ようこそ (youkoso), or, welcome, to my blog, it only took me a month to get started. Not entirely my fault as my first month has been a mire of laptop woes and Japanese bureaucracy, both equally frustrating and slow in sorting out. While I have plenty of fun filled Japanese bureaucracy to look forward to I hope that as of today my laptop issues are over. If you’re wondering exactly what I’m referring to, in short I stepped on my laptop screen. I will talk about navigating getting a laptop that isn’t made in Japan fixed while in Japan in another post. Lets just say it wasn’t fun.
I hope that this blog will give you guys (friends, family, stalkers) some insight into what I’m doing in Japan and also some information about Kyoto and Japan in general which may be useful if you ever find yourself here. I’ll also mention some useful or interesting Japanese words as I know at least mum is interested. Mum is also to credit for the blog title, after she came out with ‘japangie’ I couldn’t think of anything else so, thanks mum.
I’ll start with the beginning, a brief Tokyo Story.
I say brief because Kendra and I landed in the morning of September 10th and left for Kyoto the following morning on September 11th. We were horribly jet-lagged as our flight skipped our normal 9 hours sleep – we landed midnight UK time which happens to be 8am in the land of the rising sun. We got our 在留カード (zairyu card, aka a residents card) which allow us to live in Japan over the normal 3 month period granted to those without visas, and were very quickly out of Narita airport (apart from the inevitable one bag being over 10 minutes behind all of the other bags which came immediately). The cheapest way to get out of Narita airport, which is not actually in Tokyo but just outside it, is to get the bus. The bus does take about an hour to get into central but pretty convenient as it goes just outside the terminal. Its pretty easy to get the bus even if you dont speak Japanese – the word for ‘bus’ in Japanese is バス (Basu) and if you say where you want to go the girl on the counter will hook you up with a ticket. The bus costs 3,100円 (£17). Apparently there is also a train but I’ve never got it.
Upon arriving in Shinjuku (新宿) we discovered that we weren’t allowed in our hotel room for 2 hours. When incredibly jet lagged two hours is forever. We sat in MacDonalds for most of it, me drinking coke in an effort to stay awake and Kendra picking at a big mac she decided to get for some reason.
Once we finally made it into the hotel room we turned on the tv to discover a riveting cooking show all about edamame beans. I don’t understand how they managed to make an hours’ show on different types of beans but they did. The host showed several タレント(tarento – various semi-famous people from some agency or another) different beans and the Tarento declared different ones ‘delicious’ and made a lot of ‘eeeeeeh’ sounds (a staple of Japanese tv).
The hotel if you are wondering was Ibis hotel Shinjuku – it was alright but more expensive than we originally anticipated. It did have free Wifi.
Once we were feeling less gross from travelling and had a short nap, we decided we should probably eat something despite the fact that trying to stay awake made me feel underwater, hungover and grumpy. We found a small side street which was a huge contrast to the busy main Shinjuku junction outside our hotel. The street was lined with small restaurants typical of small streets in Japan – the restaurant consists of a counter, one side for customers, the other for the patron and cooking. We went into one of the first we came across because we were exhausted. The restaurant did meat skewers so we got a few between us – meat wrapped in spring onion and meat and mushroom, it was pretty good.
The following day we attempted to find the bus stop for our coach to Kyoto. To be fair I should have checked the location exactly, though it was misleading that it said ‘outside Shinjuku station West exit’ when in fact it was waay away from Shinjuku station West exit. Thus began the Great Race for the Bus 2014. After trekking to Shinjuku station from our hotel with bags that simply could not behave like pull along bags should and insisted on capsizing every time I did something other than walk in a perfectly straight line, we realised there was no sign of the bus stop. At this point we were at Bus Departure Time T-15. Cue me rushing to a station attendant and attempting to explain that we wanted to find the Willer bus terminal. After rifling through a load of papers for the partial address provided by Willer the attendant points out where the terminal is on a map. The problem is its definitely further than a 15 minute walk. I take a picture of the map and return to Kendra who was with the bags. We find a taxi rank. Taxi can only fit one of us and our bags. We take two taxis. I show taxi guy the map. He insists on 番地 (banchi) – post code, which I don’t have, even though I have a map with the location and even our location on it. I show Kendra’s taxi driver the map. Mercifully he is less narrow-minded about the necessity of a 番地 and my taxi follows his. We arrive at the terminal with just under 5 minutes until the bus departs.
The Willer Express is actually a great service despite the fact that we struggled to find the Shinjuku terminal. Our ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto only cost 4,800円 each, which is just under £30. Compared to the Shinkansen Bullet Train (around £70), this is a serious bargain. It does take about 8 hours but the seats are incredibly comfortable, recline all the way back and have really nice footrests. They also have blankets, a power adapter and an eye mask built into the seat. In addition, Japanese service stations are amazing, dare I say even better than French service stations – not only do they have regional stores with fresh food and snacks but they also have amazing toilets with heated seats and a LED display showing which cubicles are free (not sure why this is necessary but hey, this is Japan). Even though the horrible rush to the bus made me feel pretty ill for the first leg of the journey, the bus was really relaxing (we were on the ‘relax bus’ after all) and we could see loads of Japanese countryside. Sadly you can’t see much leaving Tokyo as the motorway has U shaped walls around it to keep the motorway from affecting neighborhoods around it.
And so we arrived in Kyoto.
I will leave off here as I’ve covered a fair amount and I’m sure most will have skimmed it at best. I will update with what I’ve been up to periodically so as not to flood the page with stuff straight away.
If you have an idea for how to present Japanese words then please let me know, as I find it hard to add the Japanese way of writing, the reading and the English translation without it looking messy.
Feel free to comment 🙂