Lesson 21: The elegant aunt and the drunk uncle

Dear readers,

So here I am sitting on my train heading back to Narita airport. My flight is tomorrow morning so I’ve decided to take a hotel nearby. These past 16 days have been full of adventure and beauty – as you’ve read about. However I must admit that I am looking forward to getting back to Switzerland and to sleep in my own bed again. I’m also desperate for a good cup of tea!

Before I continue writing about my adventures in Kyoto and Osaka I want to reveal a little something about me, namely why I love Japan so much. 

While here,  I was asked quite often what Anime and Manga I like, but truth be told I’m not much of an anime or manga fan. In the past I used to watch some but not much. 

I was first exposed to the Asian culture when I was about 6 or 7. I was watching Sesame Street (best show ever for kids) and a short film  came on. It was a young child at a table and they started to draw.

First the roof, then the windows and finally the rain drops to create the character “Ame – Rain”. I was fascinated. 

However the real beginning of my love affair with Japan was when I had a day off sick from school. I was watching TV when suddenly this new TV show came on, involving a young boy called Ash and his Pikachu. I got hooked on Pokemon and am not afraid to admit that I still play, although can only name the first 151.

Since then I’ve read books and watched a lot of J-Dorama. A lot of meh conversations have been about “Hana Yori Dango” or “Hana Kimi” my favourite shows.

So now you know that about me let me continue about my travels. 

Kyoto

I left Takayama in a grumpy mood. My head was splitting and I just wanted to sleep. Luckily I had booked myself onto a direct train to Kyoto. 

When I arrived I didn’t feel like slugging my case to the hotel so I hailed a taxi. 

The taxi driver did not help my already black mood. I gave him my phone with the hotel address in it but he just shouted “DENWA BANGO” (Telephone number). I told him to wait because I had to connect to the net to get it. He didn’t listen and proceeded to keep on shouting DENWA BANGO.

I lost my temper a bit and said loudly “HAI WAKARIMASHITA DEMO CHOTTO MATTE KUDASAI. INTERNETTO” (Yes I’ve understood but please wait. Internet)

It did shut him up and eventually I gave him the number. He dropped me off and I stormed off to the hotel. 

I’d had high hopes for Ms Grand Kyoto but unfortunately when I got to my room I was disappointed. The room was the smallest I’ve had and it didn’t even have a proper window. 

Resigned I unpacked and went to bed. 

I woke up the next day in a bit better mood and got up slowly. I decided to get breakfast in a cafe nearby. 

While walking through the shopping malls it is quite interesting to see long queues forming outside coffee shops or certain restaurants. I’ve also heard that some restaurants hire people to stand in line, to make the establishment look popular. I don’t have the patience and looked for an empty cafe. 

At 1400 I joined a free walking tour. I didn’t have the energy to discover the city myself, but it was a great experience. Our guide, Yuri, was really knowledgeable and took us to some amazing sites. For me the trip to Gion (one of the Geisha Districts) was my personal highlight. I’ve read some books and articles about Geisha and seen a few films. It’s such a mysterious world and is still active today.

Nothing in the western world can really compare to Geisha. They are not prostitutes but rather highly sophisticated women, trained in many arts, entertaining important customers (male or female) for the evening. The customer is transported to a world of beauty,  culture, enlightening conversation and drinking games. Well that’s how I’d describe it.

While walking through Gion you’ll see a lot of people dressed up as Maiko. Many people kept getting excited and asked if they were real. Yuri kept replying no and one guy aggressively asked “How do You know” to which he replied “A Real Maiko wouldn’t be walking with friends or taking pictures on her phone”. Girls training to be Geiko only get two days off a month and are forbidden to have a phone. 

Yuri also brought us to a studio Ghibli store. He asked the group if there were any Miyazaki fans here. I raised my hand was the only one to do so!! Shocking!! 

After the tour I went back to Gion and managed to see some real Geiko and Maiko. I admit that I did cry a little. 

The elegant aunt is of course Kyoto. Kyoto is the most traditional city of Japan and it is not uncommon to see women wearing Kimono as part of their daily life. There are many shops dedicated to Kimono and the various accessories. 

It was interesting for me to learn that in fact many Japanese people come to Kyoto to get more in touch with their Japanese roots and many of the girls training to be Maiko / Geiko are from other parts of the country and not from Kyoto. 

I was soooooo tempted but decided not to subject them to my germs.

On Wednesday I took a short train ride to Osaka – yep, the drunken uncle. 

Osaka is very different to Kyoto and Tokyo. It’s loud, colourful, bright and full of people. It’s the capital of comedy and ramen. It’s also famous for its okonomiyaki and takoyaki. It’s a bit seedier than other places and is abundant with pachinko halls. Here you’ll see a lot more men with coloured hair whereas the girls tend to be a bit more relaxed. 

Osaka is also home to Universal Studios and the new Harry Potter world. 
I spontaneously decided to go and had such a great time. I was debating with myself whether to go to a theme park alone.. But YOLO right?  As a single rider I may have had to walk the long walk of shame but I could skip most of the queues and get on the rides quite quick. 
A Thursday seems like a good day to go. It wasn’t empty but wasn’t too crowded. 

The longest I had to wait was 70 minutes for the Harry Potter ride but it was so worth it. (During peak times the waiting time is about 300 minutes…). 

So that’s me. 

My trip has come to an end but I’ve really enjoyed it and the memories I’ve created will be with me for a (hopefully)  long time coming. 

Where to next? On my list is Iceland or South Africa… We’ll see. 

Thank you all for reading and for the great feedback. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. 

Laura

Xoxoxo

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