Tag Archive: Kyoto


…-sigh- Well, I guess all good things must come to an end. That’s right… Quarter Break’s over. My lovely, lovely trip to Kyoto and Osaka has ended. And now, I’m back among the mountain people.

Don’t get me wrong; Beppu’s a lovely town and the people are wonderful here. It’s just that once you’ve gotten a taste of the big cities of Japan, those places with 1200 years of history and 36-story department stores, you begin to realize what the average Japanese means when they say “Oh, Beppu’s just a small rural town.”

We took the ferry, the only ferry, that leaves every few days out of Beppu and takes a leisurely thirteen hours to get to Osaka. Fare is pretty cheap on the lowest class, and if you have a Co-Op card, you can get one round-trip ticket and one one-day pass to Universal Studios Japan for 16900 JPY. Of course, be prepared for the Japanese lower class, which is known as the “Tourist” class. Your life vest IS your pillow. You share your room with up to 35 strangers, and you have a two foot by six foot rectangle of floor to call your own. If you’re lucky, you can stow your luggage on the overhead shelf. Now, luckily, most of the time, your room will not be full. You can steal any unoccupied beds’ mattress pads (they make APU’s mattresses look like fluffy soft things). On this ferry, there is a restaurant, but it’s expensive and the food is not good. So, stop by the Family Mart before you board and grab a bento box to eat later. Do not buy anything from the hot vending machine. Don’t do it. Seriously. Don’t.

Once you get off the ferry, you will be in one of the main stations of Osaka. From here, you can catch either the subway or the train and find your hotel. We stayed at the Hotel Mikado near Shin-Imamiya station. This is a popular place for college students, as it’s 2100 JPY a night and air conditioned, with deadbolts and without bedbugs. I was happy.

Here is a ‘Western-Style Room’ at the Mikado.

Hey, for 2100 JPY a night? This is niiiiice. Trust me. Hotel Mikado’s even got a non-smoking floor, so my room didn’t stink. The only things you can’t see in this picture are the small TV and refrigerator that are on that black shelf to the left of the doorway. All in all, when you’re on a budget, it’s perfect.

The first day, we just went shopping in Osaka and wandered around the more famous districts, those being DenDen Town (an electronics wonderland) and Doutonburi (shopping and nightlife district–dress to impress) and American Town (Not very American. But, an honorable attempt):

The second day, we hopped on the JR express line for Kyoto. It’s 590 JPY one-way; make sure to buy all your tickets in Osaka, or you won’t get the discount. Kyoto is by far my favorite city in Japan that I’ve visited so far. Everywhere you go, there are shrines and sacred gardens and beautiful scenery. This coexists with some of the most modern architecture in the world. Truly, a beautiful sight:

After a whole day in Kyoto, we had the lamest nomikai (drinking party) ever (yet, somehow, it was still a lot of fun) back at the hotel and collapsed in our rooms. And then Monday, we went to USJ.

Now, I love theme parks. So I may be biased. But USJ was awesome. It’s a pretty small park, but that’s okay since the hours are weird (10 AM – 6 PM) and you only get one day pass with your ferry fare. And hell, they had L’Arc~en~Ciel synced to a roller coaster. Oh yeah, that was possibly the most awesome coaster I’ve ever been on. Here’s a few pictures (Gee, I took a lot this time, huh?):

Why, yes, that IS a Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Company. …in Japan… Yeah we were (o_O) too. But, we DID eat there, and it was amazingly delicious. Amazingly. Especially the gigantic cookie sundaes. Nom. Those were apparently designed to each serve four people or so. Our party was five people. We ordered four of them. Somehow, nothing was left over… we freaked our waitress out with that stunt, poor thing…

In any case, the trip was so amazingly lovely. I definitely want to return to Kansai at some point.

INSIDER TIP: When in Kyoto, find a bike station and rent a bike for the day. It’s much faster than the trains and you can literally park them ANYWHERE where it makes sense to, since the locks are built into the tires. Plus, it’s 1000 JPY for 24 hours. Not bad at all.

…And about the title to this blog. Blame Ashley. Um… she started calling us all “yamajin” (mountain people) because APU is on top of a mountain and well… the name stuck. ^_^;

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I won’t apologize for not posting in a while–you wouldn’t have wanted me to, I promise. Basically my days have been going by like this: school, shopping, school, homework, wandering, school, more homework.

But now I have a story to tell. This is the story of the Clueless American and the Ways of the Japanese Hotel System. You see, the quarter break is coming up fast (a whole week of no speaking or kanji tests! Whee!), and I’ve planned a little excursion to Kyoto and Tokyo. Whilst I am staying in Kyoto, I decided to try that purely Japanese experience: the capsule hotel.

Here is what it looks like, basically:

These hotels have been around since the late 1970s, but never really made it outside of Japan. Though they are geared more towards salarymen kept out to obscene hours of the morning by bosses (in Japan, business relationships often include long nights spent drinking with coworkers at bars), I’ve always wanted to try one. Plus, they’re cheap.

Which brings me to my slightly funny story. I’m not sure why this is so, but I discovered that when you make a reservation for 9 Hours (this is a famous capsule hotel in Kyoto, the one pictured above), you pay almost twice as much if you make the reservation in English. Here’s what happened. I went onto the website and clicked “Reservations.” Curiosity led me to click “Japanese reservations” (of course, written in kanji) instead of “Reservations in English.” I filled out the forms and chose my dates and got to the end page… and it said 2500 JPY per night. That’s about 28 USD, which for a hotel in the heart of Kyoto is practically unheard of. Particularly since most capsule hotels do not allow women–9 Hours has separate elevators and floors for women–and since most of them charge by the hour.

Of course, I was thrilled, but wanted to be absolutely certain that I hadn’t done anything wrong. So I went back and followed through the steps via the English reservations… but much to my surpreese (if you recognized that reference, congratulations, you have no life. =D), the price had suddenly jumped from 2500 JPY to 4900 JPY per night. Well! I at first was a little mad. But then I decided to go back through the Japanese language reservation and see what was up with this change in price.

Surprise surprise: the hotel is attempting to draw local people from the surrounding prefectures, so if you can understand Japanese and get online, you get the special “Internet Price” of 2500 JPY per night (except weekends, where it’s 2800). The normal price for everyone IS 4900–the hotel just hasn’t bothered to offer this to English speakers because they don’t get enough business from travelers from outside of Japan to make the effort worthwhile.

I sent an e-mail, wondering, and got back a very nice, lengthy reply that explained how few English speakers ever come to 9 Hours (I sent the e-mail in Japanese of course).

In any case, I cut the price I would have paid in half. Thaaank you, Japanese classes! Whoo.