This month has been wonderful! My brother has left Japan, and though I wish he could have stayed longer, we had a great time. So much happened that I don’t have the space to write it all in one post. Here’s the first part:
I left on the 2nd to meet him in Tokyo. I arrived a little before him so I could pick him up from the arrival gate, but I got lost in Narita’s terminal maze and almost didn’t catch him in time! It was pretty easy to spot him once I found the right place though; he’s literally the size of a professional football player. We hugged and took embarrassing pictures, then I dragged him around the international terminal searching for the train station that was literally one floor down from his arrival gate. Flights, no matter how short, mess with your head, I’m telling you.
Anyway, we wanted to get to our hotel in the Asakusa area as fast as possible so we took the Sky Express or something like that. The only problem is we got on the all-reserved train without reserving tickets. Whatever, there were maybe 10 people in our car. I thought little of my mistake. But some man came up and told us in English that we were in his seat, but that he’d be happy to sit somewhere else if we didn’t want to move. That meant he did want us to move. So we got our things, found an empty spot, and hoped that an attendant wouldn’t come buy and ask for tickets.
Simply moving should have been the end of our train worries, but my brother is huge. Life is never so easy for the abnormally tall. So, naturally, he bumped his head on the luggage rack in all this confusion and blood immediately started gushing from his forehead. He looks like Harry Potter now I’m sure. I’m truly sorry, brother dear, but I’m still blaming the flight.
We eventually got to our destination with few additional troubles and adjusted our fares to make up for my previous mistake. After that we checked in to our hotel, found a nearby Yoshinoya gyuudon restaurant, and then went straight to bed. My silly brother didn’t sleep for nearly 24 hours or something like that. Also, I can never say no to sleep, so it was an obvious choice at 9PM.
Tokyo is a wonderful, magical place. All those pictures you’ve seen of Takeshita Dori in Harajuku and the ever famous Shibuya crossing do not lie. Tokyo is a termite mound of scurrying insects. SO. MANY. PEOPLE. It really makes you appreciate living in the middle of nowhere. I sometimes prefer the sounds of actual insects.
In Tokyo we did the normal touristy things: Harajuku, Shibuya, Asakusa and its shrine, Tsukiji fish market, Meiji Shrine, Yoyogi park, you know, the standard. It was pretty cool, but admittedly overwhelming. We did happen upon a peaceful traditional garden near the port and found our chance to get away for a bit. If you’re planning to go to Tokyo anytime soon, actually plan. And be prepared for massive amounts of people. At the shrine in Asakusa, we could barely walk up the gate without bumping into other people. Yet somehow a woman with a small yukata-clad girl approached us and spoke to us in English. The girl, who was maybe 5 years old, asked if we were tourists and where we were from. Then we took a picture. It was so cute to have such a young child practice her English with us!
Another memorable moment was my brother discovering an affinity for green tea flavored sweets. I can’t count how many times he ate matcha ice cream or sweet green tea snacks from the convenient store.
After Tokyo we flew to Osaka. We went to Korea town in Tsuruhashi which is really only good for Kpop goods and Korean food, but that’s what you’d expect. Then we ventured to Osaka Castle, and once again had matcha ice cream. Also, some strange but really nice man with a radio blaring the news offered to take a picture of us in front of the castle. After he asked other tourists if they required his services as well, but no one else accepted. Well, whatever, his pictures were pretty good.
We spent the evening wandering around Dotonburi and taking in the sights. We got in pretty early though, because the next day we were going to Kyoto.
If I could give anyone wanting to visit Japan one piece of advice it would be to not skip Kyoto. I doubt most people would, but just don’t do it. Kyoto is the heart of Japan. It’s historic beauty and spiritual depth is difficult to match and even harder to capture in words.
We only had one day there, so I immediately decided we would see Fushimi Inari Taisha first. It’s a shrine atop a mountain, and it’s famous for its ridiculous number of toori gates. The first time I went there, it was freezing and I was lucky enough to see snow fall on the pond half way up the main path. This time it was so hot that my previously straightened hair soon resembled a poodle. I was also sweating from probably every gland. It was not pleasant. To make it even more exciting, I let my brother, as adventurous and sometimes dangerous as he is, lead me up the path to the top of the mountain. The view of the city from the top was worth it, but after we left the view point we somehow ended up in a residential area. We did eventually find our way back, but only after a trek up a rather steep hill.
Obviously after all that hiking and sweating and nearly dying, some udon and cold tea was in order. My brother also had grilled quail, which despite being full of tiny crunchy bones, was surprisingly delicious. After lunch we went to Kiyomizu-dera, ate more matcha ice cream, decided Fushimi Inari was better, then headed back to Osaka.
I was a wonderful five days, and I’m glad my brother decided to spend the money he did to come see me. The trip only got better from there. More coming soon!