Friday, June 17, 2016

Kyoto, Japan, Part 1: We're Off to Kyoto; We're Gonna Take a Photo!

Has anyone ever seen "Big Bird Goes to Japan"??  It's a classic. You're really missing out if you haven't. You can find it on YouTube.  Anyhow, there's a song in it where Big Bird and Barkley are headed to Kyoto in a car and they're singing, "We're off to Kyoto! We're gonna take a photo! Of things from long ago-to!"  We used to watch this video a lot as kids, and I always kind of loved it.  And seriously, that song played on loop in my head the entire time I was heading to Kyoto.  

What It's All About:
Kyoto is old-world Japan - it's beautiful and chock-full of temples and shrines and all kinds of amazing cultural sights.  It's always a must-see on any traveler's list - in addition to the crazy, bustling big cities in Japan, you need to see Kyoto to take a step back in time and see the geisha district, or some of the incredibly beautiful sceneries and temples that exist in this country.  Also, Japanese temples are AMAZING. They are so, so interesting and usually have to-die-for settings, and they have tons of rituals and lucky amulets and traditions and history.

The old-world geisha district of Gion

Thousands of red toriis (gates) at Fushimi Inari Shrine

As a small disclaimer, when I studied abroad in Japan in college, our school was halfway between Osaka and Kyoto (the two cities are only about 30 minutes apart), so we spent a ton of our weekends wandering Kyoto and seeing all the sights.  So I didn't overly concern myself with ticking off the bucket list of Kyoto must-sees - some of my fave ones that I missed this time around are Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Temple) and Kiyomizu-dera (another stunningly old-school gorgeous temple).  I did get to tag along with Kate & Mark to some of the other sights though, so that was great.

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • Arrived at Kyoto bus station (mouth stuffed full of lent cough drops) just in time to meet Kate and Mark and their friend Sarah - Kate/Mark know Sarah from CU Boulder, and Sarah now lives in Japan teaching English - she traveled down to Kyoto for the weekend to join up with them!  I stored my bag at the station and we headed straight for Fushimi Inari Shrine (the super-famous shrine that has the thousands and thousands of red gates!).  I was so, so beyond excited to go to Fushimi Inari because for some reason, I've never been here!  WHY.  

Me, Sarah, Kate and Mark arrive at Fushimi Inari!

Fushimi Inari is HUGE - there are tons of little paths, and they all have toriis with the names of people/companies who donated them.  And there are thousands upon thousands upon thousands of them.

Inari is the god of rice, and there are tons of statues of foxes all around the shrine (often with a key in their mouth that is supposed to be for the rice granary), because they are seen as messengers


Some of the toriis are older and weathered (some of the earliest ones were from 700 A.D.!), others are newer and covered with bright red paint - and there were tiny temples along the way everywhere

Kate told us all to strike a pose.
The whole thing was very "Memoirs of a Geisha", which I tried to recreate (you know there's a scene where she's running through the toriis?!) - I don't know why I have such obscure references, all the time.

 <3 <3
We did one of the circuits of the shrine and it took a couple hours - this place is biiiiiig, y'all.

And then Sarah's foot was broken so Mark carried her partway down

AND AT THE ENTRANCE TO THE SHRINE, WE FOUND GREEN TEA DIPPIN' DOTS. Like, actual branded Dippin' Dots, not the crappy fake kind.  HEAVEN IS REAL, AND I ATE IT.

That evening, we went out for a delicious vegetarian meal

And then tried our hand at purikura again. Seriously I cannot get over the "make your eyes HUGE" feature these machines auto add on; they are SO. CREEPY.  We look like weirdo aliens.

  • AND THEN MY FAVORITE PART OF THE ENTIRE TRIP EVER.  We decided to do karaoke after purikura (there's zillions of karaoke places in Japan on every corner; another reason Japan is my soulmate) and found the closest one. And we discovered an entire closet full of COSTUMES. For the patrons to wear while singing karaoke. Needless to say, we raided the closet and hauled a bunch of them into the room with us. Ridiculous amounts of hilarity, laughing, shouting, singing, dancing, amazing GIFs, costume changes, and karaoke overtime ensued.

A panda, a Japanese schoolgirl, a corn dog (we couldn't figure out why there was a bun-less hotdog costume with a weird inappropriate tube down the front for the longest time, until DAYS later when Kate all of a sudden goes "OH IT WAS A CORN DOG COSTUME"), and a swan.

Bonus points if you can tell the song we're singing. Everyone should know, really, bc I maybe chose it.

(Also, this place had literally EVERY Taylor song ever invented since the beginning of time. Japan is my SOULmate).

This is an amazing gif, if you care to know - not that Blogger will allow it to work, of course

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • Every Japanese train station has lockers, which are SO HANDY.  You can store your bags anywhere, anytime.
  • There's also WiFi EVERYwhere - Kyoto has its own city WiFi, and 90% of the train stations have it too (except the JR Line, because the JR Line sucks) - so you can finally be totally plugged into the world!  To create the aforementioned ridiculous karaoke gifs, of course.
  • Also, free lovely clean bathrooms everywhere! EVERYwhere!  And they're always pristine and beautiful, and have heated toilet seats, which are a lovely surprise every. time. 


  1. We watched "Big Bird Goes to Japan" in school! Thanks to him, I can count to three and say good morning in Japanese. :) Those songs were damn catchy.

    1. You guys did?!?! Thank god my references aren't totally being missed! :) Such catchy songs, amirite?!

      "YOU'RE from Ohio TOO!?!?!" - Big Bird, "Big Bird Goes to Japan"