So I am finally in Kyoto! After waiting on a train at Nagoya station for nearly six hours due to delays and cancellations on the train because of the approaching typhoon, we were given an announcement that the wire on the train had been broken so I ended up having to spend the night in Nagoya.
However, me and the people I am travelling with at the moment decided to make the best of the situation and went to a karaoke room which was opposite the station. This was a super fun way of passing the time and staying warm and dry. After all, when life gives you a typhoon, you go to to a karaoke! (that’s how the saying goes, right?).
I think that is one of the biggest lessons I have learnt so far solo travelling. You can do all the planning in the world, have back up plans and have another plan for if those plans fail but it might still not go the way you had in mind. And that is okay. You just need to keep calm and be flexible. Also, it is important to ask for help when you need it. For example, once I realised there were problems on my train, I tweeted about it and lots of people reached out to me to offer advice which was really helpful.
It actually turned out to be a blessing that we did not make it to Kyoto that night because the following morning, I read the news and parts of Kyoto station had collapsed and the typhoon was a lot worse there. When I got to Kyoto station, I saw the aftermath of it all and all the glass on the floor and fallen trees in the area so I am really thankful I missed that!
We also ended up staying in a really nice hotel and grabbed some McDonalds on the way there (I have loved all the Japanese food but it was really comforting to eat some fast food after all the bad weather!). In the hotel elevator a woman pointed at me and started repeating the word “kawaii”. After a google search, apparently that means “cute” in Japanese. So I went to bed nice and warm with a tummy full of chicken nuggets with the knowledge that I am kawaii!
Luckily the following morning the shinkansen line was in operation so in less than an hour, I was in Kyoto where the next part of my adventure could properly begin!
I checked into my hostel straight away and it was very cool. We all had individual rooms which were like little capsules. After the past few days of sharing a room with other people in hostels, it was quite nice to have my own space for a little bit.
Upon arriving, I went to a shopping centre next to Kyoto station where there was a food court and I ate lunch there. On the bottom floor, there were tonnes of ramen restaurants so I had lots of choices and all my ramen dreams came true all at once! I opted for the spicy option and it was so tasty, I really enjoyed getting some spice back into my life!
They also provided you with these bibs you could wear whilst you ate so I really went for it with the ramen and was slurping away. I was told that in Japanese culture, the louder you slurp your ramen, the more you show that you’re enjoying the food. I am not sure how true that is but I still gave it my best shot…
From there, I got straight to exploring and the first place I visited was the fushimi inari shrine which is a very beautiful Shinto shrine. When you get there you are met with a massive torii gate and then a path which leads to the main hall where people can make offerings, ring a bell and make their wishes.
The shrine is dedicated to Inari who is the Japanese god of rice. I learnt that historically, most people in the area were farmers so they would come there to pray for a good harvest. There are statues of foxes everywhere as that is supposed to be the messenger of Inari.
The best part of the visit was the path of thousands and thousands of torii gates lined up. It was so beautiful to walk through. There is a mountain at the back of the shrine which takes a few hours to hike up, I had wanted to go to the summit however, the path had been closed due to the typhoon.
There was this thing called the omokaru stones next to the entrance where you can make a wish. It has two lanterns and a heavy ornament which you have to lift. If the stone is lighter than you expected then your wish will be granted but if it is heavier than you expected then your wish will never come true or you will face hardship in attaining your wish. I am not particularly superstitious but I did not like the idea of a wish not coming true so I did not partake in it but it was a fun thing to watch and an interesting tradition to learn about.
From there, we decided to make out way to the Kyoto imperial palace. I was with a group of other people and there is this one guy who is really on it with the map reading so I pretty much stuck with him all day. When you are solo travelling, you only really have yourself to rely on so it has been nice to have a little bit of pressure taken off me for a while!
Unfortunately, the palace was closed due to the typhoon. I was a bit disappointed about this but at least I got see the beautiful gates outside and there was a stunning bridge over a lake in a forest area next to the palace which was very enjoyable.
I then made my way to Gion which is known to be the geisha district in the hope of spotting some geishas. There were lots of women wearing geisha clothes however, I got the impression they were just Japanese tourists from other areas who had dressed up. I think I should have booked a tea ceremony so I could see real geishas up close. I heard there is an area called geisha corner where the geishas do daily performances so I might check that out if I have more time!
I also stopped off at the Kyoto Pokemon centre which was very fun. It was really cool because they had Japanese versions of things. For example, they had pikachu in a kimono!
There was also a hello kitty store which I went in to. I used to be absolutely obsessed with hello kitty when I was younger so it was very nostalgic to be there. My inner child was having the time of her life!
From there I was getting a little hungry so I bought myself some matcha flavoured ice cream. I had seen the green ice cream everywhere and it looked cool so I had been wanting to try it. I ended up hating it and after a few mouth fulls, I had to give it to one of the guys I was with to finish. I do not like any types of tea so I don’t know why I thought I would like green tea ice cream but at least I tried it!
I then went to visit Yasaka shrine which was nice. I particularly enjoyed seeing it as it was getting darker although I did not spend much time there as by this point I was exhausted and wanted to have a bit of a lie down.
So from there I got on a bus back to my hostel. This is the first bus I have got in Japan so I was a little confused but I made it back okay thanks to Google maps. That night, me and the people I am with hired a room in a restaurant where we did a set meal. A lot of the restaurants in the area were closed or operating a reduced menu as they could not get all their ingredients due to the typhoon so we wanted to make sure we could all eat together. I then spent the night hanging out in the hostel bar.
The following day, I got up bright and early to make the most of the day. I had heard lots of great things about a city called Nara so decided to head there first as it takes about an hour and half from my hostel.
I had the most incredible time there, Nara park has hundreds of deer roaming around. It was such a wonderful experience to see so many deer in one area. Walking around, you could get right up close to them and they were not even afraid. I was able to stroke them and they would follow me round. I felt like I was a Disney princess as they followed me around.
You could also buy deer crackers and feed them. I bought a packet and it was cool to feed them but also very scary as they got a little aggressive trying to barge into you. At one point, I even had a herd of deer chasing me around!
A really fun thing to do is to bow at the deer whilst holding a cracker and they will bow at you back. This was definitely an experience that I so never forget.
From there, I went exploring Nara by foot. First of all, I walked through the Nandaimon Gate and went to visit Todaiji temple which has a massive bronzed Buddha statue on the inside. Then I tried to go and see the Kasuga Taisha shrine which was only supposed to be a short walk away however, I walked a long time and could not find it. By this point I was super tired and decided to start heading back.
On the way back to the station, I walked past the Nara national museum but I really wanted to get back to Kyoto so I could go see some more of the sites there so I did not go in. However, I did stop at the Kohfukuji temple which has the beautiful three storied pagoda and I really enjoyed looking at that.
By the time I got back to Kyoto, I was well and truly exhausted but the plan is to head to another city at some point tomorrow so I really wanted to make the most of my time here. So, I bought myself a fanta from one of the many vending machines at the station and some yummy snacks from a local 7/11 shop and begun to make my way to the kinkaju temple more popularly known as the “golden pavilion” which took about 40 minutes.
I had quite high expectations of the golden pavilion as they day before, I had got talking to a Japanese guy on the train and I had asked him what he would recommend I do whilst in Kyoto and he had said the golden pavilion was the top thing I should do. And it did not disappoint!
The temple was completely covered in gold leaf and I am a sucker for all things shiny so was completely in love with it. It was exceptionally beautiful. We did not have much time there as it was nearing the closing time but I am so happy I got see it.
From there, we hopped back on the city bus and made our way to the Kyoto samurai and ninja museum. This was not something that I had planned to do but one of the guys I was with really wanted to go so we met up with some of the other people we had hung out with the day before and a big group of us did the tour.
The tour guide explained to us the history of samurais and ninjas. I know it sounds stupid but due to seeing ninjas so often in popular culture, it had not really clicked in my mind that they were actually real life people! I found the tour very interesting and informative.
We also got to dress up as ninjas and samurais and use blow darts and throw ninja stars at targets. It was so much fun!
That night, I decided to go out by myself for a wander and explore part of Kyoto by night. I put some earphones in, got up a great playlist with some absolute bangers and off I went. On my way I found this amazing ramen restaurant where I had the best meal I have had so far.
The following day, I was planning on going to see a castle but I decided to just relax instead. I have still have months of backpacking ahead of me so I am trying to strike a good balance of exploration and seeing things with resting so I don’t burn myself out and it stops being fun.
From Kyoto, the plan is to head to Hiroshima for a few days!
It’s just me, Dammy, having the adventure of a life time…