Day 3, April 1 (First night in the hostel)

To the Hostel

Goodbye Ootsu! To Kyoto!
    No rain today! We woke up to another wonderful breakfast.  This morning we had salad again and sweet buns with some sort of sweet red bean paste inside.  I was making the effort to speak to Shinko, so I tried to ask her she has salad every morning for breakfast.  It came out “everyday, I am salad.” oh well.  We had a good laugh over that one. 
    We made our way out to find the hostel.  Ben and I each towed 90kg of luggage to Kyoto station and took the subway 7 stops north.  When we got off, it was a half hour walk along some side roads to the hostel.  Our hands and our legs were certainly getting a workout, but at least it wasn’t raining.  Some older Japanese ladies were standing outside on the street and stared at us as we walked past.  I said “ohio gozaimas” and bowed.  They smiled and chuckled and responded the same way.   We must have looked quite out of place.  Along the street to the hostel, there were vending machines selling cigarettes and beer.  There are vending machines everywhere outside in Japan and Shinko said that they were currently trying to phase out the beer and cigarette machines.
    The hostel was basically a shack.  There was one guy inside smoking, and another playing guitar.  Some people sitting at the table were just watching us with amusement as the owner explained to us in Japanese about our rooms, the food, the recycling, etc.  Luckily Shinko was able to translate a bit for us.  We felt like foreigners, that’s for sure.

On our own...


Mountain Concert

Music Festival in the Mountain (small hill)
    One Japanese guy there spoke a bit of English, and told us that there was a concert going on that afternoon.  We didn’t know what to expect, but one girl had a guitar on her back and communicated that she was going there, so we were excited to follow.  She took us up to a park on a hillside where there was a Shrine and we went to an open area where there was a stage with people singing and playing ukuleles.  They were also serving curry and other food.  We were soaking it all in, and it all felt like a surreal experience.  
Up long steps
Pause for photo's



The top where the festival is!
Continue up the trail
Looking around the area























Takoyaki! Dough balls with octopus is yummy!
The girl we were with then said she had to go somewhere, although of course we couldn’t really understand more than that.  After the concert, Ben and I found our way back down to the grocery store to buy some lunch.  We ended up buying something from a man outside with a stand who looked like he was cooking some dough balls with something inside of them.  When we bit into them, we found that they had pieces of octopus tentacles inside.  I can now say that I actually like the taste of octopus.  We also bought some buns with red bean paste inside them for breakfast the next morning.
    Here’s one thing I’ve come to notice.  Because we see so few non Japanese people in Kyoto, without even trying we somehow feel a connection with other white people when they walk past.  It's like we understand how foreign the other feels, and we smile at each other.  A couple of tourists walked past outside the grocery store and I said hello to them and asked them a question in English.  They said Bonjour and didn’t understand my question.  Yup, we’re definitely the minority here.

Search for internet

    After that we went to try and find some wi-fi.  After a confusing interaction to ask where we might find that, some people told us that a Starbucks was 2 stations north.  We found the Starbucks, and immediately felt at home there.  There wasn’t any wi-fi, but we didn’t mind because we were so thrilled to find a comfortable place to sit for a while.  By now, Ben and I were both carrying around notebooks to write down as many Japanese words as possible.  We were learning quickly with our dictionary and travel phrase book, but it was a lot of effort.
Imperial Palace Grounds. Long wall
    Later we went to a park outside the imperial palace where the emperor of Japan used to live.  We figured we see the temple another day, but in the park were crowds of Japanese people taking pictures of the first Sakura trees (cherry blossoms) to blossom this season.  The Sakura festival is in 2 weeks apparently, and it’s one of the biggest events of the year here.  I tried to ask an older couple if they would take a picture of me and Ben but the lady thought I wanted to take a picture of them and started walking away.  The man apologized saying that his wife didn’t want to be photographed.  This was all in gestures of course.  Oh well.

Beautiful Sakura (Cherry-blossoms)

Sakura Trees

Dinner at the Hostel!

    We then took the long trek back to the hostel for dinner at 7 30.  We arrived to find what must have been 15 people sitting around the common area and the kotatsu (Japanese style table a foot and a half off the ground) waiting to be served.  One guy brought out a chunk of salmon and laid it in the big electric fry pan on the kotastsu.  My first reaction was the salmon wasn’t big enough to feed more than 4 people, but no one else seemed to be concerned, so we didn’t say anything.  Not that we could said anything anyways, because we still could barely communicate!
    They steamed a bunch of vegetables in with the salmon and when it was done, everyone served themselves with chopsticks and small plates.  Our meager portion was hardly enough to fill us, but when the guy took the fry pan away, washed it, re-oiled it, and put it back on the kotatsu.  We understood.  This was only one round of food, and there was going to be more, thank goodness!  We had two more rounds of meat and vegetables after that, and we found out that they had cooked another batch of salmon before we arrived.  We ate well.  They were drinking quite a bit of sake too, out of large ceramic bowls.  I guess they didn’t have enough mugs to go around.  They offered us some, and we each had a shot of tequila as well.  
Having a fun dinner in the Hostel
“Kampai!”  is what they say when everyone clinks glasses.  It means “cheers.”     

    There was one guy sitting next to Ben who spoke pretty good English.  He was quite outgoing so we talked with him a lot and he showed us how to use our electronic Japanese English dictionary.  We couldn’t figure it out before because all the buttons and explanations are in Japanese.  I also managed to talk a bit with the girl sitting next to me who was really nice.  We found out that most of the people there were travelers and would only stay for a couple of nights.  They were surprised to find out that we (the foreigners) were staying for 3, and they congratulated us on being married.   
    After dinner, a couple of the guys decided to weigh themselves and see who was the lightest.  They were both trying to lose weight.  The 2 guys stripped down to their boxers and put the scale up on the raised platform where the kotatsu was.  They were making it up to be quite a big deal, and it was quite amusing.  It was like watching some sort of Olympic event.  When they weighed in and found out who was lighter, everyone cheered for the winner.  Then some other guy played music on a Japanese guitar like instrument with a long neck and 3 strings.  They said it was music from Hokaido (northern Japan).  We had a good time, and were happy to finally have some social interaction without feeling like tourists.
>>>Day 2 (Traveling around with Shinko)<<<Previously                 Continue reading>>>Day 4 (Ben's placement test)<<<

Ben and Kailey lived in Japan not too long ago and also visit Kyoto every year.

Ben is developing a Japanese Practice site. It's current main functions are:
1. a Flash Card system that features a leveling system where you must answer correctly and "level up"to gain new cards, receive money and buy new decks - anime decks included!
2. Fill in the Blank system where you can choose to focus on particle practice or verb practice etc.
Japanese Practice Blog is here. Check out the Japanese Practice site here


  1. hi i'm wondering in case you could help me out with regards to where you guys were staying? how much was the rent there. am currently looking for places to stay near doshisha university. where did you guys stay? how was your stay there, was it comfortable and spacious? who helped you find the place. please spill the beans and don't hold back on the information.

  2. Hey, Thanks for your questions!

    We went to a Fudousan (Real Estate Agent) right near Doshisha university. Their name is Ultim and they were almost right next to the Pachinko Parlor.

    We got an apartment through them. Apartment contracts are usually minimum 2 years. They knew we were only going to stay for 1 year. We would have to pay a penalty (1 months rent). He told us that we definitely HAD to stay for 6 months.

    Biggest difficulty is getting someone to co-sign for you; BUT, there are ways around it.

    How? There are insurance companies that will sign/guarantee for you, for a price (1 or 1/2 months rent). We went through the insurance company that Ultim was comfortable with.

    They don't speak english, so you'll need to speak Japanese or find a friend to help out. We organized everything on the phone before we left Canada, showed up at Ultim to sign some papers and pay money, then were shown our place just down the road (4th floor in the same building as the new Falafel place!).

    While signing papers, they wanted to test my Japanese via phone-call before they would rent to me. They wanted to know that in case of an emergency, I could respond. This scared me because my Japanese was terribly basic at the time of renting. My Japanese friend I was with profusely convinced them that should an emergency situation arise Ultim could call them. Also, our Japanese level increased rapidly while we were there because of individual study 24/7 so we were able to communicate just fine after a while.

    I should write a blog post on this ^^


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