So much has happened since I left Kyoto, but in the interest of brevity I’ll keep this post to just the biggest things.
From Kyoto, instead of going right back to Tokyo, I took a detour to Fukuoka where I met up with my host parents, who were there on vacation. They had offered to let me stay at the hotel they were staying at, and having missed out on a prior outing with them due to lack of money, I decided to go because it didn’t cost all that much. Unfortunately, what I didn’t know beforehand is that there really isn’t much to do in Fukuoka. I mean, maybe there is, but all my host parents and I did was go to bars and restaurants around the hotel while they argued. Though they did treat me to a lot of good food. That’s the one thing you can always count on when you’re with my host parents—you will eat well. I also got to see The Hobbit, which I’d been dying to see.
After that somewhat of a letdown, I went back to Tokyo. Finally. It’s weird how Tokyo really feels like home to me now. But I wouldn’t be there long—I had planned to go traveling around with my friends, and in a few days we set off on our trek. The purpose of the trip was to help my friend Jon research for a project he needed to do for a scholarship, but it was really just an excuse to get out and see more of Japan. We took a bus to Osaka, where we stayed two nights at a hostel. Having no money, we chose the cheapest housing options, which were all hostels in pretty sketchy areas. The hostels themselves weren’t that bad, though.
We did a couple fun things in Osaka, like go up Umeda Sky Building, which is a super tall building that visitors can climb up and see the whole city from the top of. I think at one time the building was supposed to be a space launch center or something, but it is now just a hot date spot. Osaka is also known for its okonomiyaki, which a pancake-like thing made of egg, vegetables, and pretty much whatever you want. Anyway, it’s really good.
Going up Umeda Sky Building
After Osaka, we went to Kobe, which is famous for having really delicious (but extremely expensive) beef. It usually goes for around ¥8,000 for the cheapest, which is about $80. So, there was no way we were going to have any. We stumbled upon an antiques garage sale type thing, where a bunch of locals all gathered in front of a temple to sell their vintage stuff. A TV crew came through, and one of the guys noticed us (the only foreigners for miles) and stopped my friend for a quick interview. He tried his best in English (“Japan place…you like?”) without knowing we could speak to him perfectly fine in Japanese. At night we went to Harborland, a string of restaurants and shops by (you guessed it) the harbor. Actually kind of pretty at night, with all the buildings lit up. Like most of the places we went to, though, there wasn’t a whole lot to do.
Ferris wheel at Harborland, Kobe
The next and final stop was Nagoya, which was probably the sketchiest and most of a failure, though memorable. We got there kinda late, and literally walked around for hours looking for a place to eat–it really shuts down after about 7 PM! We tried to go to this place called Gifu the next day, which I really wanted to go to because it looks like the Shire. It was an hour away by train, and by the time we got there it was raining. Because Gifu would involve walking along dirt paths, we decided to just go back, which meant a waste of about $25 and several hours. Sigh.
Overall the trip was kind of uneventful, but still a good experience. We got to visit some cool temples to help with Jon’s research. Got some good pictures out of it, too! It was good to travel around and see what the rest of Japan is like, but it really just reinforced in me that there’s really nothing like Tokyo. I don’t really need to leave this city.
A cool pond and stepping stones at a temple
I was pretty tired after the trip, but didn’t have much time to rest because my family came! My dad, aunt, stepmom, stepsister, and stepsister’s boyfriend all came over from the United States and stayed with my stepmom’s brother, who lives in Tokyo. (My stepmom’s Japanese.) My stepmom had already planned pretty much every day out in full, so I busily ran around with them in Tokyo, visiting familiar sites like Kamakura and Harajuku. I could barely believe they were actually here, in Tokyo. Living in Japan has made me feel like I’m living a completely separate life. My life, with my host family and friends, is here, and my real family and other friends are back home. It was really great seeing them all, especially my stepsister Molly, whom I rarely see because she goes to school out in Seattle.
Anyway, that about wraps up the past month. See you next time!