I think many students who write for this blog have probably written about their trip to the Kansai area, but that’s because it’s so much fun! So like many before me, I will tell you about my experience there. We had a three-day weekend last weekend, so about 30 kids from TUJ went on a trip to the Kansai area, specifically Kyoto, Nara, and Osaka. My housemate and I had to wake up at 4 am in order to catch a train and meet at the shinkansen station by 7 am, so we were exhausted! From there, we had a two hour shinkansen (bullet train) ride to Kyoto station. Everyone was pretty excited to ride the bullet train. It’s a lot of fun and very comfortable. I wanted to watch the scenery fly past, but I fell asleep pretty quickly and stayed that way until we arrived in Kyoto. Once we got there, we had to take some more subways to get to our final destination. The first thing I noticed was that people in Kyoto stand on the right side of the escalator instead of the left. (In Tokyo, you stand only on the left side of the escalator so that people who want to walk the escalator can do so on the right side.)
After that, we shoved our luggage into some station lockers for the day and headed out. We saw some really cool stuff, like an old palace with floors that squeaked when you walk on them so that no one could sneak through the palace without people knowing, I think to protect from assassinations. Then we got lunch (delicious curry udon!) and walked through some huge temples. The scenery was beautiful with autumn colors, but it was really crowded since it was a holiday for all of Japan. In Kyoto, there were some fully painted geisha walking around. But actually, I’m not sure if they were real geisha because tourists can go and pay to dress up in all the traiditional garb and make up and walk around town. Some of my friends claimed that some of them were definitely the real deal, but I’m not so sure. In one of my culture classes this semester, we talked a lot about how Kyoto is the historical center of Japan, since it is the old capital, and there are still many temples and historical things there. But, like all of Japan, it’s becoming really modernized, which I guess disappoints a lot of people, because then there is no place to experience “historical Japan.” In my opinion, I don’t think building a few McDonalds is going to ruin Kyoto. I think it’s normal for it to modernize a bit, and I still thought there was a lot of nicely preserved historical stuff. I wasn’t disappointed at all, I thought I got a good feel for Japanese history there. I think seeing the modernization along with it just grounds the fantastical history of Japan in reality.
Anyway, we also visited Nara, where there is a deer park where you can pet and feed the deer. Actually, I thought there was just going to be one park with some deer walking around in it, but the deer were literally all over the city, especially around the temples. They just walk around wherever they want to, and they’re really nice to people. They don’t run away and you can pet them. It was funny to walk around alongside a bunch of deer. It felt very surreal.
We visited Osaka as well, which is a really fun place. People are really laid back there. Of course, they are famous for their okonomiyaki (like a fried pancake with seafood and vegetables in it with sauce on top) and their takoyaki (fried octopus balls), so we ate a lot of that. My favorite part of traveling is always eating. Actually I like to try the ice cream everywhere I go because I love ice cream. I think I had three ice cream cones everyday for each of the three days we were on the trip! Don’t judge me.
Another one of my favorite parts was a hotel we stayed at where they give each guest their own yukata to wear while you’re there. When you get there, you can go to the onsen and change into your yukata, and feel really cool and Japanese. They are so comfortable! They even give you those socks that have a space for your big toe and then all the rest of your toes are grouped together. I can’t remember what they are called right now…
I really loved the Kansai area, I want to go back sometime! It’s a great break from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.