North America, Asia · 20 Days · 99 Moments · August 2017

Candace's adventure in Kyoto, Japan

1 September 2017

So...on the train ride back from NYC I was lucky enough to run into my dear friend Sharon so we were able to sit together the entire ride back to Vermont. I was telling her about my trip and my knife came up. I told her I had my name engraved but they laughed at me at the store which I thought was weird. Sharon asked me what my Japanese name was and I didn't remember so I looked it up on google translate and it was different than what I had found before. Now mind you....I looked up my name at least twice with the same result. Well...I went back to my FB post to see what I said it was which was Shokudai. So....I re-looked up that "name" which it told me was mine before and it actually means Candlestick. Must have been a bad auto correct that I didn't notice and now my fancy, expensive, engraved knife from a 400 year old store in Japan is engraved with Candle stick instead of my name. Please someone come up with something deep that this could mean so I don't feel like a total asshole!

1 September 2017

Last breakfast and last moments.....
Finally after many hours of flying and waiting in line at customs (50-minutes) I've made it to my hotel. Plane landed at 6:00pm in NYC....same time I left Japan and it's 8:53pm and just got to my hotel in NYC. Long train ride back to Vermont tomorrow and then sleep for days. Thank you all for sharing this with me. I never at any point felt alone and was so happy to be able to let you all experience the things I was experiencing....the one thing you miss as a solo traveler. I was so nervous to be alone but I loved it and so glad I traveled that way. It opens up so many new doors to you that you wouldn't have with a friend and I learned a lot. I highly recommend it to all of you! Thank you everyone!

31 August 2017

So I'm sitting at the airport in Osaka waiting for my flight to Tokyo and then of to NYC. I have never been more sad to leave a place than I am here and all I'm thinking about is when I can return. I've already scooped out tickets a well as realestate as I might want to move here someday... who knows.

30 August 2017

So my last night in kyoto I decided to spend in Gion which is one of my favorite areas. I decided to walk the 1.3 miles so I could take in as much of this city as possible before leaving. I saw about 7 or 8 geisha which left me star struck. I really wanted a good photo but I was also trying to be respectful of their privacy as tourists treat them like celebrities. There were crowds of them with their cameras taking tons of pictures. I had one walk right next to me going down the street and then into a restaurant so I got a picture from behind as all of them are. Oh well...i still have that memory even if I have crappy pictures.
It's hard to believe but today was my last day and tomorrow I make the horrible and long trek home. Not sure how I'm going to go back to my old life after this. Today I went to Kyoto station. I so wish I went here sooner as its absolutely incredible! I'm not big into shopping but there are floors of stores and numerous floors with food courts. One floor had more savory items and the other had more sweet and then a ton of restaurants. I totally would have bought more to cook here if I went during my stay with a kitchen. Then I went to the Yamazaki distillery for a tour and tasting. This was as amazing as I thought it would be and the tasting was lovely. We tasted three different whiskeys and then made a highball with the fourth which I surprisingly like as I usually drink my whiskey neat.
Later that afternoon I checked into my new hotel which is called a ryokan... it's pretty much a japanese bed and breakfast. Its luxurious and they wait on you hand and foot. I also have a gorgeous cedar bathtub in the shower room. That evening I attended another butoh performance which was incredible. I met a woman from Canada as well as a writer from outside of Philly who went to school in Vermont who has been living in Kyoto for 12 years. Small world! We became friends and have chatted a bit. It's a shame that I met her at the very end of my trip. I ate a simple dinner which included chicken sashimi which was absolutely delicious! Who knew??? Breakfast today at the ryokan was huge and beautiful! I didn't like everything but it was amazing.
So the other night I was invited to spend the night art my new friend Yayoi's house. We have become close so soon and I'm in lube with her daughter Jayde. She is 15 and an incredible salsa dancer! She was born in the states and will be moving there in the spring to live with her dad. It was nice because she's interested in colleges there so I was able to help her with ideas of schools with good dance programs. The next day Yayoi and I spent together. We went to the Sanjūsangen-dō temple which is the the longest Tennille in Japan. I couldn't take pictures inside so those are stolen off the internet as well as one of the outside ones as my photos didn't take. This place is amazing. They're are 1,000 golden buddahs. Then she took me to a famous place to get matcha Kakigōri...a dish of shaved ice with a matcha whipped cream type topping, sweet sauce, red beans and mochi. It was delicious and refreshing as it was about 95 and really humid.
Breakfast at the ryokan.

29 August 2017

Yesterday I ended up going to some less populated temples that were recommended to me by my new friend Ignacio who I spent the afternoon with the day prior. They were in a little mountain town and very beautiful and quiet. Only about 2-5 people there which was nice to get away from the crowds. I went to Renge-ji, Enko-ji and Shisendo temple.

28 August 2017

Yesterday I spent the afternoon with Ignacio a friend of the airbnb host who ahe directed me with. He is from Venezuela burr has been living in Kyoto for 25 years working as a professor at one of the local universities. He mentioned that there are 27 universities in Kyoto, over 40 if you count Osaka. We first met at Higashi Hongan-ji genome where the monks were meditating. This app won't let me post video but I have singe on fb. Next we went to Kinkaku-ji temple which was probably the most magnificent sight I've seen since I've been here. Ignacio explained that if you look close at the island in front with the tree it is a turtle. Next we went to Ryoan-ji temple which is the most famous rock garden in Japan. The interesting thing is there are 15 rocks but it was built as such where from any view there is always at least one rock hidden. Last we took a stroll through Ninnaji but didnt really see much ad it was getting late. Beautiful day with a new friend.

27 August 2017

Cont: The dinner was a multi course meal using in season ingredients spread over 4.5 hours. Lots of sake as well! I was able to try some fish I have never had, including whale. I didn't really like it but it's good to try it. Homemade strawberry ice cream with cornflakes for dessert! Forgot a photo burr it was delicious!
Was to tired yesterday to write but during the first half of the day getting my tattoo. Took roughly 4.5 goes with a few breaks. The pain was outrageous....i thought I was my arm was being mutilated the entire time. Honestly...i was surprised as my back didn't really hurt much at all. Luckily he finished it in one session rather than the 2 we had planned which is great as it saves me around $300, I get an extra free day and I don't have to sit through the torture! I'm happy with it and ill see how it heals. May need to find any artist in Vermont to touch it up. After I meet Yayoi (best friend of the Airbnb host who I went out with last week) and she took me to this high end japanese dinner at this small, relatively unknown restaurant that her friends own. She felt this was the real Japanese experience because tourists dont know about it. I met a number of her friends as Kyoto is much like Vermont... small town and everyone knows everyone. She knew all of them from salsa class.

26 August 2017

Meet a new friend from Itally and we had this amazing dinner in Gion. Had scallop sashimi for the first time... one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten! Also tried sea urchin... it wasn't as bad as I thought but I didn't love it. In seriously going to miss the food here.

25 August 2017

Saw my first geisha tonight... life long dream. She scurried into the location she was going to so fast I didn't get a photo.
Today I went to a flea market at Kitano Tenman-gū Shrine in the Kamigyo Ward that the airbnb hosts told me about. It was amazing. Lots of fabrics, pottery, junk, old kimono and obis, food and jewelry. It was huge and a bit overwhelming and I wanted to buy everything but I can only take so much home. The shrine was beautiful as well. I guess they have these markets twice per month in the summer at various temples.
Flea market

24 August 2017

As i left i saw the kimino forest which is right outside the train station. They are these tubes filled with kimono fabric and I guess at night they ate lit up which I bet is beautiful.
After the bamboo forest took a walk down town which is this great old street with lots of cute shops and had some lunch. Seems pretty common in these areas to have old streets with shops, restaurants and street vendors. It was about 95° as usual so ice cream was needed. Had a cherry blossom and bamboo swirl soft serve which sounded much more beautiful than it tasted and then crossed the bridge (don't recall the name) to get to Monkey Park. This was a huge up hill 20-30 minute hike up this windy mountain. Wouldn't have been so bad off it wasn't so hot and humid. I was drenched when i got to the tip. At the top you see this i ncredible view of Kyoto and then a ton of monkeys running around. They actually are wild and live in the mountains but come down every day as you can buy food to feed them but only from inside the building through the screen. You can't touch them but they are totally comfortable with people. Lots of babies around too! They were really beautiful.
Spent the day in Arishiyama... anther beautiful area right outside of Kyoto. Started the day at Tenryū-ji temple which was beautiful. Not the most beautiful of the temples I've seen but still lovely. Then I took a walk thorough the bamboo forest which is exactly that... just like walking through a path in the woods but it's all bamboo. Beautiful but again... so many people out kund of took away the peacefulness of it all. It wad a nice break from the sun as well. On the way back down the path I stopped to rest and listen to this man play this instrument which I can't remember what its called... starts with a C and sounds like a small steel drum. I have video but don't think this app quill let me post it.
I hate this photo but people want selfies! This view was incredible but my body looks totality distorted...ha!
from a small bar I found last night.... heaven...

23 August 2017

Walked through Gion again which I'm in love with and then went to Pontochu which is a big food street by the river. Found a waygu beef place. It blows my mind how cheep it is here... at home I've seen it for $65 a pound. I got this steak... small although... for only $15. Also got free waygu "prosciutto" although tasted basically raw... delicious. And I got a pickled cucumber which was also delicious.
Went to a beautiful tea ceremony demonstration tonight (Sheila. .I thought of you the entire time!). They explained the meaning behind the ceremony, all the materials needed, and the customs behind it. Unfortunately I wasn't allowed to take photos during the demonstration but it is amazing how particular each movement is choreographed. Because I was the first person there I sat to the right which meant that I was the honored guest and wad served the tea during the demonstration. After, they taught us how to make tea and we each made a cup and had a sweet (and I was told I had very good posture by the woman doing the demo...ha). Really beautiful experience
Well... forgot to charge my wifi so I had to hang out at the house for a while after breakfast to charge up. That made it hard to do any full day plans so I stayed local. I researched and went to this local knife shop which has been around for 1,000 years and bought my friends a wedding gift. Unfortunately the knife wasn't made in the store, made in Osaka, but it's beautiful and I got their name engraved on it.... hopefully she's planning to change her last name as that's what I did! I wanted a knife but wanted to look around a bit. I ended up going back to Nishiki market where I had hoped to but stuff to cook but decided to grab some gifts instead...and.. another black sesame ice cream. I also went to the knife shop there, very famous, been there over 400 years and all knives are made in the store. Spent more than I wanted but I knew I world regret it later if I didn't. Got my name engraved which they thought was funny but didnt know what else to write.
Its amazing what you can see here just in a walk to get breakfast. Temples are everywhere! Got breakfast at this sweet little place I found. I'm sure for coffee connoisseurs this was no big deal but I've never seen coffee made this way. Such a beautiful contraption and it made the most amazing coffee!

22 August 2017

So went to Gion tonight. It's an older area about a half a mile from where I'm staying. It's beautiful! Lots of restaurants and shops and the only remaining geisha but unfortunately I didn't see any. Went to my first really fancy meal here. It's called Kaiseki and its a tradituonal Japanese multi course tasting dinner. It was lovely and the crazy thing is it was onlt $54! Not including the amazing sake. If this was in the U.S. it would be well into the $80-$90 dollar range. I really thought things works be more expensive here but that's not the case. I couldn't finish the last dish which was the rice and eel and felt terrible as it was so good but I was about to pop and wanted the ice cream! During my meal this older gentleman and a woman came in. He seemed important as everyone knew him. He had this bag of mint and gave me a bunch and in broken English asked me where I was from. Just a funny moment.
Second half of the day I went to Fushimi Inari temple. This place is mind blowingly beautiful. If there weren't so many people it would have been the most amazing place for pictures. I might go back some night as its only four train stops away. There is a street leading up to it with little shops and restaurants. Had black sesame and silken tofu icecream....sooooo good. There is a big path were you can climb up to the top of the mountain....takes an hour maybe? Might try to do that....probably has amazing views.
Well.... successfully navigated the train and made it to Nara, a town about an hour train ride outside of Kyoto. This was an interesting and slightly strange place. The town is filled with these "wild" deer that have been there for over 1,000 years. They're everywhere! There are stands where you can purchase food to feed them (I did not do that) so they love people! It was cool for about 30- seconds and then just became kind of gross and dirty. I then went to Todai-ji temple to see the giant Buddha statues which were incredible. I think I read it also has one of the largest wooden structures in Japan. This temple was anything but zen.... tons of people and cheesy souvenir shops right inn the temple but still cool to see. Then went and got a Japanese lunch with tempura, miso, rice, octopus, chicken, pork, kimchi, noodles and dessert. Lovely.
Everyone keep telling me how easy the train system is and its making my head hurt. I have no clue what tickets to buy, which train to get on and where to transfer. I'm sure it's easier than I think but right now it's really frustrating and making me feel like an idiot.
I love waking up early in the morning and hearing the gongs from the temple up the road.

21 August 2017

Today I visited Uji which is this beautiful town south of Kyoto. They are famous for their matcha and temples. I went to the most famous one, Byodoin temple and had some matcha treats, matcha noodles and matcha parfait. And.... as much as I hate selfies I took one as it was requested by a good friend!
Here is a photo Tenko Ima, the butoh artist, just sent me that was taken the night I saw her perform.

20 August 2017

Had a great day with my new friend Yayoi. She teaches English in Kyoto so or was helpful to have someone to speak English with. We had coffee at the house, went and got Chinese food for lunch... which was amazing, went to a really fun salsa class and then went to Ninnaji Temple. Tonight were going out to dinner with her 15 year old daughter.... also a dancer, and a friend of hers who I met at salsa.
So the woman who the airbnb hosts connected me with actually surprised me this morning! I guess she was out late dancing and crashed in one of the rooms. We had coffee and now were going to lunch and then the salsa class. I mentioned visiting Nara for the day and she wants to go so she might drive me. Super fun!
Last night I was able to take a Butoh dance class with the woman whom I saw perform last Thursday. It was hard because my body hurts from not moving and I have wrecked my feet from walking too much in bad shoes but it was amazing and wish we had more classes like this in Vermont. Worked a lot on moving from the center, breath and visual imagery.
Well the wife of the couple who owns the airbnb (they are currently in California) just connected me with her best friend here. She's taking me to a salsa class tomorrow. I'm so excited to have someone to hang out with! It will be great to make some connections here!
And a dessert that came with it. Tofu cheesecake. We'll see how it compares to mine.
So.... tempura, sushi, sashimi, tofu, melon and shrimp, few other items and shabu shabu which is meat (I got the pork) and vegetables that you cook in the broth briefly and then dip in sauce before eating. All really good!

18 August 2017

Decided to walk around near where I'm staying and stopped to get sushi for lunch. I ordered this combo platter but not really sure what everything is so we will see when I get it.
Well... decided to get up and go to a bar I found on line. Got a glass of very expensive and rare whiskey...Yamazaki 18 year. This city is amazing at night. So quiet. No horns honking just cars, people walking and riding bikes.
Oh I hate jet lag... was doing so well but after seeing the temples I came back to the house to cool off and rest and accidentally fell asleep. Now its 10:00pm and I just woke up! Ugh....
Udon for lunch in Higashiyama. Mmmmm....
Next stop today Ginkakugi Temple. I added a link below if you want to read about it. Up in the hills about a mile from the last temple I went to. It's over 90 degrees so the walk up the hill was a challenge. This area is cool with lots of shops.... very touristy. The temple is stunning...a walking path to lead you to our but tons of people so anything but zen.

17 August 2017

Being that I have walked about 15 miles across the part 2 days I decided to give my feet a rest (don't have "sensible " shoes) and attempt public transportation. After asking for help from a few kind people I found my way to Shinnyodo Temple. Very beautiful grounds but you have to pay to se the gardens so no pictures of that. Whoops.... accidentally attached Nishiki Market pictures...ignore those!
So last night.... before the yummy ramen, I was lucky enough to attend a Butoh performance. This is a Japanese form of dance that I researched briefly in my undergrad, where I think Kyoto is one of the only places in the world where you can see an authentic performance. It was held in a tiny theatre and there were only 9 of us in the audience. . We could barely fit... And we sat on the floor on top of pillows. It was very intimate and close. Totally bizarre, disturbing and beautiful. I'm lucky enough to take a butoh workshop with the dancer (Tenko Ima) tomorrow. Attached is a short article on what it is if you are interested. I wasn't able to take photos but I found some on line of the show I saw at the theatre it was in. Same musicians too.
Had an hour to kill before the dance performance and finally found a bar to beat the stifling heat... don't think I habe ever sweated so much! This great woman from Kobe was there and started talking to me and now we're besties! So nice to finally meet some locals! Hopefully when I'm over the jet lag I will have energy to go out at night and meet people .... it's so fun!
First bowl of ramen at an obviously popular place! Delicious!
Saw my first Butoh performance. Absolutely amazing... wish I was able to take photos (although we took a group shot so maybe that will turn up somewhere). Going to a butoh workshop Saturday with the dancer I saw. Very excited to try something so new an a dance form almost solely in Kyoto.
Right outside of Nishiki market.
Shinto shrine next to Niahiki market.
Finally got my pocket wifi and even though I've been awake since 1:00am I went exploring. Today I went to Nishiki market...a 5 block market hosting tons of shops selling the most amazing things. You can find everything from produce to fresh fish, numerous meats on a stick, sushi, dried fish, spices, chopsticks, sweets and more. Very crowded and touristy and pretty incredible. I nibbled at different places foe lunch and had duck on a stick, freshly grilled waygu beef (very expensive but worth every penny), salmon sashimi and matcha icecream. Tasted some different pickeled items including Japanese radish and melon. Also sampled some really good sake. Only about 1 mile by foot from where I'm staying so this will not be the only time I come here. Took lots of photos but here are just a few.

16 August 2017

Jet lag is bad...have been up since 1:00am. At around 5 I decided to go to the market to get food to cook and heard these gongs and bells and saw there was a temple next to the house. I walked through a bit but no signs in English so not sure what it was. The supermarket was crazy! Lots of interesting stuff and they sell liquor there! That will help me sleep!
Well jet lag is kicking in. Walked around for over 3 hours this morning but got a lot of blisters (Not the best walking shoes) so came back to the house to rest a bit around noon, fell asleep and now it's 6:30pm! I don't have portable wifi yet (Wil be getting tomorrow) so it makes getting around challenging so I'll take this day to try to catch up on sleep. Hopefully I'm not up all night! I think to get exercise I'll try to walk as much as possible... did almost 3 miles today. The city is easy and so calm. It's big but small, not intimidating and very quiet. Lots of small side streets. When I get my wifi I'll take more photos and hopefully tomorrow I'll start seeing some interesting things to share!

15 August 2017

Wish I didn't wake up at 5:30 am after not getting to bed until 12:30 am. Jet lag is killer! Luckily I have air conditioning in my room as it is stifling hot but the forecast looks better than last weeks predictions.. .in the mid to high 80's rather than low 90's with singe rain. Will make walking around much easier!
First meal in Japan...Sushi at the Tokyo airport. Gorgeous and only $10!
Finally made it! I've had about 70 minutes total sleep in the last 28 hours! Its 9:30pm Japan time which I think its 8:30 am your time. The house is beautiful! Here is my room!

14 August 2017

Almost on our way!
30 more minutes!

13 August 2017

Successfully navigated the NYC trains and made my way to my crappy hotel in Jamacia. Enjoying some Indian food and a night in before my big day tomorrow.
And so we begin....