well!
The day was nearly over and I still had a three hour journey to get back to Tokyo so we stopped for a beer before I went off on my way. I’m only bringing this up because it could have possibly been one of the best beers I’ve ever had. So if you visit Japan – have one! The brown label, not the green that wasn’t nice. One last thought of the day. This trip has really opened my eyes to people. You spend days with someone who you in fact barely know, but somehow over the bond of exploring and chatting, become really close. Then the next minute they are gone and you miss them! Strange, but it’s a good thing. It’s made me really look forward to all the other people I’m going to meet on the way 😊. Goes without saying I miss the people at home as well though 😉.
2nd February – Arriving at James’s/fancy night out
Thursday was the day I moved to James’s house. James had to work so we planned to meet at 3.15pm at Shin-nakano station (where he lives).
I spent the morning walking around the Sky Tree Tower shopping complex, spending majority of the time in the food hall (shock). For a culture that is so slim, the amount of naughty treats they have never ceases to amaze me. There are always queues for cakes, crepes and ice cream stands. My dad would love it! But I didn’t crack – I had a lovely authentic green tea and a vegetable smoothie. The evening wasn’t as ‘healthy’. To celebrate Olso’s birthday (one of James’s friends) we spent four hours in bar on the 41st floor drinking unlimited alcohol and eating unlimited canapés. It was an hilarious night, with an unbelievable view 👌. And I got to see Mount Fuji 😁.
3rd February – Oslo’s birthday hike
Oslo’s celebrations continued onto the next day (his official birthday), as we hiked up Nokogiriyama. Feeling the effects of the night before, I wouldn’t say it was easy, but the tough uphill climb was soon forgotten when we reached the top. A birthday coffee doughnut was consumed as we soaked up the unbelievable sunset. Again – Mount Fuji woo, I had ticked off one of my main priorities here.
4th February – Nikko
It was back to a solo Jess adventure on Saturday. I was determined to crack this whole navigation thing and I’m proud to say I did it 🙌.
I love mountains, hiking, snow and Nikko had all three so I had to visit (although at the time I didn’t know about the snow). Again this was another place you should spend two days looking around, but I was there for lake/mountains instead of the temple (as let’s be honest I’ve seen a lot of them) so it didn’t matter as much.
I feel like everything is much better thought out in Japan than England (and Europe), making the smallest of things more efficient. It’s really quite insignificant but I loved the fact that in Nikko they had two roads to go up the mountain and two separate roads to go down. Ah it’s the little things. Anyway I arrived at Lake Chuzenji by bus and was instantly blown away by the peaceful town.
I decided to check out the main waterfall first, before heading on a hiking trail around the lake to another waterfall. I was so in awe of this beautiful place that I didn’t realise that the trail I intended to walk was knee deep in snow. I wouldn’t say I was dressed prepared for it, not even wearing my hiking boots, so I took the road instead. Walking for nearly two hours I began to realise this waterfall was further than I originally thought. Granted I was stopping for photos and to lap up the scenery, but I was getting tired, which in turn was making me feel pretty lonely. There were numerous points where I nearly turned back round, but after a serious talking to (out loud) I reminded myself this is why I’ve done this trip, to get out of my comfort zone, so I soldiered on.
Finally arriving at the waterfall, I wouldn’t say it was the best waterfall I’ve seen, but it was an accomplishment so I was happy to be there. The evening was filled with food and watching Arsenal with James’s Korean house mate. Yeah we lost 😔.
5th February – Yokohama
Originally I was going to go back to Hakone to see Mount Fuji on Sunday, however the weather was bad so I decided to explore Yokohama instead.
Oh Yokohama was the place of highs and lows. A pretty big high was the fact it had a Cup Noodle Museum 😮. It was actually pretty fascinating as I never knew the whole concept was formulated by one man. You could even create and design your own cup noodle, but I think it’s something to do with friends instead of on ones larry. I got my daily fix of matcha green soya latte before visiting Yokohama’s art museum. I was a bit reluctant to go and instead wanted to visit the model train museum. But seeing as the train place was double the price, I got arty.
Surprisingly this was one of my favourite parts of the trip and even Japan. The museum had a gallery of Japanese photography over the eras, looking post and pre war at both people and the landscape. I spent quite a bit of time studying each of the photographs, it was truly incredible. I didn’t take many photos as it felt wrong to, but that almost made it better. For once I wasn’t focused on being behind a lens. The day got drastically worse as I visited the local zoo. I had to leave because I was on the brink of tears. I wasn’t overly keen on going in the first place as I don’t like zoos, however it was highly rated on ‘what to do’ sites so I assumed it was more a conservation place. Well it was the worst zoo I have ever seen – the cages were tiny and disgustingly kept. From seeing animals in the wild on safari in South Africa to this, I could notice their behaviour was not normal and I’m no expert. Never go!!
It took me a while to calm down as I went from upset to extremely angry. When I finally did I remembered I was going to a dinner party that evening so needed to buy a dessert. Japan is full of single desserts, but not for a group of people at a reasonable price. It took me half an hour to finally locate one. To be honest, it’s always a gamble buying anything in Japan as you ever know what it really is 🤔.
The evening was another high. We went to Travis’s (another one of James’s friends) place for a special Japanese meal. I can’t remember the name but it was kind of like a fondue. But instead of cheese, it was a seaweed soup with veg/tofu and you dip the meat (beef and pork) in the boiling soup with chopsticks. It was super yummy and I’m definitely going to make it when I get back home.
6th February – Day of rest
The early starts, busy days and late nights were starting to get to me. Exhausted I decided to have a relaxing day.
But staying in didn’t last long as I ventured out for lunch/coffee, as well as a place called Nakano. I heard it was a geek district so had to check it out. Ah I was in heaven – so many comic/anime stores and a village arcade which was full of geek memorabilia. I sadly didn’t buy anything though as I’m on a tight budget and most things were in Japanese.
7th February – Boys day out in Obaiba
I feel like Tuesday was my boys day out (by myself obviously). James told me there was a giant robot statue, which happened to be Gundam, in Odaiba I had to visit.
It’s a weird place Odaiba, it’s an island in Tokyo so has a beach, but is still built up. It’s also very quiet, which surprised me.
When I arrived I picked up a map (go me) and decided to head to the beach. Wandering to the national park area, which was pretty tiny, I also came across the Rainbow Bridge. At night it is illuminated in rainbow colours, but in the day not so impressive.
I then took a leisurely lunch then headed to a Toyota car exhibition. Ahhh this was so much fun too, there were cars from all over the world. I spent quite a while in there 🙈. I met James after in Shibuya for revolver belt sushi which was so yummy, but cheap (the dishes we had were only 90p). In Yo Sushi it would have been triple. We then spent an hour at Karaoke singing Spice Girls (amongst others) which was hilariously epic. Goodbye was an emotional one 😉. If I lived in Japan, I’d go all the time!
8th February – James and Jess day
My last Japanese adventure of course had to be spent with James so we got up more leisurely than usual giving me time to repack my bag. I’m sure James was happy to get back half of his bedroom!
Once packed, we headed to Ginza, which is a fancy district in Tokyo (think Bond Street) for coffee, as well as a free Sony exhibition in the famous Sony building which was about to be pulled down and turned into a park.
We spent a lot of time at the exhibition, looking at the technology Sony had invented over the years, a lot of it I remembered from growing up. It was mind blowing!We were also treated to number one songs and music videos by Michael Jackson in a cinema room on the 8th floor (another thing I grew up with).
A last day wouldn’t be complete without a fancy dinner 👍. One of James’s friends Tim, who came on the hike with us, works at a swanky restaurant in Ginza so it would have been rude not to visit.
I wish I took photos of the food it was delicious. Fried potatoes to start with sweet chilli sauce and then a flatbread pizza with smoked salmon, egg, rocket etc for main. Tim even very kindly brought us out a big bowl of broccoli. The lack of vegetables in Japan means I’ve missed broccoli more than you could imagine. Oh and red wine – I have missed that too. It was a perfect end to an unbelievable time in Japan 😁.
If you’ve made it this far and genuinely read every section I applaud you. My next posts will hopefully be a bit closer together.
Anyway there is no doubt that the rest of my trip is going to be a culture shock, but I’m actually looking forward to the fact it is! Here I come Laos.
Jessica Storm ✌️