On our second day in Japan, I traveled by bus with a SAS group to Kyoto, a popular Chinese tourist location known for its temples and history and its cherry blossoms. It just so happened to be the peak of the cherry blossom season while we were in Japan, so the whole area was beautiful. It also rained most of the days we were in Japan, so that made it a little harder to take pictures. One of the temples, or houses that we went to was the shogun’s house, or the person that is directly below the emperor, and usually in charge of the military forces. We were not allowed to take pictures, but the house was stunning, at least for being over 1,000 years old, and each room had a strategy behind it. Even the floors were purposely designed to be noisy (squeaks and bells) when you walked on it, so that the shogun and his guards could hear intruders more easily. This was also during the age of the ninja, so that was interesting to learn about as well. We were free for lunch on our own and I went with Grace and Myra to a popular pizza place known for putting whatever ingredients you want on a pizza. I had so much pizza, and almost all of it I had never had before on a pizza. There was a pizza with icecream and sprinkles, a brocoli and cheese pizza, one with potatoes and peas, and some more traditional ones like Hawaiian and cheese. They also made potato wedges that tasted out of this world!
Also, many of the places we visited in Kyoto had gardens and pathways that you could walk, some having stepping stones and covered bridges with an asian flair to them. One of the things I found interesting at the gift shops is that they sold good luck charms for everything. You could buy a good luck charm to get good grades, to find love, have long life, ect. I know it is part of the Buddhism religion and this was something I didn’t know before this trip. Kyoto was easily the most beautiful place that I visited in Japan this week. Instead of heading back to the ship with the bus, my friend Robert and I decided to stick around Kyoto for a while and then take an overnight bus to Tokyo. We ended up taking about a 45 minute pick-up bus to the local station. On a side note, I have really been impressed with Japan’s infrastructure and transportation. It is much easier to get around even if you don’t have a vehicle. However, stay away from the taxis!!! On the bus, we met a family from Louisiana who had been traveling across Europe for 3 weeks and was ending their vacation in Japan. They had been in Tokyo earlier that week, so they told us some highlights and gave us pointers. They also spoke English, so that was a bonus. Japanese is the main language here, and unlike a lot of the other countries we visited, Japan for the most part is a monolingual country- speaking only Japanese for the most part. A few people speak different levels of English, especially business people. It is similar to the U.S and the varying levels that people speak Spanish. I wish I could speak all of the native languages of the countries that we visited because I feel it is more respectful and would be very helpful. I did learn a few words, and many people were happy when we attempted to speak Japanese.
We eventually made it to the bus/subway station and ordered our tickets (much more than what I thought) for Yokahama, because Tokyo was sold out for the night. We had about five hours to blow, so we walked around the city, ate dinner, dried some of our soaked clothing in a local laundromat, and picked up some snacks for the bus ride. About 20 minutes before we were to board our bus, I found a free wifi spot, and got in some quick skype and facebook updates. We got on the bus, and I was pleasantly surprised! The seats elevated almost all of the way back, there was footrests, and we were given a pillow and blanket. It was very comfortable, but not quite the same as sleeping in a bed. Something else interesting that happened was when I was messing with the buttons for the air, I ended up pressing a button that turned red, lit up about 8 other red buttons in the bus, and started blinking. An announcement came on in Japanese, and I had no idea if I was getting yelled at, or what was going to happen. He ended up shutting the lights off and that was that. I decided to keep my hands to myself lol. I ended up getting a few hours of sleep. The next day was a long, but a very fun day: Disney style!
SAS quote of the day:
“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”
– Miriam Beard