My first week in Southeast Asia went by slowly as I transitioned from a structured academic schedule to a spontaneous journey through foreign lands.
My friend Caleb and I landed in Narita International Airport in Tokyo last Wednesday night after a 11 hour flight from Los Angeles on Singapore Airlines. The airline was fancy. The male fight attendants wore suits and the female attendants wore dresses. They also fed us at least four times and seemed to offer refreshments every hour.
We stayed in Tokyo for three days exploring the city by foot and metro (train). Tokyo felt like NYC with crowded trains and stores and restaurants everywhere. A noticeable difference though was the level of noise in Tokyo. People are very quiet in the streets and the metro. I felt like I had to whisper anytime I was in the metro.
Surprisingly, most Japanese do not speak English. It was a bit difficult to find food since most restaurants only had Japanese menus. We ended eating non-Japanese food like Indian curry, burgers, and burritos most of the time in Tokyo because we could not find a Japanese restaurant with an English menu. (We did manage to eat Japanese food several times) Figuring out the metro system was also a challenge since most metro maps were written in Japanese. Thankfully, Japanese people were always willing to help us find our away around the city even if they could not speak English. They are some of the nicest people I have met.
In regards to lodging in Tokyo, we were flexible. We spent Wednesday and Friday night at a 24 hour internet cafe. One can rent a private booth for 8 hours at $12. I barely could stretch my legs all the way out in the booth, but I managed to sleep a couple of hours for the two nights there. On Thursday night we slept in a capsule hotel consisting of a box as your room.
Saturday night, Caleb and I took an overnight bus to Kyoto towards the west side of Japan. The bus ride was very uncomfortable and I arrived to Kyoto exhausted. Thankfully, we found an inexpensive hostel called Santiago Guesthouse and I took a three hour nap once we checked in.
Kyoto is known for being a traditional city with many temples and shrines. A district called Gion where Geisha live is also found in Kyoto. The highlight of Kyoto for me was the Bamboo Forest located in a village by the edge of the city. I wish I could have spent more time in the rural area of Kyoto. I’ll have to visit again.
After two days in Kyoto, Caleb and I took a Shinkansen to Shimonoseki. Shinkansen is a bullet train that runs at speeds of up to 198 MPH. We traveled 344 miles in approximately 2 hours by the Shinkansen. The train went so fast that I got dizzy looking outside the window. At Shimonoseki, we boarded a ferry to South Korea.
Below are some images from my week in Japan. Please note, my iPhone does not always take the best quality pictures.