Day 1: January 24th
I woke up before the sun came up at 6, hurriedly got dressed, and went to breakfast. As the sun came up, more people started coming out of their rooms to see Japan in the distance as we sailed closer to the Port of Kobe. We were welcomed by a tug boat, a fire boat that shot rainbow colored water, a balloon release, and a marching band. To my surprise, my Aunt Chieko and Uncle Yuji were already at the port with a “Welcome Lauren” sign that Leslie pointed out.
Once I hurried through immigration, Chieko and Yuji took me to their town of Nishinomiya (about a 30 minute drive from Kobe). From there I met Mari and Nobuaki, got lunch at a sushi restaurant (I cannot begin to tell you how much I’ve missed good food) and was dropped off at the train station with Mari.
We then took 4 or 5 different trains to get to Kyoto during the span of about 2 hours. We went to the Fushimi Shrine and then to our hotel which is a Gion Shinmonso (traditional Japanese hotel where we sleep on the floor). We walked around a main shopping area, I bought a thick winter jacket (men’s size because I couldn’t fit in an XL woman’s), and went back to the hotel for Shabu-Shabu in the room. I fell asleep soon after of exhaustion.
Day 2: January 25th
Today we had a traditional Japanese breakfast (fish and rice) and then got ready for a long day of sightseeing with a private taxi driver/tour guide.
We traveled to the Golden Temple, Bamboo Forest, a ramen restaurant, a local market, and another temple (I forgot the name of the last 2 places). It was really cool to see these finally after seeing pictures from family and on the internet. When we were at the golden temple it was snowing and the lake was frozen over so it made it even more breathtaking. The bamboo forest was amazing, it was maybe the only time I’ve felt short during the past few days here.
After the sightseeing and eating, we took the train back to Mari’s house on Rokko Island. For dinner, since it’s so cold out, we ordered Domino’s. I have no shame in this decision.
It has been an exhausting few days with the sightseeing and small language barrier but Japan has already impressed me so much in ways I expected and ways I didn’t.