I’ve been caught up with the goings-on at my nerdy science conference, so I haven’t had time to blog until now. Tonight is my last night in Japan, and I sort of have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I can’t believe I’ve been gone for 3 weeks and I feel like it should be time to go home. On the other hand, I don’t really feel like it… which may be, in the history of my traveling internationally, the first time where I feel ambivalent and even hesitant about going home. Despite the language and cultural barriers, Japan is a really interesting and fun place. I feel like I have still so much to experience here.
Anyway, enough rambling! Here’s a short summary of what I’ve been up to, and a few more tips I want to pass on:
My last 24 hours pre-conference was really fun. After dinner at Ganko Sushi (again, upon EO’s recommendation), I headed back to the hostel to meet up with some folks to head down to the Kamo river. Apparently, this is THE thing to do in Kyoto. We bought some drinks and snacks at the Lawson’s convenience store by Sanjo-bridge and proceeded to sit, chat, and people watch. It was, indeed, a lot of fun and super cheap as well. There were even flame-throwers/flame-twirlers (I guess that’s what you’d call them?) putting on a show.
On Sunday morning, a fellow hosteller TR and I headed to the Inari Shrine, home of 4-km of torii, or Shinto gates. Since it was a holiday, there were tons of people there praying and sightseeing. We fought our way to the top, where we were rewarded with solitude. The gates were so amazing; it was definitely my favorite site in Kyoto. I took pictures at every corner, it was ridiculous! I was also glad to have company. Not only was TR a good photographer (so I could finally have some photos of me for once!), but she was also fun and we got along really well.
For lunch, I went to the “Ramen Road” food court on the 10th floor of the Isetan Department Store next to Kyoto Train Station, which was recommended to me by my coworker HC. Afterward, I went out a side entrance, which granted me this crazy view of Kyoto Station.
Nothing much to report from the days at the conference, though there will be a food entry from one of the dinners. I wanted to conclude this post with a few more tips. These are more along the lines of my personal preferences rather than must-do’s, but here they are:
– Don’t be scared of the “public baths” (aka hot tubs). They are awesome for relaxing especially while traveling. The basic protocol is as follows:
- Plunge in the bath/hot tub.
- Shower again.
- After toweling off, put on the yukata/robe/pj’s. It’s perfectly acceptable to walk around your hotel in them. (I know, it sounds weird but it’s true.)
– After my hike at Inari, I had an ice cold Kirin Lemon (non-alcoholic) and it was SO GOOD. It’s like Sprite but not as sweet. Highly recommended!
– My friend ZF is coming to Japan in a couple of days and he asked about the best way to get cash in Japan. I can’t believe I forgot to mention that in my last entry, so here is my experience. Regardless of whether I used the ATM or whether I cashed a traveler’s check, I lost about $7 in the transaction. Also, only a few ATMs here will take international debit cards (the post office, Citibank, and 7-11), and most are only open during business hours. Considering the daily limit on my debit card ($300), I think a traveler’s check might be a better way to go, though of course you’d have to check out what fees you’ll get charged, etc. The reason this is a big deal is because Japan is still a cash-only society, for the most part. Plus, most credit cards charge per transaction while abroad, so it makes sense to use your card as little as possible.
– I don’t know why, but Asahi is always much more expensive than other beers. I think it might be slightly better than Kirin (the only other beer I’ve had here), but not really by much.
I’ll end with this photo, which is one of the funnier things I’ve come across. I found this phrase on all of the amenities at my conference hotel: