Thursday, August 10, 2017

My Incredible Journey to Kyoto and Osaka, Japan! Part 3

Kinkaku-Ji was magical! You should definitely go visit this place if it's your first time!
Having ramen by yourself isn't all that bad. When you eat alone, you get to enjoy the food more! After being left by JB and then dropping off Thomas the French dude to his bus station, I decided to have some dinner at the ramen shop area in Kyoto Station mall! Let me tell you: food will satisfy all of your cravings in this country! There is just so much for everyone to choose here! From the appearance of the food to the taste, it will definitely stimulate your senses! The wonderful thing about several restaurants in Japan is that when ordering, a vending machine is provided for you to order your meal and pay as well in English, aside from Japanese. There are more vending machines than people in Japan apparently! Convenience at its best! After getting a ticket from the machine, you just hand it to the server and then they will prepare and serve your food! That's exactly it: when you experience the hospitality and service of the Japanese people, it makes it difficult to try restaurants anywhere else! The combination of quality service and hospitality as well as world class tasting food is hard to beat. That's why it's been difficult for me to try out other countries when I haven't fully explored this beautiful country! Can't beat perfection. HAHAHA! Once you taste food in Japan, it will be difficult to dine at Japanese restaurants in your home country or anywhere else, just because it rarely tastes the same! Take pictures around this area! When I was there, it had neon lights by the stairs and it made walking up and down the stairs very entertaining!
Definitely a peaceful place here even if there was a bit of drizzling rain at the Golden Pavilion!
I swear taking public transportation around Japan is both challenging and convenient! Especially buses because not all buses provide translations in English, as well as the bus driver being able to speak English. That's why you have Google Maps to save you from the hassle! Please I urge you to get pocket wifi while in this country because it really is a life saver! After Kyoto Station, I went to Gion district and decided to stroll around the area an low and behold, I saw JB again! This time though, he was rushing on his way back to his home, which I am not sure how he did it because he was borrowing my pocket wifi at the time, and his Japanese speaking skills were basic! However, I tried to guide him to the closest station, and off we went our separate ways! When he left, I decided to walk around and explore the more modern side of Kyoto! I wanted to pass by a club and see the social life of Kyoto, which was not so much (the club closed at 1am). So I just decided to satisfy my sight by taking pictures around the area and listening to crowds passing by. So interesting!
Welcome to Nishiki Market where the selection of food is endless! Come with a hungry stomach here!
There were these 4 foreign dudes who looked like they were lost and speaking a language that sounded familiar to me, but I couldn't identify it! They had just left the club and were trying to find a taxi to go home (NEVER take a taxi if you want to save money in Japan!) at around 11pm, even if the train station was still open. So I decided to help them out because they looked lost and confused. At first, they were surprised that I could speak English because they thought I was from Japan! Then when we cleared that out, I asked them what they needed help with. Only one of them could speak English well. I asked them where they were from, and they said Italy! Made so much sense to me now! I told them do not take a taxi in Japan because it is so expensive. When they asked me how much it was to get to their hotel in Kawaramachi station (河原町駅), I told them around 3,000 JPY or PHP 1,400/$25 USD for a ride that was less than 2 km compared to taking the train that would cost just 800 JPY in total for all 4 of them! They were so surprised at the prices, and I said to them "Sono spiacente.", which means I'm sorry in Italian, and they all laughed that I knew how to say that!
This is Satsuma-age which may look like bread, but it's actually fried seafood and cuttlefish made into these shapes!
Anyways, I typed the directions on Google Maps on my phone, and then guided them to purchase tickets and told them to get down on that station on the red line. I confirmed it was that color by saying red in Italian, which is "Rosso", since I speak Spanish (Spanish and Italian are both Romance languages with lots of similarities). Then the one guy who spoke and understood English translated for them. They thank me by saying "Grazie", and I say you're welcome to them which is "Prego", and then "Ciao!", which means bye bye for them, and off they went to take the train! I felt very good deep inside because I was inspired by the Japanese people when helping those who are lost out! Kindness really does go a long way when you are surrounded by people who do the same. When you're happy, it's easier to be nice to people. Therefore, I urge people to do more things that makes them happy, despite what that may look like to other people! It really makes a difference!
People actually support creativity and street art here! I praise them for doing colourful artworks and murals like this!
People think I eat extravagantly when I am abroad and truth is, I only splurge once or twice when I am on a backpacking with food. Most of the time, I rely on my meal replacement formulas, convenience store foods such as the chicken fillet in Family Mart and Lawson, or even the discounted set meals at the supermarkets right when they are about to close! Yup, they have discounted meals right before closing time! And they are still very tasty and filling! Even the chain restaurants like Yoshinoya, Matsunoya or Saizeriya are still pretty delicious and reasonable. I decided to walk around the area since I had to wake up the next day to explore Kinkaku-ji or the Golden Pavilion. In Japan, you will walk a lot and you will get sore feet because taking a taxi here is very expensive. So you can definitely see why it's rare to find someone here who is overweight!
This is the tasty Spaghetti Taraku-sauce of Saizeriya with Nori Strips on top! What a wonderful Japanese-Italian fusion!
The next day, I head on to Kinkaku-ji to see the Golden Pavilion and right before my day begins, i notice it was drizzling so I decided to bring an umbrella provided by the hostel. I arrive via bus to the area, and pay the entrance fee to the place, which was 500 JPY. As I walk in, I was just amazed at how clean and beautiful it was! I took several pictures of it and selfies with it as well, but wanted to have someone take a pic of me, so I asked some random tourists to take a pic of me. Low and behold, I met couple who was from Australia and Brazil! Their names were Kim and his wife, Diana. Such a rare occurrence to meet them and such a joy to meet someone from the country I want to go visit the most! We mingled, socialized and got along very quickly! The whole touring around the Golden Pavilion became and moment to share their culture as well as mine! This question is the one I ask tourists the most everytime in Japan: "How has it been talking to the people here?" I know this country is notorious for having little to no English speakers, which is why I want to do my best to help those who struggle and show that even if they don't speak English, they are still very nice.
This is Akihiko-San on my right with friends Aiden, Sophie and her boyfriend from Canada and France! Cheers to great beer and even better sushi!
Their replies were the most passionate one I have heard yet: "OMG! Nobody here knows how to speak English! NOBODY! I have had to use Google Translate to talk to locals here!" The last bit is what I would advise anyone touring in a country foreign to them to do. If all else fails, USE Google Translate! I mean it's better than nothing and looking like a damn fool in front of people. I guess most educated Japanese know some English, but do not have the confidence to speak it, especially towards someone who looks extremely different from them such as Caucasian and African. However, the people here are trying their best to break down the barriers such as providing English menus and guides everywhere. And plus the common sense and body language of the Japanese are very good and accurate, which I expect considering how technologically advanced they are as a nation! Anyway, what fascinated me about this couple I met was that the husband Kim (from Australia) knows how to speak Portuguese! Such a rare thing for me to see because normally people I meet from English speaking countries know only English. It was refreshing for me, especially with Brazilian Portuguese because anyone who knows me knows that I get down on my knees when I hear that language spoken! It's just so spicy and sexy to me!
Unagi, aburi torched scallops, and aburi torched salmon! This is the standard sushi for me!
I got myself some souvenirs as well as my favorite mochi snacks while I was inside the Pavilion. Spoke with the locals selling the stuff and they were amazed at how quick I learned Japanese at such a short amount of time. See when people are nice to me when correcting me with something, it usually makes me more motivated to get better, unlike others who are not as nice. It was relaxing and very chill to be there since you are not allowed to go inside the actual Golden Pavilion. It was very nice talking to the lovely couple and they went off ahead. I only hope that I can make it to Brazil and Australia in the future! I as well left, and went to wherever my feet wanted to take me! I got to see Kyoto university which was right around the area and then went to a random department store to get some shirts for the family. They were looking for a shirt that had a thick pad on the underarms area to prevent sweat from appearing on the shirt. I try my best to get something for loved ones while I am away to show that I do care and that I am not inconsiderate. Japan is souvenir galore!

After getting the stuff, I decided to get a quick lunch at Saizeriya since it was right across the store. I enter and then the woman greets me and asks me a question, which I did not understand, to which I foolishly said yes to immediately. HAHA! Then she asks in English : "No smoking?", which means if I wanted a table that is smoking or non-smoking. In Saizeriya, the food is a fusion of Japanese and Italian! It is kind of like a fast food joint, but more casual and laid back where a server gets your order, but you pour water yourself. Notable things here are the pizzas and pasta, which all have toppings inspired by the Japanese. I got recommended by my friends to try the spaghetti with "Taraku sauce", which is a fish roe that's been sautéed in cream sauce! I got that plus a simple salad with tomato and fresh mozzarella for something light. I tasted the spaghetti and was in love with how simple, yet delicious it was! It had some cheese and seaweed flakes on top, but the pasta was cooked al dente so it was chewy. The "Taraku sauce" was a subtle flavour that worked quite well with the cream, which made everything feel so balanced! I am now in love with Saizeriya and I'm excited to try out more food here with others!
I appreciate the appearance of streets like this in Japan. It's so rare for me to find a place as clean and peaceful as this!
I spent a lot of time walking around this city and getting lost, which taught me that it's not necessarily a bad thing because it helps you grow and not to worry. It was raining though, but I managed to make my way through to the area around Kyoto Imperial Palace and got to see the view around the area. Had it not been raining, I would have stayed longer! Anyway, I decided to go explore and take pictures cause every corner had something that fascinated me. After walking several minutes, I stopped by a Matsuya store, got a meal and some takeout. What shocked me here was the employee: she was white with blue eyes speaking fluent Japanese! I think her name was Sasha or something. It was Russian sounding, which made me accept it more since I know Japan has a lot of Russians working there. I got my takeout, left and went back to the hostel to my surprise, with new roommates! One is from Canada, two from France and one from UK!
Get lost in Gion and discover new things! I saw a shamisen busker here, a geisha on her way to a meeting and several musicians performing here!
I got to know them a bit and tried my best to help them out especially the one from UK. He was 60 years old and it was his first time ever in Asia as his prior travels have only been around Europe and USA. He went to Japan because his close friend in UK was Japanese, and also his daughter was doing a thesis and research in Japan. He also had a difficult problem: he had Celiac disease, which means that he cannot consume anything that has gluten in it. Try explaining that to someone who doesn't speak English! I dare you! HAHA! So anyway after getting to know Aiden (Canadian), Sophie and her boyfriend (French), and Peter (British), I decided to help Peter shop for food to eat carefully and ask if it had gluten or not. Not much luck in the convenience store because most of the food are packaged and pre-made, so we decided to go to the supermarket and get meat and vegetables to stay safe. The cashiers were so nervous to talk to him so I helped talked to them and translate! Again, it felt good guiding those in need to get something that they need! We talked and got along so well sharing our life ambitions.
In the middle of the hustle and bustle of Nishiki Market lies this wonderful and peaceful area! Those lamps are magical!
The next day was my last day in Kyoto. Hidemi asked if I could go with them and the group for hotspring and dinner that night. I said my goodbyes to Rafael from Spain since he goes to school all day, and then off I went to Nishiki Market after a friends recommendation. Right there, I got to taste some of the delicious food that Kyoto has to offer such as Satsuma-age, which is like fried seafood cuttle fish or squid that looks like bread, but tastes magical! It was soft, tender and moist! They were addicting too! I tried other things there as well such as the mochi, strawberry daifuku, grilled fish, and even this creamy soft serve ice cream with a Yuzu Lemon syrup which was tart and delicious on top! I even got a free packet of the syrup because I posted a picture of me having the soft serve on social media, which they had a promo for! Man this place has it all when it comes to food! Come to this place with a hungry tummy and get inspired to taste the wonders of this city!

That night, I went back to the hostel, got my stuff and went to Hidemi's house. Then off we went to the bathhouse first with her husband, Aiden, Sophie and het boyfriend. This bathhouse was unique because it was a hotspring where tattoos were allowed, which are very rare! It was Sophie who had some tattoos and that was the reason why we went into that particular bathhouse. In Japan, when you go to places like this, you must take off your shoes at the entrance and leave it inside a locker where you may be charged and given a key. Once you enter the place barefoot, you pay at the counter or on a vending machine and then given a small towel. Then, you enter either into the male or female section and you will be required to be completely NUDE in front of other Japanese people, depending on your gender! I know it may sound extremely awkward, but once you get over the fact that you are completely nude, it can be very relaxing!

Three types of tuna: toro, chutoro, and otoro! This is my ultimate delicious and tasty sushi! I would come back to Japan just for this plate of heaven!
While inside, it was the first time that I got to witness a possibly current or former member of the Yakuza mafia inside. One thing notable about Yakuza members is that they have sleeves of tattoos all over their body from their chest all the way to their feet (includes the buttocks), but not at their face, neck, hands, or feet. Very intense and colourful which shocks me because it looked beautiful and painful at the same time. It made me see a bit of the underworld of Japan behind all those corporate suits, anime and unique culture of the people! As usual, the onsens and hotsprings were very relaxing and refreshing for me! It's like a massage for your whole body, but an energy booster at the same time once you are finished. After a slightly awkward time at the bathhouse since I saw my roommates and host's husband nude, we decided to go have sushi for dinner at a place nearby that has the sushi at the conveyor belt.

Anyways, we enjoyed chatting with each other there as well as eating all the delicious sushi available there. Hidemi-san and her husband Akihiko-san ordered simple but tasty sushis with fillings such as unagi and this fermented soybean called "natto", which is pungent and an acquired taste! They both love it, and here I am still trying to learn how to appreciate it! I ordered something more decadent, which is my all time favourite otoro fatty tuna belly! I swear the price of great tasting sushi in Japan is so much more worth buying than in my country! What would cost 800 JPY or $8 USD for a plate of sushi would cost double at a high end restaurant in Philippines. So you can see that I tried my best to indulge whenever I could and not spend past my budget. It was a blast, although paying for the bill took a long time. One thing I developed from the Japanese was patience. I grew up with a lot of impatient people who wanted things fast and instant, and yet they were not so happy. I learned from the Japanese that things take time and sometimes you gotta wait. For me, traveling for just an hour on a plane was not significant for me. I had more happiness traveling for 14 hrs to distant places rather than traveling to somewhere only 2 hrs away! In life, be patient and you may be rewarded well!
Shin-Osaka station. Japan's public transportation is precise and convenient. There are so many stations though so it's challenging to take it sometimes! So be patient and use Google Maps to help you!
Anyways, when we got back to the hostel, I got my luggage, said my goodbyes to Akihiko-san and the rest of my roommates then off I went with Hidemi-san for her to drop me off at Yamashina station on my way to Shin-Osaka station to my next hostel! As I arrive, I gave my hugs and regards to Hidemi-san for being so thoughtful, kind and hospitable to me and my time there! She definitely feels like a loving mother to me, and I consider her as family for me in Japan! As I was riding the train after being helped out by students on board, I realize that I FORGOT to give back the hostel keys to Hidemi-san! I called her, but she told me she cannot come back to the train station anymore, so definitely I already had one challenge even before arriving to Osaka: sending her the key back via snail mail package from Osaka to Kyoto! Definitely I am thankful that she was still so nice to me even if I forgot those keys. I swear on my next return to Kyoto, I really did not hesitate to stay at her place again! This time, I was prepared to give her so much more gifts just because she gave so much to me! I cannot thank you enough Hidemi-san for all that you have done for me! Even though I was on my way to Osaka with a major problem, I was still smiling just because of all the wonderful things I experienced in Kyoto. I will definitely be back at this amazing city to experience more! 英美さん! すごい優しい人ですね! ずっとありがとうございました!=)
Iconic places like Dotonbori in Osaka should not be missed! Appreciate those places because they may not always be there!


  1. "Once you taste food in Japan, it will be difficult to dine at Japanese restaurants in your home country or anywhere else, just because it rarely tastes the same!"

    TRUTH TO THE HIGHEST POWER! Not being a snob or a travel jet setter wannabe, but this is really true. Nothing can be more authenthic that eaiting a dish in its hime country. And I think this has everything to do with material sourcing. And localization. Even here in Saudi Arabia, I was all hyped when a Japanese noodle house opened only to find out it tastes Arabic. Hahaha.

    Also I never thought you have a blog. But now I know 😂

    1. Awww! I hope you get the chance to come back and taste the wonders of the food in Japan again! I think a lot of cuisines try to adjust to the taste buds of the main country to attract more customers! Hard to find authentic these days! And yeah I do have a blog, but I have been busy or lazy to finish my next article! HAHA! Hope I finish it soon! Cheers! =)