Hello everyone! It’s been quite a while, huh? I hope everyone’s been well! I’ve recently returned from my first trip to Japan and wanted to share my experience: the good and the bad. This is the first part. Hope you enjoy!!
Where to start? Japan is a country I’ve wanted to visit since forever, more specifically since I was in High School. But my love for anime and manga came a bit earlier than that. If I’m remembering right, everything started when I was around 6. A friend from my grade introduced me to Pokemon…and the rest is history 😆 I’ve loved anime ever since ( ﾟ▽ﾟ)/ As for manga, I think it started a liiitle bit later. My Dad bought me my very first manga volume: Card Captor Sakura’s volume 4 (yeah, for some reason I remember exactly which one it was lol, I guess it left an impression on me) when I was around 8 or 9. And so, I carried on watching anime and reading manga (in High School I used to spend a big part of my lunch money on manga, sorry Mom and Dad lol)…and never stopped!! 😆 As for video games, I’ve always liked them quite a lot but it was when I got to University that I became super passionate about them. It was also during my University years that I started to get interested in not only Japan’s forms of entertainment, but also its culture, its landscapes, its myths and legends, its food and specially its language, which I began to study (*•̀ᴗ•́*)و ̑̑
So, how did this ‘trip to Japan idea’ come true? Around 2016, my Dad told me we would travel to Japan as his present if I graduated from University. So I got my Technical Degree in Animation in March 2017 and voilà…! Yeah, unfortunately we couldn’t go in 2017 so we planned this trip for 2018 😀 yaaay! Now, usually people recommend to go to Japan during Spring or Autumn but, because of my Dad’s schedule, we could only really go in July (aka a summer month) which is…not so recommended. I still had a lot of fun though, of course, but I can definitely see why people don’t recommend going during summer. It’s too hot and humid (and this comes from someone who’s from Buenos Aires and suffers from a similar type of summer)!! (((( ;°Д°))))
Since Japan is like a 24 hour flight from Argentina, we first went to London for a few days and later arrived in Tokyo on July 17th. We had a connection flight, though, since our first destination was Ōsaka. So we exited the airport to take a taxi to the hotel and…OH MY GOD YOU GUYS. You have no idea how fucking hot it was. It was literally like entering inside an oven mixed with a sauna. IT WAS BRUTAL (꒪⌓꒪)
Anyway, we quickly arrived at the hotel and the staff was very kind when they welcomed us. First impression-wise, the most noticeable things to me about the japanese people were how much they thanked you and bowed to you (which me and my Dad did in return as well; maybe even catching the bowing-tic in the process because it stayed with us for a bit even when we left Japan lol) and the way they held cards and pens like it was the most delicate thing in the whole world and sdkjbfgksdb I found that so cute and refined!! (´∀｀)♡ After checking in, we had lunch at the hotel and went for a walk…not for very long, though, because the heat was unbearable. We only walked like two blocks and I said “hmm, I think we should go back if we don’t wanna die”. The good thing was that I tried my very first vending machine (something I already miss dearly) and bought a Pocari Sweat, which became my number 1 favorite drink during my stay in Japan (what’s funny, though, it’s that it was love at second taste because the first time I tried it my expression screamed ‘wtf is this weird thing’ to the whole world 😆 ).
After a good ol’ nap at the hotel, night came along and we went out!! Yes, it was still hot, but much more bearable than daytime hours. We decided to visit Dotonbori Street, famous for the Glico-man neon sign and the numerous specialized restaurants!! We had dinner at an Izakaya in front of the Dotonbori canal and ordered a bunch of different stuff like yakiniku, yakitori, tempura, rice and other delicacies. I love how the Izakaya ‘food system’ works: you basically have a lot of items served in small portions, so you get to try a bunch of different dishes which you can also share among your companions (and, in fact, I think it’s designed to be that way)!! It was great, I’d love to return someday. When dinner was over, we went to Don Quijote (a discount change store, Japanese usually call it Donki) and bought a couple of things, but mostly we wanted to see what it was like. I love the penguin mascot, for some reason it reminds me of King Dee Dee Dee but of course Donki’s penguin is much cuter!! ❣╰(⸝⸝⸝´꒳`⸝⸝⸝)╯❣
The next day, we went to Ōsaka Castle. As usual, the weather was akin to an oven and this is when we decided to try some of the products used to fight Japan’s summer heat. This time we used the Hiyaron, which is a type of package that feels like it has sand inside when you shake it but it turns cold after you give it a FALCON PUNCH 😆 . For some reason, my strength was -100000 when I tried to make it work so my Dad had to punch it for me 😆 You then apply it to any part of your body you want to cool off, like your forehead or your nape. It’s quite a cool (no pun intended lmao) product, but the main drawback is that it doesn’t last very long meh. Still, we survived and took a bunch of cool pictures 😆 I decided to try bottled green tea at some point but it was too bitter for me lmao so I couldn’t really finish it. Yeah, I usually drink green tea with sweetener but in Japan it’s drank bitter. If my sensei at Argentina already thought I was weird for that, then I wouldn’t try my luck asking for sugar for my tea in Japan because they would have probably thought it was an abomination 😆 Anyway, we also bought handkerchiefs and tenugui towels at the castle, which are also nice products to use during the summer to wipe off your sweat and cool off your neck (believe me, you sweat like a freaking pig).
At around 3 pm or so, we checked out of the hotel and took a taxi to the station so that we could go to Kyoto in the Shinkansen (the bullet train). Gaah, the bad thing about the small trip to the station was the driver himself: an old man who was a fucking asshole (╬ಠ益ಠ). Now this is one of the things I wanted to mention about Japan. People are usually very kind and respectful, it’s true, but you need to keep in mind that not everyone is like that. Japan is not freaking perfect land. Like in any other country, there are bad people everywhere. This taxi driver was particularly bad because:
1. He rudely started screaming that it would be impossible to carry all of our luggage inside the trunk of his car (some had to go on the front seat, in the end, but he could have been nicer about it).
2. He was disrespectful not only to us but to the employees at the Ōsaka hotel as well. I felt sorry for the employees because even they were making panicked faces and apologizing profusely to this asshole who didn’t deserve it. I also was polite enough to thank him once we arrived at the station but the man gave 0 fucks.
3. IT WAS FUCKING 40 ºC WITH 100000% HUMIDITY AND THIS ASSHOLE DIDN’T TURN ON THE A.C LIKE THE SON OF A GUN HE WAS OMFG. I’M AGAINST VIOLENCE BUT I SWEAR SOME PEOPLE MAKE ME WANT TO CRUSH THEM WITH A FREAKING TABLE AAAARRRRRGHHHH (ノಠ益ಠ)ノ彡┻━┻ .
Ehem! Whoops, sorry. Where was I? Oh yeah, Ōsaka station. So we arrived and took the Shinkansen. I don’t know why but for some reason in Japan you can’t really reserve your seat online for a Shinkansen trip. You have to do it in person. I found that to be a bit impractical tbh…I traveled to a lot of places, my Dad even more, and it’s the first time we ever saw a system like that. Oh, well. Their country, their rules, I guess. Anyways, the trip was SUPER SHORT. Ōsaka and Kyoto are very close to each other but I honestly didn’t think we would arrive so FAST! The trip was barely 30 min long. Dad and I thought to each other that maybe next time we could just stay in Ōsaka even when visiting Kyoto because it’s really really close.
Just like we did in Ōsaka, we took a taxi to the hotel and arrived in no time. Since we arrived at around 4 pm, our room was already available so we went right into it. The location of this particular hotel was in the Gion area, one of the most traditional parts of Kyoto, which is very famous for being a Geisha district and very close to the Kiyomizudera temple and the Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka slopes. After resting for a little while due to the heat, we decided to have dinner. At first we thought about having dinner at the hotel but it was too freaking expensive and for some reason they didn’t have room service which is…weird. So we asked the staff if there was some place nearby where we could eat and they showed us a map to a small restaurant that was only a few blocks away. The restaurant was little but cosy and it had a counter (known in Japan as kaunta seki), which was were we ate. Since the restaurant was very traditional, I had to order everything in japanese but that was one of the best things about this trip: how much I was able to use the language! Dad and I ate a couple of salmon onigiri with a potato salad and then went for a walk. As I said before, Kyoto, particularly the Gion area, is very traditional, evident by the lack of people at night and the very distinctive style of houses which surrounded us. We walked around some blocks, took a couple of pictures here and there, then returned to the hotel.
On the 19th, the heat was specially bad and this is the day were I suffered from heat exhaustion. The hotel we were staying at had not only super expensive dinner but also super expensive breakfast, so Dad and I decided to eat somewhere else. I suggested we could take a walk around Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka since it was near the Kiyomizudera temple and, according to the internet, this whole area was very pretty and had lots of cute little shops. Indeed, that was very true. The problem was we walked right into the heat without having anything to eat and the nearest vending machine was a few blocks away from the hotel. Not only that, the place where we decided to have breakfast at had food I wasn’t particularly craving, so I barely ate the matcha roll I ordered. Don’t get me wrong, I love sweets and sandwiches are yummy as well but…my appetite is not very big during summer and I usually eat toast, yoghurt and some fruit for breakfast, which this cafe had none of it. So you can imagine…we started walking, visiting some shops and at one point I started to feel sick and that I was about to pass out. We took a small break at another cafe but in the end returned to the hotel. The thing is…in Japan, doctors don’t usually visit you at home. You need to go to the hospital. The concierge in question to whom we asked all these stuff was a very rude and patronizing woman. Maybe all of the things she was saying were obvious to her, but not to someone who’s from an extremely different country and she shouldn’t have spoken the way she did. Not only that, when my Dad went to the room to get my passport and some money to pay for the hospital visit (I stayed behind so that they could give me some ice), even though I couldn’t quite catch everything the concierge was saying, I DID understand that she was badmouthing my Dad (*`д´*).
Then, at the hospital, since I wasn’t feeling very well I couldn’t help my Dad much with the language (I’m sorry, Dad!). We waited for a long while and, finally, the doctor called me to his office. He told me I had a heat stroke so I should drink lots of water and prescribed some nausea medicine for me. The doctor was quite surly, I have to say, but what can you do, sometimes it is what it is. I was given some hydration treatment too with serum…I think? Not sure lol. I was there for at least one more hour and, near the end, I remember I really needed to pee lmao 😆 so, once the nurse removed the tube thingy from my arm, I dashed to the toilet at Sonic the hedgehog speed. The problem was…I couldn’t find the freaking flush button!! There was no 小 (small) nor 大 (big) kanjis (which are used to tell the toilet how much power should the flush have) and I was internally panicking. This was also the second time I was using the toilet at the hospital since I also had to go when I first arrived. At that time, I accidentally pressed the nurse button so I quickly washed my hands and got the hell out 😆 . This time…well, I did the same minus pressing the nurse button 😆 . I felt super bad because I hate it when people don’t flush toilets, it’s gross! And I’m very clean! But, man, I seriously couldn’t find the stupid button anywhere and I was too embarrassed to ask lmao. Welp, at least something funny happened in this painful ordeal 😆 I just hope the nurse didn’t hate me too much. Once Dad came back from buying my medicine, we returned to the hotel and ate some konbini food for dinner that we had already bought on the way back. Kudos to the guy who helped us at the hotel at that time because’ he heated my yakisoba on the microwave and even brought me cutlery although there wasn’t supposed be room service; in fact, he even brought an orange juice to my Dad the following morning, since we also had breakfast at the hotel. He was a total sweetheart (●ฅ́дฅ̀●) I wish I could have given him a hug.
The next day, on the 20th, we decided to go to the Manga Museum. And something else happened (Θ︹Θ)ს. Once we arrived, my Dad lost his iphone. I seriously couldn’t believe how bad our luck was and this trip was beginning to turn into a nightmare. We tried calling to the hotel but the person who picked up the phone understood almost nothing of english and my japanese was very limited to go into too much detail so we decided to go back. Since we took a taxi which was from the same company as the one we took when going to the museum, I somehow managed to ask the driver in japanese if he could use the radio to ask about the lost iphone. No luck. At the hotel, we asked one of the guys in charge to help us and, after a while, he also told us that no one had found the iphone. My Dad was very upset but he ultimately gave up and so we went back to the museum…and what do you know, the iphone was actually on the street!! It had fallen off my Dad’s pocket and it stayed there the whole time (overheating, though, poor iphone)!! The guy at the hotel had even told the police, gosh. They really tried to help us.
What happened was unbelievable and quite the experience for us. I don’t know how many of you know the current situation in Argentina but let me tell you that if you drop your phone on the street…you’ll probably never see it again. That’s why we were so pleasantly surprised!! Anyway, we went to the museum once again and decided to have lunch at the cafe that’s right next to it. The cafe was gorgeous because a lot of mangaka (and even artists from other countries) had drawn on its walls whenever they came, so the place was filled with drawings (*≧▽≦). Once we entered the museum, I discovered a bunch of Gashapon machines and tried a few of them (I got Levy from Attack on Titan on my first try!). Afterwards, we continued our walk through the museum. It was okay, though I have to say that, for a museum, it felt pretty lacking. It DID have a cool permanent exhibition that showed a bit of the history of manga and the way manga is made, edited and sold, but the rest of the museum felt more like a place for people to read. Still, I don’t regret going. It was a cool experience, me thinks 🙂
At night, we went to Pontocho. I know I said Kyoto felt more quiet during the night but I suspect that was because Gion is a very traditional area. Pontocho is livelier, has a lot of restaurants and is near the river. I’m not quite sure but I think Pontocho is actually the area were most turists stay at (in a hotel, I mean). Once again, I wasn’t feeling very well…I don’t know if it was the heat, the anxiety from the whole iphone episode or what but I felt guilty that we weren’t really doing much so I suggested going out even though I was feeling bad. We went to a Kobe Beef restaurant called Yaruki and they gave us some advertising Uchiwas (that I used during the whole trip since they were really convenient 😆 ). The beef was okay but nothing out of this world. In fact, I would say it was a bit too salty for me. When we finished our meal, one of the waitresses came to our table to tell us that if we took a picture and hash-tagged the restaurant, we could get a free cup of wine. The thing is I don’t drink alcohol and my Dad tries not to because of his health, so we politely declined. The waitress was flabbergasted about this and she tried to come up with some other idea for the restaurant to be advertised. This idea was for us to use the Google Map app to rate the restaurant with 5 starts and we would get a 10% discount on the bill. What the f- I seriously couldn’t believe my ears when I heard what she suggested. She was basically bribing us ಠ_ಠ
Of course we didn’t rate it 5 stars 😆 we just pretended to look at our apps for a few seconds, carried on to pay the bill and got the hell out.
Once we arrived at the hotel, my Dad and I decided maybe it would be a better idea to go to Tokyo earlier since Kyoto was proving to be a bad experience to us…which was a shame because we really wanted to visit all the beautiful places it has to offer (like the temples and shrines, Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka, among other things) but the heatwave was extremely bad and most of Kyoto’s attractions are outdoors. I couldn’t even find any shade when walking on the street because the houses occupied the whole sidewalkＴ▽Ｔ In the end, we decided to leave Kyoto for another time. And that time will certainly not be during summer. So, on the 21st, we went to the station and took the Shinkansen once again, this time to Tokyo. The trip from Kyoto to Tokyo took around 3 hours. It was pretty fast and the view from the window was amazing!! The train even had toilets 😆 and you could buy something to drink o(^▽^)o
This was the first part. Thank you for reading until the end, stay tuned for part two: Tokyo! (人 •͈ᴗ•͈)
See you next post!! (≧∇≦*)/