DAY 1Sep 30 2017
I know it may sound redundant to say I’m in love with my new city each time I move, BUT THIS TIME I MEAN IT.
The flight in was easy but long. We didn’t get into our apartments until 2am after leaving Chiang Mai 8am the day before, but were all greeted by our own cozy studios.
When I say cozy I mean REALLY cozy. Mine is 16m^2 which is ...small. I have, on request, a “big” bed (check out the note from Mama Jen), which measures in at a twin and a half, not quite a full. My TV is slightly larger than my laptop. My closet is two feet long and has a bar for hanging only and no shelves. My bathroom is...get this...4 feet by 4 feet. It’s so little and looks and feels like (complete with the white plastic walls with random panels and sticker instruction labels) an airplane bathroom. The pillow is basically a little sheet folded three times so I had to go spend $50 at a home goods store on new pillows and pillowcases. BUT I have a heated Toto toilet and I’m on the ground floor (no stairs yass) and I have a tiny desk and it feels very Japan and I love it. Also, the WiFi is the best of any apartment I’ve had thus far (35/37).
I was told that Kyoto had Savannah/Charleston vibes and I totally didn’t believe it. I was completely wrong. Replace the Japanese signs with English ones and add a few more white people and I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between here and any mid-sized American city. It’s a biking town with little streets, little buildings, little cafes, and a river winding along the side. There are crosswalks and traffic laws. It is littered with bistros and parks and temples, and surprisingly also high end fashion (?). I’ll be renting a bike and joining a hot yoga studio and breathing in the incredible fall air. God, I missed seasons.
DAY 3Oct 02 2017
Happy Monday! Workspace update. Space Kante just opened this month and it is very cozy. Jazz covers playing, cafe on site, great feng shui. I stayed there for a solid 4 hours. ...But I did absolutely no work. The couches were cozy and I had great catch ups with my fellow Kaizens without really opening my laptop. Thankfully my WiFi at home is good. Next time I work I’ll be bringing headphones and finding a non distracting corner.
DAY 6Oct 05 2017
This is my orange bike for the month! All the locals ride similar cruisers with baskets and bells, including the men. Not too many people drive and Uber is non-existent. There are local cabs you can call or hail, but the cabbies are best described as doorman, where their vehicle is the five star hotel. They wear uniforms and white gloves and take a huge amount of pride in their work. They feather dust their interiors between fares and get extremely offended if you touch the door handle for yourself. It’s a cool experience but pretty expensive ($10 for a 10 minute ride) so bikes it is!
DAY 14Oct 13 2017
I first started this blog as a way to document my adventures and as a way of sharing my life with friends and family back home. I meant to keep it light and silly and comical.
But life hasn’t been light and silly and comical, like it was in those early days. There are moments, sure, and it still is an incredible adventure, but as I was warned from the get-go, when you travel the world you will never truly find an escape, rather, the problems from before will travel with you. Perhaps they will manifest themselves in different ways, and perhaps you will have different perspectives on how to approach them, but you are still you, no matter where you sleep at night.
You may still get lonely and anxious. Home may never have seemed so far away, even though you’re still not quite sure what “home” even is.
You may still get overwhelmed. The incessant pings and texts and snaps and notifications buzzing you into insanity, constantly inundating you with places you should be and things you should be doing and people you should be talking to until you give up and mute everything, hoping the silence will make you invisible.
You may still have falling outs with people you considered friends. This may hurt more because you may have even considered them family.
You may still have health issues. Nights of fevers and chills and swells and unidentifiable bites. Except you’ll be alone with an inability to get antibiotics or communicate what is wrong and all you really want is someone who understands.
You may still have days when you hate your job or your boss or you coworkers. When you just need “a day off” even though life is supposed to be like one giant vacation, or at least that’s what Instagram leads you to believe.
You may be excited to try all the food, but something in everything causes an allergic reaction so you reduce your diet and reduce your diet until there’s nothing left but pizza, and who the hell eats pizza in Japan but it’s the only thing that doesn’t cause hives and difficulty breathing, and you only have 3 benedryls left so what other options are there, really.
You may still struggle with your body image. The lack of consistency in your routine and in your access to equipment along with an erratic eating schedule leaving you feeling sluggish and bloated with no real way of “getting back into a groove.”
You may still experience heartache. Gut wrenching conversations at midnight in the rain, a foreign look on a familiar face, and yours wet with tears.
You may, as the case may be, experience all of these things, all at once, in a city you’re longing to explore and love, but really you can’t get out of bed and it’s been days since you saw another human or went to an event or laughed carelessly.
You may experience unfathomable guilt for not appreciating this opportunity you’ve been gifted every last ounce that it deserves. You are so lucky, so why can’t you just get up and LIVE.
But it’s raining again in Kyoto. I guess I’ll just stay in bed.
DAY 21Oct 20 2017
In Japan there is an excess of everything, and there is sensory and consumer overload beyond imagination. Here’s a random compilation of things I see on a day to day.
DAY 23Oct 22 2017
In Japan the best way to see the countryside is via JR rail pass. Think Eurail - a hop on, hop off system that allows you to explore the country on your own schedule. The price of the pass pays for itself after two segments, and on a seven day journey you can do 10 times as many. Mom and dad gifted me a seven day pass for Diwali and I put together an aggressive itinerary to squeeze as much of Japan in as possible in one week.
Up first was two days in Hiroshima / Mayijama. The latter is a holy island a bit south of Hiroshima, and the ferry is accessible by JR pass! The deer roam the island freely and the famous gate looks different depending on the tide. It was too rainy for a sunset but we stayed until dark waiting for one anyways. Oh well.
The next day we explored historic Hiroshima. It seemed a bit eerie and surreal to realize that everything in the city had been built in the last 50 Years, because there was nothing there after the bombing. The Atom Bomb Dome was pretty powerful — the only structure remaining because the blast happened directly above it and the explosion went outward. The museum, also, was pretty horrible. There were charred remains of toddler bikes, and a watch frozen at the time of the bomb. Seeing the schoolchildren there learning about their own history was pretty neat, but all in all it was harrowing to see what kind of damage we can inflict on one another. It was especially awkward / weird as an American, but we didn’t feel unwelcome at all. I doubt the same would be true vice versa, sadly.
Then it was on to Mount Fuji. I booked a SUPER fancy, SUPER romantic, SUPER expensive room with an in-room onsen and sauna overlooking Mt. Fuji with a 9-course dining experience.
It poured. The whole time. We saw exactly zero Mt. Fujis. But here’s the pic of our super expensive room anyway, womp womp.
And finally four days in Tokyo with a subset of other Kaizens. Tokyo is wild. It’s nuts. It poured again (shocker) but that didn’t stop me from:
- Going to a sumo-less sumo experience
- Having a 9 course meal at Nobu COOKED BY NOBU HIMSELF
- Watching robot cabaret
- Timelapse crossing the busiest intersection in the world
- Getting punched by a bouncer with an umbrella
- Trying to explain said incident at the police station by pointing to cartoon characters on a sheet
- Playing beer pong accompanied by a pianist
- PLAYING WITH OWLS OMG THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE FIRST THING ON THIS LIST
- Crying my eyes out while FaceTiming with my family on Diwali
- Catching fish while sitting in a boat in a restaurant
- Trying on really elaborate Halloween costumes I had no intention of buying
What a weird place.
Back to Kyoto without a lack of adventure. A Super Typhoon rolled through, which, fun fact, is also known as a “category 4 hurricane” because we Americans like to invent our own names for things. We preponed our train and lucky for us (but not for our friends) we were the last ones to make it home on time. The people who left an hour behind us were stuck on the train between stations for TEN HOURS without power. At home we were woken up at 2am, 3am, 4am, and 5am with evacuation notices (entirely in Japanese but translated by our city team who stayed up calming our anxiety). But by 11am there were blue skies and not a stray leaf left on the street. Japan.
DAY 31Oct 30 2017
For Diwali my aunts, uncles, and grandmother pooled together to find a weekend getaway to Seoul. I was thrilled to get out of Japan for even just a few days.
Korea is like Japan, if Japan were to remove the stick up its butt, pardoning any Japanese readers. Where Japan is clean and sterile, Korea has graffiti and trash. Where Japan polite and reserved, Korea is loud and silly. There is diversity of food and culture. There is high end cars and fashion and cheap electronics and cutesy fur things. I had been dreaming of a Japanese fall with crisp, sunny weather and red maple foliage, and while Japan disappointed with typhoon after typhoon, Korea delivered.
It felt so good to be able to finally eat street food again without fear of anaphylactic shock. Bipimbop and kimchi dumplings and bbq galore. Mountains of food for CHEAP. Japan, why can’t you be more like Korea??
We did a good amount of walking and exploring, averaging about 15,000 steps, two ice creams, and one bottle of wine per day. Among the sites included Seoul Tower, Gangnam, some castles, markets, ancient villages, and a river walk.
The thing that surprised me the most about Korea was the heavy art influence. Everywhere we went were community projects, galleries, exhibits, pop up shops, and art installations. We stumbled into an “Able Access Art Fair” geared towards handicapped viewers. On Sunday we walked through a street festival outside our AirBnB with stalls for kids to express their creativity.
Two things on the bucket list that didn’t make it were a DMZ history tour (a little burned out from Hiroshima) and some K-Pop nightlife (a little burned out from life). Instead we caught up on work, caught up on shows, caught up on sleep, and left just enough of Korea to guarantee a return visit.
DAY 32Oct 31 2017
Halloween in Osaka was madness. We stole the show with a drag inspired Jasmine and Aladdin, complete with circular boob speakers that played “A Whole New World” all night. Best costume award. Check. Hangover. Check.
DAY 33Nov 01 2017
A few photos to round out Japan. Yamazako distillery, Kobe beef experience in Kobe, Nara deer park, Asian photobooths, and the bamboo forest at Arashiyama.
DAY 34Nov 02 2017
And just like that, it’s done. Kyoto roundup:
Average breakfast: Yogurt at home and to-go coffee from street vending machines
Lunch: Some failed attempt at ramen or other local food
Dinner: Pizza :(
Drink of choice: Strong Zero, the strongest of strong. Most akin to Four Loko, but with a mild flavor. Dangerous.
Most money spent on: Everything? Breathing? No, it was definitely that non-Fuji view room in Fuji.
Apartment highlights: Ground Floor was cool, and being close to the workspace and train station was nice, but other than that it was a claustrophobic disaster.
Workspace highlights: Cool layout and comfy couches but not the most productive environment.
On the locals: Very reserved, very orderly, very particular about their rules and their queues.
Three words: “I feel sick.” Sad but true.
Packing adjustments: Bought a whole new winter wardrobe at uniqlo (read: two sweaters and two pants) and some leather boots which I wore on repeat for the month and then donated.
General feeling: This month was as low as it’s been. Sickness and emotion and bad weather and expensive living really got me down.
Top five meals:
5. Apple cinnamon pancakes - Happy Pancake
4. Cauliflower leek soup - Cafe Bambi
3. Gorgonzola Gallete - Cafe Independence
2. Truffle risotto cooked in a Parmesan wheel at a random bar in Tokyo I ran into only because it was raining - Name Unknown
1. Nine course vegetarian omakase cooked by nobu 😍 - Nobu