Saturday, July 30, 2016

[Not a Chapter] Japan Trip Journal

Sorry, it's not a chapter. >_< '  It's not ready this week, so you'll have to wait until next week. Apologies if I got your hopes up.

This ended up being really late because it became much longer than expected, so I can't really call it a mini-journal. It's not a 100% descriptive journal either. Lots of pictures too, so be careful if you're worried about burning your data. Also unedited, so sorry for any grammar errors or typos~

Japan Trip Journal

Note: I'm mostly using the original yen price in the journal. $1 USD is about 100 yen. Not exact, but it gives a pretty good estimate to my spending.

1st day: (Let me start with I’m a klutz at times. Occasionally bound for moments of pure stupidity.)
Wake up at 4:30am. Eat some breakfast and off to the airport. First thing I experience, confusion. No one is manning the counter for the airline I’m taking, Air Canada. Ask around, ‘they stopped all flights around this time awhile ago’. Fuck… Call my parents to pick me up again.

Go home. Check travel website for flight times. They moved it to an 11am flight. Really bad because I arrive in Canada 10 minutes AFTER my transfer flight to Japan leaves… (Why this happened? I was stupid and kept trying to check flight details on Air Canada and only getting errors. I didn’t think to call the travel website I originally purchased my tickets from.) Call travel website to ask what to do. ‘Can’t help, this needs to be fixed on the airline side.’ Call airline. ‘Oh we discontinued the 7am flight 6 months ago and you’re asking about this now?’  ………….Couldn’t refute that since I was stupid. Thankfully they still helped me. New flight times, have to stay in Canada overnight for my transfer flight. Also pushed my return date back one day to stay a full 10 days in Japan. I had to book a hotel room since I have an unexpected overnight stay in Vancouver, Canada. Got one for $170. Luckily they had space since the only other option was one for ~$400.

Leave for the airport after an early dinner. Flight to Vancouver Canada. 2 hours later at the airport. Grab my luggage. Call the shuttle from inside the building to pick me up (with Wi-fi call, travel phone with no SIM card) and told it will come in 15 minutes. Wait at Shuttle stop. Get in Shuttle, driver tells me ‘Ah you’re the one. Hotel called me while I was here. I waited for you, but the others passengers couldn’t wait any longer and had to leave. Next time wait until you’re at the stop to call.’ Oops…How was I supposed to know the airport wifi extended all the way to the shuttle stop outside? Teehee. :P

Arrive at Hotel at 11pm. Brush my teeth and knock out for the night.

2nd day – Wake up. Read a bit of webnovels while drinking coffee. Seek out some breakfast before my flight. Oh breakfast is included. Lucky~ (Especially since the website I booked from specifically stated ‘Breakfast not provided’. Go figure). Take a short walk around a nearby park. Turned back 10 minutes to avoid getting lost in the winding path. XD

Check out and off to airport. See some of the differences in the security checkpoint here compared to the US. Lol. Get lunch before the flight and wait. Board the plane. Found an entertainment system on the back of each seat despite being economy. Play around with some of the simple games during the takeoff phase. Find out there’s food for this 9 hour flight. I honestly didn’t expect that since I figured I would have to purchase it, originally planned to quell my stomach with cookies for the flight. Free food so I’ll eat it regardless. I end up sleeping for 2 hours after that. Tried to sleep more, but no luck. Did some writing and played games to keep busy.

Arrived around 4pm at the Narita Airport. Got to the immigration section and boggled by the immense line. Waited an hour for the line to move along. After grabbing my luggage, I sought out an ATM machine. Found one and used it…rejected. ‘Oh crap! Why did it reject my ATM? I gave a travel notice and everything!’ Tried the next machine since it’s a different group, it works. ‘That scared the crap outta me.’

Looked for a SIM card first before leaving, I got directed to a vending machine by the help desk. One option was for 3,500 yen and another for 5,340 yen. Chose the 5,340 yen thinking it would be better… Complicated process typing in the info and everything, even needed my Passport info. :P  15 minutes later, got my phone up and running, turn around. I find in the Cell Phone rental counter, a sign for SIM cards they’re selling… ‘Bloody hell. Working with people would have been so much easier.’ Orz   Also find out later that rather than a lump 1gb usage for the time, the SIM card allocates 100MB per day over the course of 14 days. I wanted to bang my head for being stupid and not reading the fine print.

Found out the cheapest route there and took the train there. An hour and half long trip and I finally arrive around 8pm. Not without getting lost first though. XD  I checked Google maps and walked towards my hotel pocketing my phone. I check my phone again a minute later and find I walked too far. I did that about four times passing by a gym several times. Finally found the hostel when I realize the hostel starts from the second floor and the entrance up is the only way to get in. Lol! I had the preconception that the entire place was a gym considering the sign for it was more eye catching. I check into the Hostel I’m staying at. When I enter my room, I find 2 people in the 4 bedroom dorm room already asleep. Double check the time ‘Yep, it’s 8pm. Must be jetlagged.’ Put away my valuables and seek some dinner. Lazy to go far after the stressful day, so I buy a bento from the local supermarket. I clean myself up after and crash out for the night.

3rd day – Woke up, went down for food. Breakfast provided by the hostel so I don’t have to hunt for a place. :D  All you can eat toast, jam, cereal, coffee, and tea. Limited options, but it’s free, so I can’t really complain. After eating, I grab my stuff and head for Akihabara. Followed Google Maps the whole time and it occasionally gave weird results. I was told to get off one stop early, so I had an 8 minute walk until I actually reached it. :P

I focused on finding Vocaloid, mostly Miku stuff, at second hand figurine shops, while stopping by any shop that caught my eye. It’s amazing to see so many shops purely focused on UFO catchers. Another thing that amazed me was the number of TCG series they have at card shops. Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon and MTG are pretty normal to see, but TCGs just for a random series was definitely a surprised. I couldn’t identify most of the random characters, but I did see an ad for a Fire Emblem Fates TCG. I got some nice loot in the end and got to check out a lot of cool places, so I’m very satisfied, especially my main targeted figure for the whole trip. :)

My targeted figurine. New, but cheaper than if I had bought it online. So I'm very happy. :) 
Incredibly bulky compared to my other figurine purchase though.

After walking for 6 hours, I stop by the hostel to drop off my loot, and then hop over to the Tokyo Skytree mall for Omurice. I’ve been over to the mall there twice, but still can’t imagine paying 2000 yen to go half way up the Skytree and an extra 1000 yen to go to the very top.

4th Day – Last day in Tokyo, I decide to follow my friend’s advice and check out Yokohama. My legs still feel exhausted after yesterday’s long window shopping/shopping spree. XD  

 I check out the Cup Noodle Museum in the area and decide to try out the ‘Make my Own Cup Noodle’ exhibit too. Lol! I learned about the existence of Space Ramen meant for astronauts, so it was educational. XD

My Random as hell art. XD
The chick is like a mascot for Cup Ramen there because Chicken was the first flavor.

Egg, Pork, Naruto (with a chick picture), and Kimchi (only saw a picture of Chili or I wouldn't have picked it. XD)

Afterwards, I sate my curiosity and check out a Pokemon Center after hearing about it so much from my friend. The branch I went to was smaller than I thought. I figured it would be a large 2 story stand-alone shop rather than the single story one I saw inside a mall. 

I started to run out of time for random things to do, so I couldn’t check out the normal ‘Ramen Museum’ in the area. Headed off to the JR Tokyo Train Station to meet up with a friend that moved there. I got there an hour early though since I didn’t know what to do, so I tried going to the East Gardens for the Imperial Palace in the opposite direction of my meeting spot. I got too tired with walking any further after arriving at a park on the way there and turned around after a short rest. Lol! 

Started where that blue 1 mark is and went south to that marked position before I turned back.

It’s a good thing I turned back when I did. I wanted to save 140yen from the direct route of passing from one side of the Train station to the other. I spent a good 40 minutes wandering around lost rather than the 10 minute straight walk through the station. :P 

Tried what was apparently the best Tsukemen place in the area and trying Tsukemen for the first time I have nothing to compare it to. It was very different since the broth was far more concentrated than in a bowl of ramen. A line forms about 2 hours before it opens, so it must be quality with such a good reputation. Personally, I prefer eating a bowl of ramen to eating Tsukemen, but that’s just me.

My friend has a lot of guts and I honestly respect him for the plunge he took moving to Japan. He couldn’t find work in California, so he applied for a Student Visa in Japan and moved over. THEN he found a job there after moving. He had to apply to 120 places before he could find 1 employer that would sponsor his Student Visa. Mind you, he knew about 3-4 phrases in Japanese, so he wasn’t literate. Just English. I honestly wish I could do that, but I could never take that kind of plunge without a job lined up before I moved over there.

Anyways, we wanted around a few shops around the station before parting with my friend.

5th Day – And a HELL of a day it was! My inner klutz really kicked in here. Checked out of the hostel and headed to the train station to start working my way to the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to get to Kyoto and my next hostel. I pay for my ticket and get on the Shinkansen. It leaves at a set time, so lots of time before I leave, so I have to wait. I notice my water bottle is low, and debate for a few minutes before rushing out to buy a bottle from the nearest vending machine. Big Mistake… The train left 5 minutes early from the time on the time table. Not knowing Japanese, I didn’t realize the door were closing… so it left by the time I realized it…with all my luggage still on the train………

After panicking and asking a conductor what to do, they just tell me to get on the train, the next rail over, that’s heading in the same direction. Not much help in actually getting in contact with the train though. Luckily once I board the train, I find a conductor and ask for help. Explaining my situation, he goes and I’m forced to wait. I wallow in some self-hatred reading some web novels preloaded on my phone until he returns. He contacted the other train and they found my luggage. Yay! A bit of language barrier confusion later, he explains that both of us will get off at that train’s final stop, Shin-Osaka, and he’ll escort me to find my luggage. Overshooting my destination, but I screwed up first so whatever. My luggage is more important than my time anyways. He leaves to work and plans to come back later once we reach that stop (this is a 2 hour 30 minute ride to the destination mind you). We arrive in Shin-Osaka and talk to the employees there. I offer him a bit of money as he’s leaving as gratitude, but he didn't accept it.

Grabbing my luggage, I turn back to get to Kyoto since that’s supposed to be my last stop. After another Shinkansen ride with me firmly clinging to my luggage to prevent another screw up, and a fairly long bus ride, I check into the local hostel that I booked. 

Feeling completely burnt after the ordeal, I just laze around for a while before finding dinner. I tried a Tonkatsu place and order a medium size Tonkatsu dish. Normally, I don’t like Tonkatsu very much and just find Chicken Katsu better, but this was literally the first time I can honestly say I enjoyed Tonkatsu. Also, I found a new favorite salad dressing, Sesame dressing (Japanese style) makes me drool to eat veggies. XD  I browse around the local street market before heading back and just resting a bit before bed.

6th day – I look for a place to have breakfast, no free breakfast here. Coffee and tea all you want though. Lol! After breakfast, I head off for Arashiyama to check out the Bamboo Forest. When I get there I have to ask around before I figure where to go. I end up stopping by the Tenryuji temple since it’s on the way there, one of the larger temples in Arashiyama.

From the island after getting off at the Arashiyama station.

I explore both the temple and the gardens. One of the major things I decide to pray for is to avoid any more ‘Incidents’ on my travels like yesterday and to get home safely. I end praying for this and most of the temples I visit on the rest of the trip. After exploring my fill, I exit from the opposite direction and find the Bamboo Forest right away. 

Several pictures later, I seek out food. No idea what I want to eat, so I wander around for a bit. I end up finding a sweets shop with Negiyaki as the only meal option. I end up being curious and go to try it. I find it tastier than when I tried Okonomiyaki from my last Japan trip. It is far less voluminous with the substitution of green onions (Negiyaki) for the cabbage(Okonomiyaki). For some idiotic reason, I order a hot dessert rather than a cold one. Even with the AC, it’s 89 degrees outside and humid, so I’m constantly sweating when I go outdoors. Still tasty though, the cold one probably would have been more enjoyable.

Tired from walking (easily tired after 4+ hours of walking every day with my out of shape body), I start heading back to the hostel. I plan to stop by the Monkey park on the way back, but forget to check the directions and arrive at the train station first. :P  Lazy, I head back without going to the Monkey park.

Later when seeking dinner, I find a parfait shop with lots of wax figures of their menu displayed. Would anyone eat these? Lol!!! XD
French fries Parfait, Fried Pork Cutlet Parfait
Fried Shrimp, Corn dog, and Fried Chicken Parfaits

Browsing around the street mall after. I make the unfortunate choice of checking out a UFO shop. I’m still bitter about wasting money there, so sorry in advance for the rant. Shopkeep offers a free ticket to play and lets me choose my desired prize ahead of time. I pick a Megurine Luka figure. The crane games are modded here, like one arm instead of two to push a ball into the hole. Shopkeep plays one machine first to show it’s easy. Plays and fails the first machine 6 times before moving to another machine. He resets it himself since he has the key, so no money loss there.

I play one where you use the crane to nudge a hat off the box it’s hanging on. Far harder than it looks. Wasted about 2000 yen for nothing. He offers to let me buy it at ‘market price’. 6000 yen. I say no cause it’s too high. Bargaining, it somehow turns into two figurines and two freebies for 8000 yen. Nothing rage worthy now. Later on my trip, I find another second hand figurine shop and find both figurines for costing about 2300 yen for both. Orz.

Luka Figurine, Miku Figurine, Gudetama (Sanrio character) coin purse, Dragon Quest Slime chess pieces

Oh yeah. Before this I had went to walk around another crane game shop and watched a guy try about 8 times to get a figurine and ultimately giving up on it. You think I would have learned better. :P

7th Day – I check out the Ginkakuji today. Fairly late start as always since it’s about 10am when I leave. I end up realizing afterwards that I never got a good front view picture of the Ginkakuji cause I wandered on a side route. Sadly I had already left, so I couldn’t go back for another picture without spending another 500 yen. Orz

I wander around the Philosopher’s Path intending to check out a few temples along the way. It’s less of a tourist attraction than I expected. I check out three temples along the route, two of them end up being closed, so I give up and head back to the hostel to figure out what to do next and get lunch.

I decide to try a ramen place recommended by the hostel. Amazingly it’s 1:30pm, but I still end up in line for an hour. Followed their recommendation for the food and enjoy.

It’s delicious~

 Menu for desired flavor
Menu for seconds

I hole up in my room for a while to escape the heat. When I get out, I try walking to Nijo Castle. I give up since it’s 3:30pm and closes in 30 minutes and will probably take that long to walk there at my slow pace. I divert and end up going to the Kyoto Aquarium. An interesting visit for the 2000 yen. XD

 Sponge crab. Found him oddly cute with all those little hairs. Like he's covered in fur.

After the visit, I head back and stop by an Okonomiyaki place and order Yakisoba. I think that place needed more employees. Each employee mans what looked like 10 tables? I had to ring their electronic bell about 5 times before someone came to take my order. Food came 50 minutes later, so yeah I think they’re understaffed.
 Only set of fries I've had on this trip. Was ok. Got worrisome when the ketchup started boiling. I made a mess trying to move it off the grill. XD
 Chicken Yakisoba

8th Day – Today was the first day that the sun was fully out without any overcast. The heat was blistering in addition to the natural humidity and I seriously want to cry for more clouds. Even rain would be welcome to escape from any more additional heat. :(  I went up to Ohara in Northern Kyoto. Made a mistake and got on the Kyoto City bus rather than the Kyoto Bus and had to pay 230yen for one stop. :P  I should have asked from the front rather than the back. (Kyoto buses have you enter from the center of the bus. You pay as you exit from the front of the bus)

Saw the 2nd new flavor of ice cream that I didn’t know existed, Perilla. Purple color with a sweet and sour taste. (1st flavor I didn’t think existed was Tofu. Didn’t try it, so no idea how it tasted.)

 Couldn’t take a picture of the temple interior, but the garden was amazingly lush. Lots of statues covered in moss too.

I had an onigiri and udon set for lunch. I was slightly disappointed in the lack of meat in the dish, but made sense that the dish was meant to emphasize the rice.

I set out for my next destination the waterfall, Otonashi no Taki. I made a wrong turn at first and ended up at Shorinin temple asking directions there. XD  The trail walk to Otonashi no Taki was pretty short, about 10 minutes. By this point in the trip though, my legs were in pain from so much walking. As a result, it took a while for me to get there. Along the way, I saw a small shrine that looked abandoned to my surprise. The entrance is fairly obvious, but being partway on the trail, I guess it just wasn’t receiving enough attention to maintain. A bit sad to think that way though.

Headed back after that and just rested.

9th day – Last day in Kyoto. I only put one thing on the agenda for the day, a visit to Nijo Castle.

I made the silly decision to rent the audio guide. I’m not that much of a history enthusiast, so all the details were extremely boring making it a bit wasteful. It was a nice visit to go around the castle and the gardens. In the gift shop, they have a restaurant with an interesting ice cream gimmick. Ice cream covered in gold leaf. Again, I did not try it. Even as a novelty, 1,200 yen for an ice cream cone is too high for my blood. :P

For my lunch, I made a really weird/stupid decision. I got tempted by the picture on the menu and went into a restaurant that was 100% smoking zone. It was bad after the first few minutes, but idk. The second my food arrived, my appetite nearly disappeared. I ate about half of what I ordered before leaving. They didn’t allow take out, so my leftovers went to waste.

I pretty much lazed around the hostel until dinner time. It was good since I felt much more relaxed after. Had dinner and bought sweets as souvenirs for my coworkers.

10th day – Had breakfast, then checked out to move to last hostel in Osaka. Osaka wasn’t originally in my plans, but since I shifted everything one day I needed to stay somewhere overnight. The best place is somewhere closer to the airport, so I could easily make my flight the next day. I took a short train ride to Osaka and checked in. The second I entered the room, I knew it would be a brutal night. Somehow the room was even more humid and felt like it was 90ish degrees inside. A stark contrast to the air conditioned hallways. I found out later that the place had air conditioned rooms for an extra cost. It would have been worth it if any had been empty.

I spent the day walking around Den Den Town. I checked out pretty much any store that had figurine related material. The figurines that I bought from Kyoto were seen here at the much cheaper cost. I also had the lucky chance to find an Animate shop that was have a Snow Miku event. Score! I just bought a CD there though. They gave a catalog too with some Miku bookmarks for free. :) 

I ended up being completely random along the way wandering into some discount Adult Video shops. Rows of videos from 200-500 yen.

I had Ramen for dinner, but it wasn’t as satisfying as Ichiran in Kyoto. I think it was mostly due to the extremely thick soup. Then again I have no idea what I ordered or if there was a lighter soup option. No English menu there and you order from the machine outside before entering. So yep, random order for the meh result. XD

 Item #1 on the Menu above

11th day – I had a horrible night’s sleep. I couldn’t sleep with the electric fan on, so I kept it off. Opening the window didn’t help, so I had to sleep more lightly dressed than I’m used to. I bought a bento for breakfast before heading to the Kansai airport. The line to check in my luggage was quite a pain. Four different flights for the airline and only one running scanner to check in everyone’s luggage. I took the domestic flight from the Kansai Airport to the Narita airport. Mostly did this to try out different things. It cost 6,600 for the domestic flight, but it was more time consuming. In contrast to the easier to deal with Shinkansen (minus when I screw up) for a one way trip is about 12,000 yen. Trade offs~

I had an early dinner in the Narita Airport and waited for my flight to Vancouver, Canada. I only slept about 2 hours because I couldn’t sleep. I ended playing games mostly. I didn’t attempt to write at all in fear of waking the people sleeping nearby. Afternoon in Vancouver and another wait for my flight home. When I got off my last flight, my mom sent me a text that my sis would be coming soon. Her written English is really bad. Somehow, ‘just left and will be there soon’ became ‘She’s there already and waiting for you. Call her.’ Idk how that happened. Lol!

Day after trip – I went to bed at 11:30pm the previous night and ended up waking at 11:30am the next day. The jet lag hit me harder than I expected. I probably would have ended up sleeping in longer, but I woke up to police knocking at my door. Fun and surprise (sarcasm) to find out that there was a shootout across the street. The street got blocked off and they were questioning everyone nearby if they knew anything. I was knocked out pretty deeply, so I didn’t know a thing. Apparently it was pretty bloody since it took 5 hours for the situation to be dealt with and the street to be opened up again.

3rd day after trip - I got knocked down with a cold. I assume it's from the airplane in some way, shape or form, not that I can prove it. Had a really runny nose the previous day and was sincerely praying that I was just being weird with out of season allergies. No such luck.

Anyways, that’s all I had to say about my trip. Thanks for reading~ Hope you enjoyed it!

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