A.D.M. Was Here: Japan (日本), Part Two

Before going to Japan I purchased a JR rail pass which basically allows you unlimited rides on JR trains all over the country, including many of the “bullet trains” (shinkansen/新幹線). I think two or three rides on a high-speed rail already equals the cost of the rail pass (of course, I did this six years ago, so things may be different now). The pass is available only to foreigners and can only be purchased while outside of Japan, so plan ahead.

Anyway, toward the end of my time in Japan I activated my rail pass and finally ventured away from Tokyo—

Kyoto

Kyoto Imperial PalaceBefore the Meiji Restoration which put the Emperor of Japan back in power, Kyoto was the capital of Japan. The city’s home of one of the Imperial Palaces (yeah, there’s more than one—the other one’s in Tokyo) as well as a whole bunch of iconic Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. With my limited time in Kyoto, I did see the Imperial Palace in the rain and also visited a few shrines and temples.

Kitsune Statue

Keeping in mind that this was in the summer and I didn’t bother going to a hot spring (definitely on my to-do list for my winter trip), my favorite place in Kyoto was the Fushimi Inari-taisha—an Inari shrine located up on a mountain (Inari Okami is the Shinto spirit of foxes and, generally, prosperity). This particular shrine requires you to hike up a mountain for about two hours to get to it and, really, it was the hike that made the experience awesome. On the way, you pass through countless orange and black gates, and other notable monuments.

Inari Shrine Gates

CatBeing awesome, I got lost on the way down and ended up passing by a cemetery where a handful of cats started following me around.

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A.D.M. Was Here: Japan (日本), Part One

Long flight, long subway ride, getting lost for a bit—still fun

Two years after I graduated from UCLA, I went to Tokyo to do stuff (super secret stuff—don’t ask). Aside from going to Canada as a kid, this was my first time out of the country, and it was pretty exciting. It was probably a good thing that my anime-nerd phase had ended about four years prior to this trip. Otherwise, my head might have exploded from all the awesome.

I undertook my first fourteen-hour flight with Korean Air. This was pretty much just before the major airlines started providing screens for every passenger, so my choice of entertainment was limited to whatever they had up on the large-ish screen up front (I’m pretty sure the TV I’m sitting five feet from is larger than the screen they had—higher resolution, too—ah, the past and its crappy technology). They started with an American movie, then switched to a Japanese one, then a Korean one. If I recall correctly, the last movie had no subtitles and no dub option on the headphones, so I had to actually try to sleep for a while. It sucked.

Somewhere in Tokyo

Is this Shibuya? I forget.

Being a cheapskate, I opted to be on the subway as much as possible making my way from Narita Airport into Tokyo proper—all while dragging my luggage around. I got off at the Aoyama-itchome Station and proceeded to wander for an excessive amount of time looking for my hotel—and, yeah, still dragging my luggage around. Locals watched me and pitied me as I backtracked two or three times (marveling at the tiny cars that hadn’t yet become abundant in California) until I finally got my bearings and found my lodging. It even started to rain a bit near the end of the ordeal.

The first of many acts of idiocy abroad . . .

Still young and charged from being on my first international excursion, I didn’t let the rain stop me from venturing outside. I checked Google Maps for a place to eat, borrowed an umbrella from the front desk, and wandered over a few streets to a little ramen shop.

Well, in Japan, some of the cheaper eating establishments have you order through what I would describe as a vending machine. It’s a box near the entrance that you put your cash into, press the buttons for what you want to eat, and then it gives you a ticket with your order on it. Then, you’re supposed to hand that ticket to the cook-person who prepares and/or fetches your grub.

Being a noob, I totally bypassed the vending machine thing and just sat down and had my first experience in which a local tried to explain stuff to me in English because I couldn’t be bothered to properly learn the language of the country I was visiting.

Yeah, that wasn’t embarrassing at all.

Obnoxious American-ing: convini hopping

In Tokyo, it’s legal to walk around with an open alcoholic beverage in your hand, so long as it’s not a glass container (like Vegas, I guess). Notably, local Japanese folks generally don’t eat or drink anything while they walk from place to place.

Being Americans, my friends and I (and sometimes a random person from another country) had no qualms about walking around and getting sloshed (of course, being politer than most, we didn’t cause any trouble aside from calling attention to ourselves by simply having drinks in our hands). What we’d do was decide on a destination to walk to and intermittently stop by convenience stores for more drinks until we got there. The journey was definitely more important than the destination. Continue reading