Happy New Year!
Japan is an amazing place to be for the holidays. Though I missed my family tons, there was plenty in Kansai to distract me from the fact that my whole family would be gathered under the tree except for me.
Travel in Snapshots:
Day 1: Leave Tokyo on a night bus around 12am. We reached Osaka around 7am and dropped our things off at the hostel. Saw the most famous temple in Osaka and enjoyed the Namba (downtown area) lights by night.
Day 2: Hopped on a train and went to Kobe! It was a pretty short ride, maybe forty minutes (less than my commute to school). Kobe is a scenic little port town surrounded by mountains with the most amazing beef. I tried it, but gosh was it expensive…but it was the first very good beef that I’ve had in Japan. It’s really hard to eat beef when you’re used to American steak. Kobe beef sated my meat lust, fortunately. One of my friend’s has a friend that lives in Kobe, so she showed us around and took us to a nice wine bar, and a ramen shop after that.
Day Three: Christmas! We did plan to go to Himeji Castle, the most famous and scenic castle in all Japan…but the manager of the hostel informed us it would be under construction for the next four years! So instead, we headed toward the Osaka Aquarium for Christmas. In Japan, Christmas is a holiday for couples to spend together, so of course it was so full of pairs that I thought we were going into Noah’s Ark instead. At night, we went to KFC for “Special Christmas Chicken.” Oddly enough, the Japanese interpret KFC as American culture, so they flock to it come Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Day Four: Osaka Tour Day! On the 26th we bought special passes for free subway and entry into all the special tour places. We toured Osaka Castle, the palace gardens…which were rather deserted in winter (but it snowed!), and the Osaka History Museum. Then, we went on a cruise through the city river, observed the city at night from the Sky Tree and rode on the giant Hep 5 ferris wheel looming over Osaka. We finished off the night with Okonomiyaki, typical Osakan cuisine. Wayyy better than in Tokyo, and cheaper.
Day Five: Since some of us wanted to go to Kyoto and others wanted to go to Universal Studios Japan, the group split in two. I went to Kyoto and enjoyed Kikakuji (the Golden Temple) and Inari Taisha (long rows of Torii — or gates). We tried to make it to more sights, but the Kyoto buses didn’t exactly cooperate; it did not help that all the temples close by 4pm.
Day Six: We went to Nara! We saw a giant Buddha and more deer than I thought I would ever see in my life. They come right up to you and demand attention, which was cute…until one of them tried to make off with my purse!
Day Six: We got back from Nara the previous day somewhat late and checked into a CAPSULE HOTEL around 11pm. For those of you who don’t know what that is…it’s exactly what it sounds like. You sleep in a capsule about this big:
It was surprisingly comfortable. We spent the majority of that early morning enjoying their hot tub (which was nice enough to make up for the restricted area) and took it easy for the rest of day six. That night, we boarded another night bus and arrived home on day seven.
For New Years, my friends and I went to Zojoji temple, close enough for a great view of Tokyo Tower, for a countdown. We wrote our wishes on balloons and released them into the sky on the stroke of midnight.
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!