Silent Morning in Gion

Morning began with heading off to Gion, a part of Kyoto known for its Geishas. At 9am, the city breathed quietly. To my surprise, barely any shops had opened.

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Gion had its own distinct charm that set it apart from the rest of Kyoto. (the clouded green mountain backdrop behind the city was an gorgeous addition)

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After Gion, we walked to Kyoto’s Manga Museum. Ticket admission was decently priced at $3 for junior high to high school students, $8 for adults. The museum had formerly been a school but now devoted its grounds to a showcase and extensive library of manga volumes. There were also exhibits detailing the history of manga (which started from around the 1940’s) and others, more hand-on, letting visitors create their own manga strip or character.

I’m not the biggest manga fan, so I did feel extra sleepy afterwards….

Walking back to the hotel, we stopped by a small family-run restaurant. The menu was in all Japanese, no pictures, and that should have been the first sign to turn away. My curry rice with beef tasted like expired box mix and learning from that experience, I will make sure I understand the menu before I order.

(not-so-fabulous curry and other dishes)

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Exploring the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto (and the window shopping that ensues)

Second day in Kyoto resulted in 16 too many mosquitoes bites, sore feet, but an overall healthy fitness hike up a beautifully constructed mountain path.

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First thing in the morning … donuts! 🙂 I may have loss my sense of what is expensive and cheap, but $1 (100 yen) donuts seemed like a pretty good buy. The store was “Mister Donut” and they doughnuts were freshly baked with a perfect balance of sugar and flavor.

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Upon arriving at the Fushimi Inari Shrine, i could see masses of uniformed students trailing behind their elderly teachers and another load of tourists armed with their cameras and smartphones aimed high.

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One consistent element of the temple was the fountains of running mountain water. There were stations of these supplied with wooden ladles and multi-language instructions on how to use the “holy” water. The water was not to be drunk but to be used to cleanse one’s hands. I highly appreciated these stations of cold mountain water, especially as we hiked closer to the steep mountain top because it was refreshing to wash our hands after sweating against the hot summer sun for hours.

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Also, there was a section of the temple devoted to colorful assortments of paper cranes that had been gorgeously complied into long strands.

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A lot of previous visitors adding their own wishes, prayers, and even lighthearted doodles onto decorated wooden plaques and notepaper.

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After getting past all the tourist traps – shops selling overpriced merchandise and attraction stands trying to get you to pay for your fortune, we finally got to see Fushimi Inari’s main appeal. There were tall red gates that crafted a tunnel path up the mountain and shrines along the way honoring the fox deity.

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The atmosphere of the place was simply charming. It would be a wonderful place to live aside from the fact that you were a mountain-climb away from “civilization”.

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Super photogenic dog that we met along our way to the top! 😀

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So thirsty after the long hike, I bought a few more soft drinks from the vending machine. The soft drinks get pricier and pricier as you go up the mountain 😦

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We headed to the Kyoto Train Station to have lunch at a ramen restaurant. I had a small dish of fried rice that costed $2, but it was one of the best i’ve had in a while.

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Simple dinner, trying to enforce healthy habits!

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Train Ride to Kyoto and Supermarket Visit!

Convenient store breakfast costing around 3 USD! Banana, Strawberry Yogurt, and Custard Bread.

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Walking around Narita in the early morning.

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After spending our first night in Narita, we woke up early next morning to catch a series of bullet trains to Kyoto.  From the train windows, the view was gorgeous. There were houses nestled in the mountain slope, forestry devouring their sides and various small towns, some buried in rice patties, others bordering a quiet port.

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Once we arrived in Kyoto, I, at once, felt the difference. Narita was a slumbering town that found its charm in the uneven rows of petite, aged houses and low murmur of everyday life. Kyoto felt like Shanghai; it even smelled like Shanghai. The train station was packed in groups of tourists, uniformed students sitting on the cold platform, and business men and women scurrying past by with their broad briefcases.

After settling in at the new hotel (where, very unfortunately wifi was MIA), we headed out to a local supermarket. Fruits and vegetables seemed pricier then I was used to but I still managed to head out the door only paying around 8 USD.

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Purchased

-Melon Filled Bread

-Egg Filled Bread

-Yogurt pack:

-3 pack bananas

-Vegetable-flavored ramen

-Lemon Vitamin Soft Drink

Wandering through Narita, Japan

Arrived in Japan, after a turbulence-packed airplane ride, very tired and sweaty, but still got a chance to wander around Narita’s convenient stores, shopping malls, and prevalent soft drink vending machines. Horribly homesick right now, but hopefully concentrating on photography and the gorgeous street food can take my mind off of things.

Family Mart Convenient Store:

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Crepe Store at Mall:

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Soft Drink Vending Machines:

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Other: