My love for reading fiction is negatively correlated with my age. When I was a kid, I would remember bringing home shortened versions of classic novels from the bookstore. I had a ton of them. You name it and I’ve probably read it.
As I grew up, things became very different. Fiction became literally fiction to me. It was too out there. Too perfect. It’s just one of those moments where you don’t know how it happened.
But then now, reality isn’t really that different from fiction. There are only moments. And most of my cherished moments in Kyoto are spent with nature.
Haruki Murakami is the only Japanese writer I know, which makes him my favorite by default. I plant to read all his books while I’m here. I didn’t even know he was born in Kyoto until I searched him on Google. Anyway, I’ve just finished reading Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman about a couple of hours ago. It was a fascinating collection of moments. There’s still some beautiful weirdness in there, if you know what I mean.
Here’s this week’s time lapse. I tried something new today by splitting one sequence into different vibes.
*This is quite a long post so if you just want to see the time lapse, scroll all the way down or click here. Always in HD!
When you’ve been living in a city pocket for a reasonable amount of time, there’s always going to be this longing to go somewhere else. Somewhere far. This is what I have been feeling lately.
About a couple of weeks ago, my good friend Michael and his wife invited the group to his new place in Mukaijima. However, we weren’t able to go last week due to unforeseen school events. Yesterday was a fantastic day and we were all able to go.
Mukaijima is very accessible from the center of Kyoto. From Karasuma-Imadegawa, we just took the subway and went all the way south and hopped off at Takeda to switch trains (Kintetsu). From Kyoto station, you can just use the Karasuma line and head south (there are many alternate routes). Ticket should set you back 500 Yen and about 45 minutes to get there.
Prior to heading there, I had trouble finding any bit of information about what to see and what to do. Good thing I knew someone there!
My first impression upon going down the train station was the abundance of apartment buildings and the endless rows of fields. It was very different from Kyoto (city center). But this is still part of Kyoto nonetheless.
Roads were wider and cars dominated the streets. Mukaijima Park was really nice and clean. I found it hard to imagine that there was a cleaner place than central Kyoto. Air quality is even better. Another surprising thing about this place was children. There were so many! Maybe because this part of the city was more family-oriented. Rent was a cheaper too, especially if you want to raise a family in a bigger place. Supermarkets had better selection too.
We were able to go the Gakusei (Student) Center where my friend lived. They made nabe (hot pot) for lunch and had some booze to spike the conversation. For dinner, we made some freestyle sushi out of pickles, egg, sausage, and cucumber. The combo was weird but it was delicious!
We got quite drunk due to the great bottle of sake that Michael had. I think I got too drunk and lost my phone when we were chilling by Uji River. BUT, we went back and found it (also chilling by the river). Nothing gets lost here. Except bikes and umbrellas!
It offers a different feel compared to the central Kyoto. It is more laid-back and will nag you to sit outside, drink a beer or two, and feel the breeze. Uji and Momoyama are also very accessible. These are places famous for authentic Japanese tea and shrines.
WHEW! I hope I didn’t bore you with that long post.
Thanks again, Michael and the wife for hosting! Until next time!
*Nico Rosberg had a great race in China. Things are looking good for Mercedes this season.
If you want to know where we stayed and how we got here, Part 1 will guide you through.
First off, buying a train pass comes highly recommended. There are a number of passes available to tourists and non-tourists. After reviewing all the bus passes, train passes, and bus and train passes, we decided to get the Common One-day Ticket for Tokyo Metro & Toei Subway. Since our hostel was near to a subway station, we didn’t really need access to buses or JR Lines for that matter (although there was a JR station about 15 mins away).
The tickets exactly look like the ones on the right side of the photo below (credits to the owner) and are available in almost all ticketing machines. Don’t forget to press ENGLISH first. It costs 1000 Yen (500 Yen for kids) and is valid only on the day of purchase. Since we started early on day 2, we were able to maximize the pass and probably used the subways more than 10x (considering the average fare was around 200 Yen).
Our first stop was the Asakusa area. We strolled down Kototoi Dori for about 15 minutes and found ourselves hearing screams. Yeap, screams. In the middle of the city. Turns out that one of the oldest amusement parks in Japan, Hanayashiki, was there. If you ever hear screams while walking, you are on the right track.
After this, we just walked straight and ended up on Nakamise Dori which is a popular tourist trap. The street is lined up with a lot of shops where you can buy native Tokyo eats and things.
Using the powerful subway ticket, we boarded the Ginza Line, got off at Shiodome and walked to our next destination: Hama Rikyu Gardens. Shiodome Station itself was a huge building and offered fantastic views of the whole Asakusa area. Just cross the bridge and you will see a big park across. The entrance fee is 300 Yen. What you can find inside will make you forget the entrance fee.
Fields of (Yellow) Gold! Literally. What a sight. I can only imagine what the whole park looks like during the climax of spring!
Plum blossoms were blooming!
Now after the walking we have done so far, we were hungry. Good news! The famous Tsukiji Fish Market was nearby (maybe a 10-min. walk). Most blogs and guides say that it is best to go during 6-9AM and line up for auction passes. But, seriously? We are just in it for the sushi!
Sushi joints in the “inner” loop of the market are generally more expensive and usually cost upwards of 5000 Yen for a set. The shops in the outskirts of the market are better value and are of the same quality (they come from the same market!). The premium comes from 3 things: name, chef, history. This was from Ryu Sushi, if I read the characters right.
This was how our set looked like and it cost around 2500 Yen. As with most of the food in Japan, we were left wanting. (tummy still grumbling).
After leaving still hungry, we retraced our steps back to Shiodome. We wanted to use the elevated train (Yurikamome Line) to our next destination: Odaiba. In doing so, we were unable to use our train pass and had to pay 440 Yen for the privilege. It was worth it: the train will give you breathtaking 360-degree views of Tokyo Bay.
Alight at any station after the bridge. The whole island is pretty much walk-able and will take a better part of your day.
Palette Town had a nice mall named Venus Fort (will keep the females occupied) and an amusement park to boot. Furthermore, Toyota’s Mega Web (will render males unconscious) theme park was here! In here, you can test drive (if you have an international permit) virtually anything from Toyota’s current vehicle roster, see a sea of Toyotas, buy limited edition racing stuff, and browse through a curated historical garage.
Due to the sheer amount of things to do in this island-city, we were unable to visit SEGA Tokyo Joypolis, Leisure Land, and a whoooole lot more. I highly recommend setting aside a full day (AM-PM) if you want to visit all of the spots.
It was a lof of fun, Odaiba!
That’s it for part 2 which pretty much covers the Asakusa and Odaiba areas.
Every week I make it a point to go hiking here in Kyoto, well, because I can! The city is surrounded by mountains and one of them is fairly accessibly by bike.
Daimonjiyama is just a 20-minute bike ride from Kyoto station or you can take a bus that will take you to Ginkakuji temple. Once you get to the front of Ginkakuji, make a left and then turn right on the first street. Follow your way up a steep hill and make a right on the first road you see. This will lead you to the trail.
It will take you about 30 minutes to get to the top, depending on your conditioning. Better strap on some hiking boots and pack some water.
Getting to the top just gives you an awesome view of the entire city! It’s all free by the way!
I redid my video today! Hope this can guide you on how to get to the top!