My time as a tourist

My friends left yesterday back to Finland, which means that also my holiday and fun days are over for two weeks. Next 2 weeks will be all about finishing the semester and trying to survive from the assignment work load. I am slightly stressed but I refuse to be a nervous wreck.. I still have classes and I think the final assignments will take all my freetime. :-( Hopefully during my last week in Japan I can just enjoy the last days here.

So my friends were here for two weeks.. what did we do? Time flew fast but it feels that we did a lot. Some of my friends went also to Tokyo. In general we did sightseeing in Kyoto, and we also went to Kobe, Nara and Osaka. In Kobe and Nara we just strolled around and enjoyed the atmosphere of the cities. In Osaka we visited Japan Universal Studios, and that was one of the best things I have experienced in Japan. I felt like a kid again! I can’t believe how happy the park and the rides made me! We went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Back to the Future ride, Jurassic Park ride, Spider Man ride, Terminator 2 show and to Space Fantasy ride. So in total we managed to visit six different places in seven hours. We queued a lot during the day but somehow the queuing was planned so that it wasn’t extremely painful. In the evening the waiting times for the rides were shorter than during the day.

My favourite rides were definitely the Spider Man and the Harry Potter ride. I believe both use 4K and 3D/4D technology. I was so amazed! Both were so amazing rides and I couldn’t tell when I was seeing “real” characters and when only images. I still get goose bumps when I think about the rides! Some rides were maybe a bit old and weren’t using the latest technology but they were “entertaining” hehe. Very cool place! You can see the whole area from here.

Here are some pictures from Japan Universal studios:

Here are some random pictures from Kobe and Kyoto.

We celebrated the New Year’s Eve in Kyoto, and I had a hard time to think how could we celebrate changing of the year.. I was sad that I wasn’t able to see fireworks that I usually see in Finland but at least we made Finnish potato salad (which was super yummy). The Japanese eat traditionally on New Year’s Eve a special kind of soba. We also ate matcha (Japanese green tea) flavoured soba and had matcha sake.

I thought that we should go and try to experience the ringing of the bell but as often here it didn’t go like planned. I thought that I found a reliable source that pointed out that in Nanzenji one could be able to ring the bell on New Year’s Eve night but for some reason it didn’t happen (at least not for us). The temple was closed when we went there.. Either it really wasn’t happening this year or we were there either too late or too early. After that we decided to head to Yasaka Shrine which was packed with people.. Next year I’ll buy lots of fireworks to compensate this New Year’s Eve’s weak celebration :-D

The annual Japanese Zodiac sign for the year 2015 is a sheep, and because of that there are many New Year things, like calendars, that have a sheep theme on them.

I hope my friends enjoyed their holiday. I was happy to have them here :-)

Becoming Santa

We almost stayed at home yesterday on Saturday night because the weather had been gloomy the whole day. It was raining hard but as soon as we decided we would still go to Kyoto the rain suddenly stopped! A miracle!

We started the evening by eating ramen in Ippudo. They have also vegetarian ramen which is heavenly good! Also my meat-lover friends have confirmed that the meat ramens are also extremely tasty. So if you don’t have time to search for the best ramen in Kyoto you can just go directly to Ippudo. I guarantee you will be satisfied. If only they would have also vegetarian dumplings.

After ramen we wanted to have drinks and explore the Kyoto’s nightlife district. We went to look for places in Pontocho (very symphatetic street) and Kiyamachi, and we found a few really cool pubs. First we went to this cute and cozy bar called Ishimaru Shoten. I loved the interior and the relaxed atmosphere they had. I will definitely go there again! After that we had drinks in Hamid’s Kebab Shop which was also cute and quarky. The name didn’t quite match with the bar which makes it hilarious. They were playing reggae music and yeah later I saw that they had kebab behind the counter. The bartender gave me his christmas hat as a present :-D I guess I was talking a bit too loud that I want to buy a christmas hat haha. Of course I had to wear it the rest of the night. After that I started getting comments from strangers like “Santa Claus” and “Santa-san”. Hilarious!

We finished the night in Kyoto by having the last drinks in Zaza pub (because all the other places were so full). It is said to be a good place for meeting new people.. That was a bizarre place! They played dance music, showed football on TV, and you were able to play darts and smoke shisha. I am not sure if I want to go there again..

Relaxing Daytrip to Himeji & Kobe

Finland – happy Independence Day! This year I think I’ll miss watching the “the Castle Ball” because of the time difference. I’ll have to read tomorrow all the screw ups and check the best dresses.

Today I started my day by getting my bicycle back. You see we have this bicycle park near the train station.. and one of the parking lots is not open 24/7. There are few places for parking but the annoying part is that you can’t choose freely where you park your bicycle (you are told where to park). Next time I might ignore the instruction if they ask me to take the bicycle to the same place. Basically if you don’t get your bicycle before they lock the doors, you have to get it next day and pay a fee. This time I paid for a new parking day (100yen/day) which is not bad. Just a bit annoying..

This week has also included two other struggles. I had to finally go looking for a new deodorant because I used my old deo stick until I faced the truth that there is nothing left.. As buying any cosmetic stuff here, also buying a deo stick can be surprisingly challenging. Because I haven’t seen many familiar brands I decided to buy the product that looks most trustworthy and good-looking. Haha what a joke it came out to be! It smelled like ethanol! But because I am adventurous spirit and I didn’t have any other options I tried it. I am not sure but I might have got an allergic reaction from that deo stick.. and also on Thursday I had again small fever and a headache that didn’t go away even though I took a few painkillers. Today I decided to look for a new deodorant as long as I will find something that I can try without a fear of another allergic reaction. My criteria was to find a familiar brand, and I found Rexona’s deo stick. I paid 1008 yen (around 7euros) for that. If that won’t be good I’ll become a hippy and give up for deodorants.

Yesterday we went to Kobe and Himeji, which are 1h-1,5h away from Kyoto. To Himeji the train costed 2270 yen and from Kobe to Kyoto we paid around 1000 yen.. Basically we went first to Himeji and after that we visited Kobe. In Himeji we rented bicycles (for free) and visited Himeji Castle which is considered to be one of the most amazing castles in Japan. It is also a UNESCO world heritage site. Although Japanese people are in general very nice and helpful, I felt like people in Himeji were even nicer and cheerful. The city is quite small but inviting and the downtown was quite lovely.

Check the pics that I took in Himeji:

After Himeji we went to Kobe mainly to see the famous Illumination. I also liked Kobe a lot and I hope I can go there again before I leave Japan. So far every city that I’ve visited in Japan have been very different from each other. First impression is that Kobe seems to be very modern and has lots of European influences. One can find many European style restaurants and hotels. I saw many Italian, Spanish, French and German restaurants and I was also able to find Glühwein (“Mulled wine”) that tasted actually really good :-) and it warmed me up nicely. The weather is getting colder and colder! I guess the temperature would be okay without the freezing wind. My winter jacket arrived just in time!

Here are some pics from Kobe:

 

 

I definitely want to go back to Kobe!!! <3

But not before the trip to Tokyo which will be next week! Can’t wait!