TRAVEL NOTES: Road Trip Recap

Finally posting! I wish I could say it’s been sooo busy I haven’t had time to write, but I couldn’t decide what to write about! So I’ll just write a quick summary of our roadtrip! Sadly, this is the short version!! If you don’t feel like reading, wait a few hours and I’ll have a pics only post from the trip! Thanks for reading!!

We left Takayama on Sunday morning and headed to see some friends just outside of Nagoya. We had a tasty dinner made by Nicole before heading to her student’s bar, Funny G, and then on to karaoke down the street!

On Monday in the early afternoon we took to the road again and drove to Hyogo Prefecture between Kobe & Kyoto to the apartment of Pege, originally from Norway, who we met this summer when he stayed with us for a night on his hitchhiking trip around Japan! His Japanese fiance, Kanako, had prepared a huge tasty Japanese hotpot meal for us all! In the evening we talked over dinner and the next 2 days we took the Hankyu line into Kyoto to sightsee a little bit. the 2 main things we saw were Kiyomizudera (big temple up on the mountain side) and Fushimi (the long pathway of red torii gates). We’ll have to see the Imperial Palace & The Golden Palace & Rock Zen Garden another time. The temples in Kyoto are all pretty far from each other, so we didn’t do as much as we originally planned. The last day we did a little day trip to Kobe since it was much closer that Kyoto and we wanted to get a feel for as much of the area as possible in case we decided to move there someday

On Thursday we left Pege & Kanako and drove to Osaka, only about an hour away. Our lodging for the next 2 nights in Osaka were a bit strange – basically we could stay for free with a couple who lived about 10 minutes by train from Namba – the cenral shopping/restaurant area of Osaka, if we put in a couple of hours work at their bar each night that we stayed. We thought it might be fun and definitely interesting, so we agreed to it. However, a couple days before, they told us they had to go out of town, so their friend would open the bar & meet us but we could still stay at their house! So on Thursday night, we drove to their bar and met their friend who gave us some cards with what to say when people came in, left, asked where they could smoke, or tried to order from their table (they had to come to the counter). We practiced our japanese phrases & washed a few dishes but it was a quiet night, so they closed around 11pm and were shown the way to the house. It was about a 15 minute walk from the bar and through “the most dangerous area in Japan” … which is still safer than Chicago! I saw nothing unsafe here, but as we got closer to the house, we found ourselves walking down street after street of prostitutes – but it was much different that in the US.

All of these small houses had signs outside with the name of the ‘restaurant’ that they posed as. An older woman, the mama, was in the doorway calling to the men walking around and telling them to come in and meet the waitress, who was seated a few fee inside about a foot of the ground, and surrounded by pink blankets and neon pink or white lights. Signs just inside the doorway written in Japanese gave the price – 11,000 yen for 15 minutes. It was really crazy because it was literally 1 right after another, maybe every other house or more frequent, and this goes on for at least 10 blocks (probably more, but we didn’t walk through all of it). Even just around the corner from the house we stayed at – just 20 feet away! It was interesting and didn’t know anything about this area prior to walking through it! I had never heard of this sort of place existing, so we definitely found ourselves in an adventure!

Friday we met with another friend of ours, Kasie from Ohio, who we also met while she was traveling & stayed at our house this past summer! She lives in Kobe, but came over to Osaka for the day to hang out with us! That evening it was back to the bar for a couple hours, and it was slow again. This time, the guy running the bar sent us across the hall to talk to a man from Canada/Sweden? who runs a knife shop (not swords, but more like fancy chef knives!) who encouraged us in our Japanese studies and gave us a good lesson on quality knives!

Saturday morning we got up, packed up, and headed off to Daito where our Japanese adventure began last year, when we stayed with Akira a few days after arriving in Japan, and 1 day after we asked him if we could stay! We met him at the same station where we met in April 2011, and the 3 of us drove to Nara together! Nara was once a capital city of Japan, and has the larges Buddha statue in Japan, as well as tons of wild deer roaming all around the city! You can buy deer biscuits to feed them with, or try to feed them grass or nuts or other things. They will try to eat your clothes if you’re not careful… so be careful!!

After a yummy lunch and roaming with the deer & Akira, we headed off to Mizuho to stay 1 last night with our friends Will & Nicole! Sunday we shopped for some winter clothes & shoes at a big shopping mall (haven’t seen those in a LONG time!) and finally made it home later that evening!