March Madness – Tokyo and Kyoto, White Day. Monster blog entry!

Hello everyone. It’s March, isn’t it? It’s beginning to be a lot like Spring, at last! There’s still snow on the ground here though, sadly. Sometimes it even snows, but it alternates with rain. The weather has been pretty bad the past few days, it’s either raining or just about to rain, and I don’t want to go outside. It’s an inconvenience. I hate umbrellas, they always break or get stolen. Rain coats look funny, but I don’t have one. At least the snow is starting to melt and disappear slowly. However, everything looks so gloomy outside this time of the year. I’m more than halfway through my spring break. It went by way too fast.

I don’t start classes until April 12th. I signed up for Japanese classes yesterday, but I’m only taking a few since I’ve discovered a lot of the classes here aren’t teaching me what I want to learn, so there’s no use taking them. I’m having better luck studying on my own using Anki, a flash card program which uses a time-space algorithm to have me practice the cards I don’t know as well as the others. I also use an online program called kanji-koohii in order to learn kanji in a different way, and so far I am pleased with the success. I feel like I am learning more in my room than in the classroom, except for a few things. I enjoy the writing and speech classes, so I will continue those. I am also interested in learning more science vocabulary, so I am taking a class about science reading. I plan to do independent study again, so I want to read a Japanese book to help my reading comprehension. I feel as though it is a good balance and mix of different skills that the classes here can’t offer. No offense to Hokkaido University of course, I’m sure it works for many people, just not 100% for me.

I decided what classes I want to take when I get back to the States. I hope it all works out really nicely. I want to graduate after next year. I can easily graduate with just a Japanese major, but I am going to go for a certificate in teaching English as a second language, since I want to return to Japan some day and I figure it will help me land a job teaching English. It’s one of those things that puts me ahead of a few other people, which will probably make a huge difference down the line. I have my semester planned out, and I should be able to get the certificate as long as I can get in the classes that I need. I’m really excited that I’ll be graduating and getting on with my life. I like being a student, but it’s tiring, and I’d like to try something out. I hope that all of my classes I take this year transfer correctly and that it works out. I don’t know yet.

I had fun this month so far. I went to Tokyo for the fourth time, and I went to Kyoto for the first time. I departed on March 1st, and returned on March 13th. I have many things to talk about! I went with my friend who lives just a few rooms down from me.

March 1st
We woke up early in the morning to make sure we make it to the airport on time. In order to leave Hokkaido, we have to take an airplane to the main island of Japan, Honshuu. The airport is actually located in Chitose, a city south of Sapporo. It takes about an hour to get there. We used backpacks to carry our luggage because we figured if we use suitcases it would be really troublesome for a few reasons.

Lack of ramps: I don’t know if it’s just me, but so many places around Japan seem to not be disabled friendly. In order to go most places, we would have to carry our luggage up and down stairs, but using a backpack makes it much more easier to traverse. Although, it really puts a lot of strain on one’s back, and I will admit that it was difficult to carry my stuff around like that.

Snow: Snow and suitcases don’t mix. It would be nearly impossible to drag along suitcases withs now on the ground, and it would be extremely annoying. It was even snowing the day we left. Our bags are waterproof, so we didn’t have to worry about our stuff getting damaged.

Now, we took an airplane into Tokyo. We flew by Skymark Airlines, probably the least used airlines in all of Japan. Why, you ask? It’s the cheapest. It was half the price of the other airlines. The only thing is that there are so little routes that it’s hard to use it go to anywhere. For example, there’s no way to go from Sapporo to Kyoto directly by Skymark. We stayed at a nice place called Aizuya Inn. I recommend it highly for anyone. It’s cheap and accessible, and the people there are really nice. They often have free yakisoba night, so you can get a free meal once in a while. Check it out.

The first place we went to was Akihabara. The land of maid cafes and anime. I’ve been there multiple times before, but we went to the big Yodobashi Camera building. It’s like the center of technology in Japan, they have everything there. I love that place. There’s one in Sapporo, but it’s not nearly as big as the one in Tokyo.
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I ate fried pork. It was delicious.
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After that we went to Shibuya. It was nighttime, so most of the stores were closed. It’s a huge shopping district. Some stores have very interesting names too.
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March 2nd
We originally set out for Tokyo Tower, but came across a temple along the way. It’s known as the Zojoji Temple, and it’s right next to Tokyo Tower.
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Seeing a cat just made me want one more! We can’t have pets in our dorms. Too bad!
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Hey look, it’s me.
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As for pictures of the tower itself, I’ll let these videos show you some of the things inside of it. (I guess I can’t embed videos…)
Tokyo Tower
Map of Tokyo
Time Lapse
Watch out!

After Tokyo Tower, we headed off to Meiji Shrine, north of Harajuku. I make it a habit of mine to travel to Meiji Shrine every time I am in Tokyo, so I have been there a total of four times. I love going there.
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March 3rd
We were a bit tired from the past few days. You have no idea how much energy it takes to carry around about 40 pounds worth of luggage on your back, walking up and down stairs, traveling throughout Tokyo.

We went to Ueno. It actually turned out to be one of our most favorite places in Tokyo. It’s not too busy, and there’s plenty of restaurants. We ended up going to the same restaurant two or three times, I don’t quite remember. It was a yakitori restaurant.
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I still don’t know what this stuff is. It came with the food. I think it’s onion and vinegar.
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March 4th
Our next destination was Shinjuku. There were so many tall buildings there, I was amazed! Tokyo makes Sapporo look like a small fishing village, I swear!

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Here’s the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Looks radical!
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If you think that looks awesome, you should see the Cocoon Tower. I think it looks like the building of an evil warlord, looking over the city saying “Excellent, excellent. All according to plan…”. Seriously! It looks just like one of those buildings.
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I forgot the name of this building, sorry!
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My friend absolutely loves Burger King. However, Burger King never had much success in Tokyo. They actually left Japan, but recently returned. Now there are only two Burger King restaurants in all of Japan, both in Tokyo. There is one in Shinjuku and one in Ikebukuro. Looks like we found one!
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Here’s a cute robot presenting a flower to you so that you buy something out of the vending machine.
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March 5th
Guess where we went to next. Come on, guess! We went to the Happiest Place in… Japan. Yes, we went to Toyko Disney, which is not actually owned by Disney at all! It’s not located in Tokyo either, but located east of Tokyo in Chiba. Well, some say it’s part of Tokyo, it’s really how you classify things. Anyways…

I want to stay at this resort, and I probably will someday, if I ever have a family of my own.
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Sums up Disney World
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Everyone has to go on this ride
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The spaceship is from the USA!
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Dancing!
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That’s it for Disney World. You get a discount if you’re a student, so bring a student ID. It’s worth the trip, it’s not too expensive. I believe it cost me less than 5000 yen to get in for the day. I recommend it.

March 6th
It was another low activity day. We had to check out of our room in the morning, since we were planning on going to Kyoto that night. Luckily they held our luggage, and we were able to go to Tokyo Station, which houses the Yaesu shopping mall.

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Of course, if you are interested in watching random Japanese people walking around Tokyo Station, here’s some footage I took while sitting down for a while. It’s fun to watch.
Tokyo Station 1 Video
Tokyo Station 2 Video

We took a night bus from Tokyo to Kyoto. We thought it would be a good idea. It’s half the price of an airplane, and we thought we could sleep on the way. Well, we were mistaken. Of course it was much cheaper than taking an airplane, but choosing the cheapest bus available led to an uncomfortable experience. It wasn’t terrible, but it was most certainly impossible for me to sleep. By the time we got to Kyoto, I had not gotten any sleep, and we still had to carry around our luggage until we could get to the hotel.

The hotel we stayed at in Kyoto is called K’s House. It’s a very nice hotel, and people from all over the world stay there, including some Japanese. The staff is very nice and intelligent. They can speak English. Everything is clean and running perfectly. They even have a breakfast buffet which we took full advantage of. If I ever go back to Kyoto, I will definitely stay there again. This leads us to the next day, doesn’t it? It sort of blends in with the 6th since I didn’t sleep. I don’t have many pictures though.

March 7th
We had plans to meet with one of my friends, who happens to be a tour guide, later in the evening. We spent the morning resting up, and here’s a view of the lounge at the hotel.
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We decided to kill some time by wandering around Kyoto. Having never been to Kyoto before, I had no idea where we were going. I think we walked a huge circle around the city, which was a very interesting experience. Kyoto is like a combination of old and new. There were many old buildings, but just as many modern buildings. It seemed like Tokyo at times, but at other times it seemed like a whole new place. It’s size is smaller than even Sapporo.

Here’s a sample of wildlife on the Kamo River which runs through Kyoto.
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Sadly we were not able to go to Kyoto during the summer or spring, as I hear it is much more pleasant. The cherry blossoms were not yet in bloom. Also, there weren’t any festivals or anything going on during the time we were there.

Here’s the place where we met my friend. According to the people at the hotel, it is where most young people in Kyoto go to meet each other and hang out. It’s called Kawaramachi Street, and more specifically the Hankyu Building.
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March 8th
I met my friend again and separated from my travel partner. She showed me many places around Kyoto, but I didn’t take enough pictures since I was preoccupied with talking to her.

She showed me the Minami-za. The oldest and most famous Kabuki theater in all of Japan. Kabuki is an old form of Japanese theater which is not as popular as it used to be, but still has its loyal followers.
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Believe it or not, there were some cherry blossoms blooming. However, they weren’t as abundant as the photographs you see on the news, but just a small little area. I guess it was too early!
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Here’s another view of the Kawaramachi Street. See how different it is compared to Tokyo?
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And of course, you can always stay at the Hotel You!
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March 9th
Despite the gloomy weather, March 10th was the biggest sight-seeing day for me. I went to the Golden Pavilion! Perhaps the most well known building in Kyoto. It really is golden too!

It might be hard to see here, but it’s a giant mound in the side of the mountain. They burn it in the summer, and I wish I could be there in the summer to see it!
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Look how golden it is!! I want to go again.
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A very famous waterfall near the pavilion.
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I look like I am thinking very hard in this old stone chair…
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I got a fortune! I didn’t get the best luck though, sadly.
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Too bad it was raining!

March 10th
My friend was busy this day, so my travel friend and I walked around Kyoto again and randomly ran into a few temples. I’m sorry, but I can’t remember the name of the site for the life of me, so I will just show you some of the cool pictures I tool while there.

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March 11th
Similar to the past few days, only this time I didn’t have my camera with me, so I didn’t take any pictures. I don’t remember the name of the sites we went to (I’m really sorry about that) but we rested as well.

We did go to Osaka for a short while. We didn’t know what to do there, but we walked around for a few hours and enjoyed what we saw, Osaka is a very big city, bigger than Sapporo, but smaller than Tokyo. We decided to go there so that we could tell people that we have been to Osaka. It’s less than an hour from Kyoto by train. I really wanted to go to Osaka Castle but we couldn’t find it, it was too late, and it was already dark by the time we got there. I guess I’m going back to Osaka someday. I can’t wait.

March 12th
I don’t want to end on a lackluster note, but another day without pictures. I feel terrible. We had to check out since it was our last day, and we spent most of the day in the lounge since we didn’t know what to do. We took the night bus again back to Tokyo, again not being able to sleep, which made the next and final day the hardest of them all.

March 13th
Well, we arrived at about 8AM. However, our flight back to Sapporo was at 8PM. Yeah, we had about 12 hours of nothing to do, and we had to carry our heavy bags around. We went back to the same Burger King since we figured we would not be able to go there again since it isn’t in Sapporo. We lounged around for many hours since we didn’t have much passion to go anywhere due to our luggage being tied to our backs. It was actually the hottest day of our trip too, which made things more unpleasant. It felt so nice to finally be back in Sapporo after nearly two weeks, even though it was much colder than Tokyo and Kyoto. The snow was a sight for sore eyes. I never thought I’d hear myself say that.

Well, there you go. That was my trip. The airfare cost about 300 dollars, the bus ride back and forth was around 100 dollars. Room and board was about 400-500 dollars. Not to mention food, train, and etc, we spent a fair bit of money on this trip. But was it worth it? Of course. I will go back to these places again someday, and I will most certainly travel to other places that I haven’t been to before, such as Nara, Nagoya, Okinawa, and Kyuushuu. Although Japan is much smaller than the United States, it still has its own diverse culture. I never get bored of traveling throughout Japan, and I really want to return to Kyoto to explore a bit more.

One last note. The day after I arrived back in Sapporo, March 14th, was White Day in Japan. I may have mentioned it back when I wrote about Valentine’s Day. It’s exactly one month following Valentine’s Day, and it is the day that the men have to return chocolate to the women. Well, it’s not required, but it’s generally expected. This day doesn’t exist in America, for which I am very happy. My girlfriend even told me I didn’t have to get her anything, but I brought her back some chocolate from Disney World and we shared it together. All in all, it was a nice day too.

Actually, I’m going to get a new video camera any day now, and I plan to take better, higher quality videos while I am in Japan so I can share it with not only readers of this blog but anyone who is interested in Japan. I might take a shot at editing, so hopefully these videos will be more enjoyable than my previous ones. I’m not expecting to become the most viewed person on Youtube, but I want to share my passion with many other people who share the same interest as me in Japan. Here’s my channel in case you forgot: thelichkingz

Boy, am I tired after writing this long post. See ya in April!

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