As mentioned in my previous post, Jeremy and I were heading to Kyoto the day after the big earthquake with our friends, Stephanie and Anthony. We were all excited to explore a new part of Japan. My main reason of going was to see Geisha and some of the temples in Kyoto. We were only going to spend the night in Kyoto and come back the next day, so we had a lot to squeeze in a short amount of time.
The drive to Kyoto was uneventful. We took the Sanyo all the way there. The Sanyo is the express toll road. Tolls to Kyoto are expensive. For a 5 hour drive it was about $90 each way. Kyoto was much bigger than I was expecting and much busier. It reminded me of Chicago or Washington D.C.. Of course everything I knew about Kyoto was based on what I read in “Memoirs of A Geisha”.
The first place we decided to go to was Kinkaku-ji (The Golden Pavilion). It was on Stephanie and mine Japan bucket list. It was still a couple of weeks before Golden Week but Kinkaku-ji was still quite crowded. After parking, the first thing we sought out was a bathroom and something to eat. Thankfully they sold ice cream near the restrooms. Jeremy, Stephanie, and Anthony tried the Green Tea ice cream while I tried the Toasted Black Sesame ice cream. I loved mine. It tasted more like roasted honey than sesame to me.
After ice cream we made our way through the park to try and figure out where to buy tickets. Along the way we passed a few buildings. Unfortunately I have no idea what they were because the signs in front of them were in Japanese.
After about twenty minutes, we finally found where to buy the tickets.
After following the crowd a bit we found the viewing area of the Golden Pavilion. It was more beautiful than the pictures I had seen.
We weren’t allowed to go inside the pavilion. We followed the pathway that lead away from it. Shortly up the pathway was small building where you can buy good luck charms and other blessed bags.
Further up the pathway was various gardens, ponds, and waterfalls. Even with the crowds it was peaceful to walk through them. Along the way we say some ojizousamas but these were different. They had a bowl with them. People were throwing coins in the bowl. Jeremy and I tried to throw coins in the various bowls as well.
After an hour we were all starting to get tired and hungry. We decided we would try to find the hostel we were staying at to check in and rest a bit before dinner. I had booked the room in the hostel on airbnb.com (click the link for $25 of your first rental!). I love AirBnB. It is usually really easy to use them and much cheaper than normal hotels (not a sponsored post just an honest opinion). This was my first time using it in Japan. Booking it was easy. Finding the hostel was the hard part. Google to use to this TINY alley way. We tried to take the car down it but quickly found out that this was a walking alley way, not a driving one. So Jeremy had to back out of the alley way and back over a bridge while the Japanese laughed at the silly Americans. While we circled around trying to find a parking space, I tried calling the owner of the hostel. He kept hanging up on me. After the fifth call, he finally said that we could park at the hostel in broken Japanese. We were surprised but trusted him. So we spent another 30 minutes driving around trying to figure out how to get to the hostel without going down that alley way. Finally I called the owner back and he said to wait for him at H&M and he would lead us to the hostel. He hung up before I could ask him where H&M was. We finally found it and parked beside it. The owner walked up with a Caucasian female. He didn’t speak much English at all. She spoke no Japanese. She was someone who was staying at the hostel as well. She had literally just flown in from Australia and checked in when he had her come down to help us get to the hostel. Stephanie and Anthony took the luggage to the hostel with the Australian girl while the host hoped in the car and said he would show Jeremy and me where to park. Fifteen minutes later we were still driving around Kyoto looking for his parking spot. Finally he said it was full and pointed us to a random garage. It was paid parking so we asked him how much the parking would be for the night. He told us it would only ¥1,500 (about $15). We asked for the whole night because we didn’t believe him. He pointed to the sign that was in Japanese and again said that it was ¥1,500. We grabbed the rest of our stuff and began to follow him through the maze of streets back to the hostel. Turns out he had us park 3/4 of a mile away.
The hostel itself was nice. The hostel was located about 5 blocks from Gion. We had a private room off one of the common rooms. It had a tatami floor and over looked the alleyway. We would be sleeping on Japanese futons. We shared the toilet room and the shower room with the rest of the guests that were staying at the hostel. You can see what the hostel looked like on Stephanie and Anthony’s youtube channel.
We rested for a bit before heading out to dinner. We walked around the maze of alleyways that made up that part of Kyoto. We had a hard time deciding where to eat. We finally decided to dine at a yakitori (food on a stick) restuarant because Stephanie and Anthony hadn’t had yakitori yet. It was really good. Jeremy and I had a combination plate that had fried cheese and variety of fried veggies and meats.
After dinner we walked around to see what we could find. We ended up finding some Geisha! I was excited to meet them but also a little disappointed. In my mind Geisha still walked around with the white face makeup. I learned that now a days Geisha don’t do that. They still look beautiful though and I was so happy they allowed us to take a picture with them.
As we continued to walk around we decided to pop into on of the bars. I tried brandy for the first time. I actually really liked it. The waitress had brought out a small cup of chocolates. There was enough for each of us to have one. We enjoyed our drinks for a few minutes before we noticed a roach crawling across the wall behind our table. We decided to get the check and leave at that point. We were surprised though that the check was about $10 more than we had calculated. Turns out that small cup of chocolates was not complimentary. Lesson learned.
As we walked backed to the hostel we decided that we want try our hand at karaoke. Beside the hostel we remember that there was a sign for karaoke. It was up a flight of stairs. The guys stayed down at the bottom while me and Steph went to check it out. Stephanie pushed open the door to the bar. Before we could even take a step in, a large Japanese man rushed towards us saying “No! Japanese only!” and pushed the door shut. Confused we stepped back onto to the landing. Stephanie decided to try a door across the landing. Before she could open the door a Japanese man standing near Jeremy and Anthony yelled up at us “No girls! Blow jobs!”. Stephanie screamed and started back down the stairs. I followed her laughing. I’ve never seen a place like that before.
After failing to gain entry at a few more karaoke bars, we went back to the hostel. I was surprised that in such a touristy area that Americans were barred from going to a lot of the bars. We also found out that dance clubs charged extra for foreigners to enter. I am not used to being discriminated against. At that point of the night I was exhausted and ready for bed. I was looking forward to the next day and the adventures it held. I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.