Saturday, December 8, 2012

Flying out of Tokyo Airport, Sayonara Japan

Departure Day. Ugh. 

My flight from Narita Airport was at 10:45 am. I wanted to be in the airport two hours before that. As early as 6:15, I checked out of Nishitetsu Inn Nihombashi and withstood the cold morning breeze of Tokyo. It was a windy walk going to Tokyo station. That was 20 solid minutes of walking. I boarded the posh-looking Narita Express (N’ex). This ride is also covered by the JR Railpass. There were lockers where you can leave your luggage and you’ll have to key in a passcode. I was feeling clingy to my stuff and I didn’t wanna figure out the whole passcode thing so I kept my luggage in front of me.

Narita Express

It was a one-hour ride going to the airport. I watched the Japan scene float by. Played some tunes in my Ipod. Anything to ignore my hunger pangs and to forget that I was leaving Japan.

Be mindful of the stops. Some airlines depart at Narita Terminal 1 and some depart at Terminal 2. The names of the stops are shown on the screen.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Back For An Evening in Tokyo Nishitetsu Inn Nihonbashi

I packed my last haul of Kyoto souvenirs in my luggage, bid a warm farewell to the staff of Gojo Guesthouse, hopped on a bus and waited for the next train that will bring me back to Tokyo. My apologies for the crappy pictures. My handy Canon S95 was killed by a deer inNara park and I had to resort to using my Nokia N8.
My heavy luggage and heavy laptop bag
I still had time to choose my bento box. A lot of locals seem to buy these often. So it is not just-for-tourist thing. 

Lunch on the shinkansen

Pocky Almond Crush. Yumyum!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Kyoto Takeaway Thoughts & Tips

Buses are the main transportation around Tokyo. You need to learn how to ride a Japanese bus. Riding the Japanese bus is quite intimidating at first. You are in a foreign land, with foreign characters. An English translation is not guaranteed. So it’d be best if you come ready.

Buy the Kyoto Bus Pass. It is a pretty good deal for JPY 500 – you can ride the bus all you want for a day. You’ll just have to add a bit if you want to go outside the zones (no biggie). I bought mine from Gojo Guesthouse. You get the pass stamped in the bus with the date, and just have to show this to the driver when you get off the bus

Each bus stop has a schedule that is precise. The bus closes its doors before the time so be at the bus stop before that. They have different schedules for weekends. Take pics of the schedules for your reference.

The city center has a lot of buses. They have a map where you can find the bus locations. You may need to cross streets... properly (follow the traffic lights).

In the bus stops, FALL IN LINE. Please. Proper manners are applied here.

Kyoto is a bike friendly city. The bikers won't attack you, but have some presence of mind to watch out for the bikers. You'll hear the bell when there's a biker approaching.

Some bikes parked in the street.
Hiragana reading pays off – insert Hiragana station pic directory in Kyoto

Pasalubong Buying (What to buy in Japan as souvenir)

When I started travelling, I was sweet enough to buy some food goodies for everyone in our department (around 25-30 pax). After two or three trips, my wallet felt the burden of massive pasalubong buying. I just bought goodies for my group (5 pax) to manage the budget. I don’t buy anything pricey, I usually buy local delicacies and some unique stuff I find in the groceries; Like the equivalent of dried mangoes and Choc-Nut here.

Applying my pasalubong-buying approach in Japan is a strain on the wallet.

I didn’t immediately find the popular Green Tea Kit-Kat in the groceries, I didn’t see any in 7-11 either. I found them when I was in Kyoto already – in Calbee stores.

Luckily, these bunch were on sale.
Price of a pack of KitKat Green Tea: JPY 285.

 Green chocolate for you.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Kyoto Food Sightings

Fastfood Chains

Yoshinoya dinner for ¥ 490. I got some combo meal: Rice, Miso soup, beef, salmon and some side. The beef was perfectly tender, the salmon was just so-so. There is something about the Japanese rice that somewhat makes the meal perfect. The drink is a complimentary cold green tea. You can order separate beverages if you want.

Yoshinoya meal
The store layout is very functional. The store has a somewhat depressing atmosphere like the vending machine restaurants in Tokyo. You go there to eat. 

You don't really wanna hang out here
McDo meals are relatively pricey (compared to the prices in Manila of course). But I like their fries better. I had two large fries for my meal. A fastfood meal is not complete without fries.

Mos Burger. Mos Burger is a popular burger fastfood chain that originated in Japan. Maybe something like their vesion of Jollibee? I didn’t really feel the Japanese-touch in the burgers. Ask for the English menu when you order. A burger is a nice break from all the rice combos.

My dinner burger meal for ¥ 780.

The burger was juicy, but forgettable

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Hostel Review: Gojo Guesthouse Review

Japanese culture is shown again and again in anime. Eggs in soups, sitting on the floor barefoot/with socks, the chime of the school bell, and the tatami rooms.

I wanted to try staying in a tatami. I was willing to pay the price of JPY 8,000 to 10,000 even for just one night just to try it.  Luckily, I didn’t have to because I found a tatami-style dorm in Kyoto: Gojo Guesthouse. I was quite apprehensive about the place because the website was very basic, but functional - not a lot of frills and whatnots that I usually see in dorm websites. The review in Tripadvisor was overall positive so I decided give it a try. I emailed my request, and I just had no confirm my arrival weeks before my arrival date. Didn’t have to pay any downpayment. If you cancel/change your reservation on the day before arrival, they require 50% of total charge. If you cancel/change your reservation on the arrival day, they charge 100% of the room rate. Pretty reasonable.

Don't miss the "Gojo Cafe" sign

Finding the dorm is quite straightforward:

The guesthouse is near convenience stores. It is a 10-15 minute walk from everything: central area, temples, and other sights. Reaching the guesthouse is pretty straightforward, just 10 minutes away from Gion station. Just pay attention to the "Gojo Cafe" sign or you might miss it.

I got “slightly” lost because I made the wrong turn, but there were some students who gladly helped me find my way.  
The check-in time is still 3pm.  It was still quite early so I left my luggage first, paid for the room (they only accept cash so bring enough yen). I was famished when I reached the dorm so went out to a convenience store nearby to grab some snack.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Happiness and Sadness in Nara

Time to use the Japan Rail Pass again. The trip from JR Kyoto to JR Nara station took almost an hour. I felt the fatigue creeping in my me that day so I played snoozefest with my alarm that morning. It was around 10am when I landed in JR Nara station.

Train heading to Nara

An officemate went to Nara the previous year and I was enchanted with the roaming wild deer in Nara Park. It would be fun to meet a Bambi in person.


Nara Park is a 25-minute walk from JR Nara Station – says the tourist information person. You can also take public transportation going there but why rush? Walking is always part of the adventure.

I made a stop in CoCo Curry House for some filling mid-morning “snack”.

Passed bu KĊfuku-ji Temple. A bunch of Japanese schoolboys offered to take my picture. I forgot to change the settings back to "Vivid colors" mode. 

I was giddy with excitement to see a deer.Weeeeee! <3 font="">
One approached me cautiously. 
Anyone knows what happened to the...horn?

The purple camera case, and the deer...

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