In a friendly conversation with a local Japanese in a Sherry bar in Kyoto, he asked me “Why Japan?”. To be honest, he was the second person that we could held a proper dialogue after our encounter with our hosts of our guesthouse in Gion.
Being rather light hearted, and after one local craft beer, and a Nikko Black Whiskey with Ginger Ale in an Izakaya, and two pints of beer, confidently I blurted out, “I came here for the food, of course!”. He went on to share with us a few local dishes, whiskey (the popular Yamazaki Whiskey), Sake from Kyushu, and some insights on the Japanese culture and art for the next 30 minutes.
I truly enjoyed our exchange. Such pub banter equipped us with better introduction than our Lonely Planet could ever offer.
Admittedly, after almost two years of homecoming, I miss the idea of slow traveling. Work has eventually caught up and my partner and I could only afford traveling on weekends or make trips not more than 8-9 days. We have covered in a mere 2 years of a few South East Asian countries (Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand) and discovered a couple of local attraction spots (Penang, Sarawak, Perak, Johor, Kelantan and Terengganu). Hence, traveling to an advanced country like Japan got us really excited.
So, we decided that for this trip, we would only focus on the Kansai prefecture and not to cover so many cities at once. Since Jovan could only be in Japan for six days, we tried to plan our journey catered to his preference. On my side, I would spend three weeks in the region altogether and 2 weeks venturing on my own.
The planning for this trip was done in a slapdash way. I was concluding a project while Jovan almost called off the trip at the eleventh hour due to work commitment.
For all you know in Japanese culture, planning ahead is their bread and butter.
Two days into our trip, I was still scrambling to get a roof over our heads. Finally, the day before we took off, we secured almost all our accommodations in Kyoto and Osaka. A last minute cancellation by other guest saved us a spot in a guesthouse that we wanted in Kyoto. Also, due to the limited options within our budget, we decided to spend a night in a capsule hotel.
Our anticipation was heightened when we arrived at the Kansai International Airport (KIX). Without any prior knowledge on the various transport passes, the routes and prices, we opted for a 3-day Kansai Thru Pass.
To be honest, it was quite an overwhelming experience to get a mental hold to the Japan’s railway network and systems. First, language was a main barrier. Then, the complexity of this extensive, gigantic web of different lines, classifications and operators. It took us some time to gobble up the information and hop on to the train to get us the nearest station to our guesthouse.
Once we arrived at Gojo Guesthouse Annex, we were greeted by Keita. He introduced us the guesthouse and walked us through the step-by-step, starting from the common area, kitchen, washroom and brought us to our room. He showed us how make our shikibuton (Japanese futon).
We spent two nights at this guesthouse in Kyoto and another night in nine hours capsule inn.