Asia,  Japan,  Thyra Travels,  Travel,  Travel Advice

Thyra Travels: Sweating My Way Through Japan 2018

Another day, another country, another missed train… I have finally arrived to South Korea and will be here for about two months teaching English. Japan was hot but lovely and I am really sad to have left. South Korea is already extremely different but I am excited to finally not be moving every few days!

I took Japan slower than Taiwan, but still faster than I will take other countries, mostly because I am chasing summer around the globe. I arrived in Osaka on a stormy afternoon, famished and smelly, and headed directly to an airport restaurant to eat some food. Thus began a mouth-watering journey as I had the best airport food I have ever had in my life. I also soon learned of the wonders of Japanese toilets. Spacious (HUGE, I was in shock), always clean, always included with a bidet and music to hide any sounds.

In Osaka, my first stop, I spent most of my time alone, as I was the only Westerner in my hostel. Basically, I explored countless shrines, gardens, temples, and train terminals. I took a day trip to Nara to see the friendly deer and ended up spending hours in an Okonomiyaki restaurant watching the high school baseball finals (baseball is extremely popular in Japan) with the owner and a local. Before I left she gifted me with an origami crane and plenty of free tea. My favorite thing I did while I was in Osaka was hike up to a waterfall, Minoh Falls. Almost no one was on the trail and definitely no foreigners. It was relaxing and peaceful.

Todai-ji Temple in Nara, Japan.
Isuien Garden in Nara, Japan.
Dotonbori, Osaka at night.
Minoh Falls, Osaka.
Tennoji Park, Osaka.

After a few days, it was time to move to Kyoto. A typhoon during the night caused all trains to be delayed and a journey that typically takes about an hour took around six. I ended up at Kyoto Station wet and tired, sick of the endless crowds that plagued each corner due to all the delays. What else does one do at times like these?? I got fried chicken in a skyscraper. Fully satisfied, I set off to my Ryokan I was staying at for on night as a birthday present to myself. Almost two hours by bus later and I was in the mountains! I settled down and relaxed, taking a bath in the onsen and eating a whole hot pot by myself.

Birthday in Ohara, Japan.
Sanzenin temple in Ohara, Japan.

I then traveled into the heart of Kyoto for the next few days, staying in a different guest house closer to civilization. I went on a walking tour where I met some really nice people I spent the next few days touring with. We went to karaoke at night and I had the extreme pleasure of watching a elderly japanese man rock out to old school rock n’ roll. Kyoto is the heart of culture in Japan and I saw notable landmarks such as the Fushimi Inari Shrine, the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, and the Gion district. We walked and hiked so much that I almost got heat exhaustion but luckily there seem to be an unlimited amount of vending machines in Japan. But, man, was it ever hot! Japan has been in a huge heat wave this summer and wow, I think I sweated through my shirt a few times every day. It was around 95-100 degrees each day, sunny, and humid. My last day in Kyoto was spent relaxing and shopping around, along with a trip to Kobe, to eat the delicious, but a bit overrated, Kobe beef.

Drinking a beer at the top of the Inari shrine.
Arishiyama Bamboo Forest.
Funny shirt in Kyoto Station.

After spending all of Kyoto touring with other Westerners, I was quite excited to move on to my island stay on Miyajima for a night. I hopped on the bullet train and sped down to Hiroshima for the day before checking in. What then followed was the most emotional museum experience I think I have ever had at the Peace Memorial Monument in Hiroshima. I have seen WWII monuments and memorials before but the way this was all set up, with lots of testimonials and stories, was heart breaking. I ended up crying on a bench during a video testimonial but was comforted by a Japanese woman who held my hand, which shocked me considering how reserved the people in Japan are.

Atomic Bomb Dome.

Wiping my tears and a few million positive pep talks later, I was sailing on the ferry to Miyajima Island, where the floating Tori gate lives. Wow! It was amazing to see the gate and my little guest house was cute as can be, just a five minute walk away. Because of this, I was able to see sunset and sunrise the next morning. Better yet, the guest house had oatmeal, which is the first time I had seen it since leaving the United States. Departing once again, I set off for my last stop, Tokyo.

Low tide on Miyajima.
High tide at Miyajima.

I can say confidently that all the reports saying Tokyo is the most populous metropolitan area in the world are not lying! I have seen my fair share of cities but WOW. It was constantly crowded everywhere you went, I found myself missing the south and glad I spent most of my time in the Kansai region. Granted, apart from the hecticness, Tokyo has so much to offer! One could be entertained for weeks in the city. I was only there for two days so I decided to do two walking tours to maximize my time in the city. I did a historical tour and a night tour, learned a lot, and was able to cover many of the touristy stops that day. The next day was leisurely and I shopped for souvenirs (how could I not, the shopping capital of the world!).

Tokyo at night.

Sooner than I could finish all the udon in the country I was on my way again. I subway-ed to the airport, taking in the extreme silence, safety, and cleanliness Japanese transportation always possesses. No one ever talks, eats, or drinks on tranist. You also do not need to put your backpack in front of you, as there is no fear of pickpockets. This may be the thing I miss most of all about Japan, feeling safe. I don’t come from a particularly dangerous part of the United States but it is almost just a different ambiance in Japan. You can walk home alone at night with full confidence and I didn’t fully understand how important and nice that is until I actually had the opportunity to experience it.


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