What a fool I am! Yesterday I spent a full 3 hours on the train going to Kyoto and back because I screwed up not once but TWICE, once going there and once coming home! Here’s what I learned:
-Don’t ever miss your station, because most stops don’t have a way to cross over the tracks and get on a train going the other direction without leaving the station and buying a new ticket. Of course, I refused buy a new ticket – so I had to go something like 6 extra stops to get back to where I wanted to go.
-A little circle with an arrow through it on the station map means the train does NOT stop there. On the way home, I got on the K-Express train from Shijo…and it took me all the way back to OSAKA! Oops!
OK, but goofups aside, this week has again not been terribly exciting – because of my decision to move to Kyoto, because most of the things I want to see are either IN Kyoto or short trips from it, and because of my extreme money shortages, it really doesn’t make that much sense for me to be traveling there when I’m probably going to be living there in a couple of weeks. And as far as Osaka trips go, I usually like saving those up for weekends so I can combine the trip with some nightlife; I’m heading out there tonight (in a couple of hours, actually) to meet up with Tomoyo again, and Sunday night to hang out with Tyler and his buddies. So, this week I’ve pretty much been spending my time out here in Hirakata, lifting and studying Japanese a lot.
I did go into Kyoto yesterday, though, to check out one more place I’m considering living. And soon I’ll have to choose…I’m curious what you all think. The first choice is a big dorm-style building in Saiin (it’s the same one I mentioned in my previous post about my decision to go to Ritsumeikan).
Just to remind you, it’s about 25 minutes by bike from Ritsumeikan and 25 minutes from San-jo and Shi-jo, where most of Kyoto’s fun stuff is. The building and rooms are a bit crappy, but it definitely has a social feel as there are something like 90 rooms, mostly full (but with foreigners).
The second place is called Ebisu’s Kyoto.
It’s a very traditional Japanese-style house with only six rooms, located right next to Kyoto University in an absolutely gorgeous part of town, atop a hill with a view of most of the city.
The rooms are gigantic but come unfurnished and there are is no air conditioning. At the moment, only one other person lives there so it wouldn’t be a very social place either. It’s a bit farther from Ritsumeikan (maybe 35 min) but much closer to Shijo (10 minutes) and walking distance from Kyoto University, a spot where a lot of college students hang out. The cost is about $100-$200 more, depending on electricity usage (and how long I stay – at Robins you get a discount for the longer you’re there). But I have heard from a few different people that this is absolutely the nicest area in the city.
What to do, what to do…
Aside from the housing deal, I took just a few more random shots while roaming around Kyoto because…well…Kyoto is awesome 🙂 Plus it was REALLY cold out, so there were very few other tourists to pollute the pictures. First I tried to go back to the giant temple complex where Last Samurai was filmed (I can’t remember if I mentioned it in a previous post, but last time I tried to go there it was closed). Guess what: IT WAS CLOSED! My guidebook said it closes at 4:30 and I got there at 4:00…apparently it closes early in the winter. D’oh! Actually, this picture has nothing to do with that temple…it’s just a nice bridge I saw while walking around. I just thought I’d fill up this space to the right of the picture with a little story 🙂
“Excuse me, Oji-san. I heard there’s a nice shrine in the area, but I can’t seem to find anything that looks even remotely Shinto. Could you give me some pointers on what I should be looking for?”
And here’s a shot inside the complex. Just look at those clouds – believe me when I say they looked even MORE amazing in person. Behind the top left of the building you can just barely see a “bald spot” on the mountain; on this spot there’s a GIGANTIC Japanese character for “dai,” or “big.” Every year on August 14th the character is set on fire and can be seen from most of Kyoto for some festival whose name I can’t remember.
Apparently these are all giant bins of Sake, but I think it’s a hoax. As soon as I got out my bottle opener the guards in the area all tackled me and hog-tied me, yelling some gibberish in Japanese. They probably just didn’t want me to find out that the bottles were in fact filled with sand and contained no sake at all.
Here’s what a cherry blossom tree looks like in the winter. Not quite as majestic and awe-inspiring as one might think. I’ve actually been seeing these things ALL over the place, not realizing until just yesterday what they all were. It’s pretty amazing when you think that in only a couple of months this very tree will come back to life and FILL up with something so beautiful that thousands of people will flock from around the world just to see it. Nature at it’s best.
Finally, here’s just one of many typical houses I passed by on my day’s walk. This is why I think Kyoto is so much more amazing than any other part of Japan (that I’ve been to, at least) – it manages to simultaneously feel like a traditional, 300-year-old, out-in-the-countryside place while at the same time offering all the conveniences of the modern world. Could you imagine how astonished you’d be if you saw a house like this in Southern California? There ain’t no culture like that in the States, folks!
After all of my Kyoto business was taken care of and I finally got back to Hirakata, I was happy to find an in-progress goodbye party in the lounge. Kohei, a really nice Japanese dude (on the left) who’s lived here for just over 2 years, is moving out. They taught us a really interesting drinking game where you balance a deck of cards on top of a bottle, and going around in a circle you have to try to blow just SOME of the cards off the top; if you topple the whole deck, you lose, you drink, and the game resumes (with the entire deck replaced). Good fun.
And, I guess that about wraps it up. Don’t forget to tell me what you think about where I should live! But now…time for a NIGHT OUT IN OSAKA!