Halfway Point.

I can’t believe I’m going home tomorrow (temporarily)… While I’ve only been traveling for 2 months it feels more like 6 months (in a good way). Sharing rooms, talking to strangers, getting lost, leaving my comfort zone, seeing new things, having little routine, etc. has become my norm.

I took the bullet train back to Tokyo and I felt good knowing already where my hostel was because I chose to stay in the same one. I was beyond happy to see my large bag was still there! I checked in and someone managed to fit all of my things into either my big bag, backpack or carry on shopping bag. I had signed up last week for a futsal tournament that was for 6pm today. It was 45 minutes away by transit and I was feeling a bit lazy but I told myself I had to go. When else was I going to play soccer in Japan? Also, it was only 5pm and it was too early for bed.  So, I went.

It was beautiful out and the games would be played outside! I wore my soccer shorts, which I had brought as pajamas and my T-shirt that I got after bungee jumping in New Zealand, also used as pajamas. I only had tennis shoes, but luckily it was short carpet turf so I wouldn’t slide around too much. The field consisted of boards put over a swimming pool and covered in sheets of blanket turf. Not the best or safest, but I was just eager to play! There were about 18 of us there, 3 teams of 6. I was the only girl. I haven’t played a game in 5 months, and I haven’t been working out much either so I was a little nervous. I could tell they were kind of judging me too, hoping I wouldn’t suck and screw up their game. I was asking a few about themselves as we warmed up and they were giving me short answers. Sorry fellas, I can actually play and talk at the same time 😉

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The game started and it didn’t take long for them to realize I was here to play. I was in my element, playing well and having a blast. My fitness level was actually okay too! I had a couple goals, many assists, a few nutmegs and fake-outs. I even had a few impressive defensive stops. I was proud when I heard one of them call me a warrior. Once, while taking my rotation as goalie one of them took a shot and it hit me hard square on the leg. He apologized multiple times, but I just told him if he would have shot the ball even harder he might have actually scored 😉

After 2 hours of play, we ended and said our goodbyes. I went to head back to my train station when I realized that my 2G of data I had bought must have ran out. Perfect! I had never been to this area before! I did get on the wrong train, but eventually managed to get on the right one and 25 minutes later that it should have taken, I made it back. I showered and then went to bed, or least attempted, I can never sleep before a big flight!

Halfway point.. there are several things that I’ve realized.

Did I get bored? Never! There are too many things to experience out in this world to feel bored.

Did I feel tired? At times, yes, but no more than I would at home. I’ve done a good job of taking time to rest and not feeling guilty about it. I also move around enough and a new city refuels my energy.

Did I miss home? Of course, but not enough to call it quits. I would love see some friends or family but the amount of new people I’m meeting here kind of fills that void in an obviously different way.

Have I spent more money than planned? Only in New Zealand, but that was a conscious choice to experience specific thrills. And then maybe some of the shopping in Japan 😉

Did I pack the right things? For the most part yes. I could have used more winter clothes in Japan. I didn’t need to bring laundry detergent. Of course, I could have used a few more clothes, but I really didn’t have room.

Best part? Meeting new people and experiencing new things with them. The people I met were in the same mindset as me and that was perfect. Everyone was open, appreciative and excited. I loved seeing all of the beauty, culture and landmarks that each city had to offer, but just as beautiful were the connections I made along the way.

Worst part? Nothing. Little things went wrong along the way but that is life and that made it interesting. Perhaps I just had the right attitude, but that’s okay too.

 

 

Biking, Beer and Bape :p

Biking, Beer and Bape :p

After breakfast and laundry were finished, I rented a bike in order to visit Kinkaku-ji, a Zen temple completely covered in gold leaf. The bike I rented was brand new and even had a smartphone mount so I could easily look at directions. The temple was only about 7 miles away, but since most bikers use the sidewalks here I followed suit. Navigating around people slowed me down a bit. It was fun just to bike and not have to rely so much on public transportation or my sore feet.

Of course on the walkway up to the temple, they were selling all sorts of things covered in gold leaf. Although, what I opted for were sticky rice dumplings covered in a sweet soy glaze…absolutely delicious. This was by far the coolest temple I’ve seen in Japan. It was covered floor to rooftop in gold leaf and surrounded by a beautiful garden. It was a short walk around and therefore a short visit, but it was stunning and worth the trip.

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I was biking back but made a pit stop in Gion to do some shopping. I had made the mistake of thinking 5 days 4 nights could be done with only 3 shirts, but it was just getting weird to wear the same shirt for the 4th day in a row. Granted, what I bought was not weather appropriate, so I don’t know what I was thinking. My phone was going to die so I biked back to my hostel to charge up before meeting a friend for drinks. We stopped at an Irish pub and ordered beers. I accidentally made the mistake of holding up two fingers (as in two of what he ordered) and the bartender thought I wanted the #2 beer. Which turned out was 10% alc. and very hoppy. My friend kindly drank it and gave me the one I really wanted. We moved on to another Irish pub where I bought a miniature ramen bowl made of clay and a Guinness. After talking about how I regretted not trying at least one of the different parts of chicken from dinner the other night, we popped into a place where I could try gizzard for the first time. I have to admit, I was a little more daring after 3 drinks, but I truly didn’t mind it. I wouldn’t say it tasted good, but it wasn’t bad. It reminded me a lot of a water chestnut! After that, I did need some cotton candy 🙂

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From there we decided to check out this standing bar that we passed because it seemed popular with the locals. It was ‘urban-fresh’ and had interesting wall paper in the bathroom. Here we struck up a conversation with a Japanese man after he complemented my friend’s Bape jacket that he had just bought. I was then jealous that I didn’t end up buying one, because I want complements too! Bape was started in Japan after all. So we quickly went to the store so I could get something and I rocked a sweatshirt dress the rest of the evening. Both of us were checking out the next day so we called it a somewhat early night.

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Salt Neck?

Salt Neck?

The plan for the morning was to go to Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine, known for the orange gates that line the path to the top of the mountain. It was only a few miles away so I decided to walk there. Headphones in, I had a nice walk there, still laughing about some of the fun had the night before. I reached the temple and began my ascent. The bottom was crowded with people trying to get pictures by the infamous orange gates. However, the higher I went (I started having flash backs to the stairs to the temple in Bali) the less crowded it became. The views of the city below were amazing and I was so impressed by the gates that led all the way up. I snuck off the path for a bit and it was so incredibly quiet. I sat and relaxed for a bit (I also wasn’t in the best hiking shape after last night) before heading back down.

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Zen and games.

Zen and games.

I was happy to see a communal breakfast table as I had just spent 6 days solo in Tokyo and I was looking for some socializing in Kyoto. While a few people sitting there invited me to join them at Nora National Park, I was itching to go to Arashiyama today so I stuck with my plan. I took the train there in the AM, it was just a short 15 minute ride. The town was very cute and I enjoyed walking through it on the way to the first temple, Tenryu-ji. What I liked about this one was the garden area. It was very zen and beautiful even though it was just starting to turn green again. I walked the garden path and it did feel like a moment of meditation. From there I stopped at a cafe to have a little cup cake and matcha green tea.

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To Kyoto at bullet speed.

To Kyoto at bullet speed.

I was very paranoid about missing the Bullet Train to Kyoto. My tickets were non-refundable so I didn’t want to risk being late. Therefore, I showed up 3 hours early ha. I was able to leave my big bag and a small shopping bag at my hostel which helped. It is possible to take luggage on these trains from what I read, but it’s a hassle. There isn’t a ton of room and there are a lot of stairs. Basically, you can do it but everyone what look at you annoyed. I’m sure that’s not the case when you know what you’re doing, but for a newbie I didn’t want to risk it. UPDATE: Having done it now, I totally could have brought my bag on. Actually, it would have been nice to have my other things, but at the same time it was nice not to have to lug it around. 

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