Thursday, July 2, 2015

Japan Day 7: Laundry & Arashiyama

So proud of ourselves for getting ready.

This was a Sunday and John was so proud of himself for finding an English ward in Kyoto to attend. Unfortunately we had too much faith in Google maps and with jumping from bus, to train, to subway we found ourselves 30 min. away from the meeting house when it was already 10 minutes into sacrament meeting. We had to finally admit defeat and had a Sunday brunch at another French cafe. I did get to see my possible doppelganger though! It took coming to Japan to find her.

We got back to the hotel and realized that we needed to get our laundry done and took another series of public transportation hopping to find a laundry mat.

Toting the laundry bag around Kyoto.

The machines here are a washer and dryer in one! 
Laundry time was actually really relaxing after running around all morning and we kind of reveled in the feeling of a regular day in the life of a Kyoto-ite. I also found some gachapon jello turtle toys that I was geekily excited about. John was so disappointed in me. He didn't realize that I had that latent in my personality (hehe!).

There's something so satisfying for me about taking out clean, hot laundry. I always gather it up in my arms and smell it! Ah! We dropped our clean clothes off at the hotel and then left for Arashiyama. Once there we walked through the bamboo forest and stopped at the Tenryu-ji Temple. We took some video here that we plan on making into something super awesome (ridiculous). A lot of people had cute little dogs that they walked around the pathways of bamboo and there was even the sweetest cat strolling around on a leash! 

I was trying to imitate the tourism posters that were all over the subway stations.

Hydrangea everywhere! 

John is trying to squat like the frog in the background.

The bamboo forest is a favorite of one the owners of John's company so he was sure to get a picture for him there showing his BambooHR pride. 

This was the terrible night we made one of the worst decisions of our trip, which was to eat at McDonald's! Argh! We were both starving and exhausted after walking around all day and ate at the first place we saw after getting off the train. And then we walked through Pontocho which is lined with tons of delicious Japanese restaurants. Uber fail! 

Contemplating one of the many menus in Pontocho. There were also places you could eat out over the river. 

We also walked through Gion which is the main Geisha district. It was hard to tell at night who was a real geisha and who was just a dressed up Japanese girl. They have stores where you can pay to get dressed up to look like a geisha, so it can throw the untrained of us off.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Japan Day 6: Kiyomizu-Dera & Okonomiyaki


We finally went into a Lawson's. Breakfast our first morning in Kyoto: mushroom chocolates, mango-apple yogurt and cheesy Pringles. 

For the majority of our time in Kyoto we stayed at the Westin Miyako.  Overall it was our least favorite hotel. It was nice, but busy with lots of Chinese tourists, older rooms, maze-like hallways, noiser (from said tourists), and a little out of the way from the main city which made getting food more difficult. Hence our nutritious breakfast above.

John told me he liked Kyoto a lot more than Tokyo. He's not much of a big city person and loves trees and lush scenery. There were temples and shrines everywhere here and everything seems like its a World Heritage site. 

For our first full day in Kyoto we visited Kiyomizu-dera which is most famously known for being built without a single nail.

Most fashionable matching couple award goes to these two in their navy gingham. Dressing like your significant other is a thing here. There were some really weird matching androgynous pairs too, like the one that looked like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum at the Ghibli Museum . . .

The Japanese often use flags a lot when they're leading large groups. This lady is leading a group of school children.

You can see how crowded it was that day.

Lots of fern and hydrangea all around the complex.

We also took a detour and walked up a random path that led to a lonely cemetery and mountain hiking path.

One last parting look at the temple. John swears all the school kids were waving to us, but I don't think they could see us.

It was really hot that day. They sell salted and iced cucumbers. They're supposed to help you cool down.
There's just so much to do in Kyoto and no way to see it all in the amount of time we had. I was feeling a little pressured to do more, but took a super long nap out of exhaustion when we got back to the hotel. When I woke up it was 9pm! Oops! We had planned on visiting the Geisha districts that night, but just ended up doing dinner close by because it was late. 

Okonomiyaki! (Japanese pancake-omelet). I mostly knew what these were from watching Ranma 1/2. Haha! 

I got a plain okonomiyaki and John got one with yakisoba. As you can tell we both really liked the cheesy grilled corn! 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Japan Day 5: Shopping vs. The Well

Pancakes done right

Remember how I mentioned that Japan likes to perfect things from other cultures? Well you can add pancakes to that list! We had  Hawaiian Pancakes in My Lord (a department store in Shinjuku Station) and I think I will forever crave them. The pancakes had the perfect consistency of being crisp on the outside and tender, but not dense and doughy, on the inside. Breakfast restaurants, specifically ones that serve pancakes, are a big trend right now in Tokyo but they don't open until 11am. I was starving by the time we got our food and wolfed my portion down quickly.

Sign for the restaurants in My Lord. The malls here have anywhere from 9-13 floors! 

John opted for strawberry.

I look crazed here because I was so hungry and excited to dig in.

Mango pancakes with coconut syrup and a tower of whipped cream.

To each their own

This was our last day in Tokyo and I wasn't about to let it pass without picking up a few items. John HATES shopping and purchasing material goods in general, so we split up for a couple hours and I walked the boutique street in Harajuku by myself and John went to Yoyogi park. I wish I could have done the shopping and the park. John made me envious of his excursion after he showed me his pictures. Again, another reason we'll just have to go back.

I was trying to get the pretty Ships dressing room in the picture but failed. The outfit is my own. One thing I loved about shopping in Japan was that everything was modest and in my size. 

Back entrance to the Meiji Shrine

Water terraces of irises.

After picking up our cumbersome duffle bags from the hotel, we rode the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto. We quickly learned that no one uses duffle bags for traveling here! Super fail for the LeSueurs! There are elevators and escalators at all the stations so everyone else had hard 4-wheel roller suitcases. John carried my bag for me and took up the space of 3 people as we made connections to the bullet train. I think everyone despised us. In fact, I despised us! We were so annoying with all our luggage and the room we took up! 

My mom told us we had to get a bento on the train. I think the quality has gone downhill since she was last here in the 80's. 

This was the least appetizing thing we ate on our trip (besides McDonald's). The eel was alright.
I really liked the train ride! I listened to music (mostly Chvrches album on repeat) and John read and slept. I get motion sick very easily so I can't read on moving vehicles. The trip to Kyoto via bullet train is about 2 hours and, as you can see from the scenery below, it's a very pleasant ride!

We arrived at Kyoto station in the evening and after a few more connections finally made it to our hotel. Both of us were tired and starving. We found a restaurant down the street from the hotel and ate on the ground on tatami mats. We were the only ones on the whole upper floor of the restaurant and it was kind of nice.

Prize at the end of a long traveling day: Tempura dinner!