A Week In Japan: Part I (Kyoto and Yokohama)
YOKOHAMA AND KYOTO
Where do I start? It was hard for me to write about Japan because I was confused by the amount of information I gathered. I absorbed as much as possible but wasn’t sure how to put it in words! After processing an overwhelming amount of information about Japanese culture, food, lifestyle, I decided to divide it into 3 parts with the first one covering Yokohama, Kyoto, second one about Tokyo, Kamakura and the third post dedicated to the yummy food and tips on visiting Japan.
Phew! I better get back to work. 😉
Here goes my first post (with lots of pictures)!
First of all, the reason why I was in Japan – the conference! I was there with another coworker of mine to present at a conference in Yokohama. The experience was incredible and very different from typical conferences in the US. The part that I found most interesting was live translation of English speeches into Japanese. We met with the translators before our session and gave them details about our slides. During our session, they translated live as we spoke. Let me tell you how awesome the translators are! They articulated sentences within seconds of me uttering the words! They are linguistic superheroes. I was awe struck by how good they were! Overall, it was a fascinating experience. The reception we got was fantastic! The press took our interviews and as a bonus our presentation was also featured in a Japanese tech magazine!
Being a guest in Japan was a pleasure. They treat their guests amazingly well!
Japanese culture is so different from what I’ve experienced elsewhere. They are extremely humble, respectful of others, and very organized. I was impressed by how efficient they are at their jobs – their discipline and the pride that they take at doing their jobs is something everyone can learn from. I noticed the difference as soon as we landed. The immigration took all but 15min despite the long queue. Everyone lined up in orderly queues for the bus. The hotel staff was always courteous. A mall security guard worked hard to make sure he opened the doors at sharp 9am. 2 people cleaning one escalator! Where else would you see that? I could give numerous examples…
Everything in Japan is arranged neatly in rows and columns. It is a super CLEAN country and so are the people. It was a treat to the OCD in me! 🙂
A surprising thing about Japan: they are a smoking nation. I found cigarette vending machines even in offices! I heard it is better now, at least they no longer allow public smoking!
Now to the fun parts of my trip! Here are a few snippets from my stay in Yokohama and a day trip to Kyoto!
Yokohama is about half an hour south of Tokyo and our conference was held there. We stayed in the Minato-Mirai bay area. The hotel we stayed in was along the bay and the best part was the killer view from my room. I got to see gorgeous sunrises in the morning and in the evenings, the city lights and a ferris wheel transformed the view into a colorful landscape. I would sit and spend hours in the morning and evening admiring the views. Yokohama is a really cool place to stroll around and is supposedly a weekend getaway for Tokyo residents. It was a lot of fun.
While in Yokohama, we visited the Cup Noodle Museum. The one where Mumufuku created the first cup noodles and how it evolved over years with countless flavors in different countries. We even got to create our own cup noodles by choosing different flavors and paint the cup! It was entertaining. 🙂
Oktoberfest: This was one of the coolest things I got to see. Yokohama had a beer fest that did not look like much fun from the outside; but the atmosphere inside was crazy! It was so crowded with people having fun – dancing, singing and drinking beer and all this in the middle of the week on a Wednesday. It was a great atmosphere and so much fun! I captured the amazing scene on video and the editing should be fun. 🙂 Did I mention how the surroundings were still super clean?! That’s Japan for you!
Fun fact about Japan – There are malls in the subway/train stations; so convenient for us ladies! Shop around and hop on the train back home. I am not talking about a couple of stores but multiple levels full of stores!
We took the Shinkansen (aka the Bullet Train) to Kyoto for the weekend. The speed of the bullet train is mind boggling, something that has to be experienced and cannot be described in words. We also got to see Mt. Fuji on the way. Yay!
With over 2000 temples and shrines, Kyoto is the land of temples. It was also the capital of Japan for over 1000 years. It is so beautiful and has great cultural significance that it was even spared from being bombed during the war. It’s amazing how you are in the middle of the city, you turn around and find a temple.
I loved the interesting mix of old and new Japan in Kyoto and it’s totally unique food!
We visited the Kinkaku-ji (Golden pavilion), Kiyamizu temple and Fushimi Inari shrine. A common theme in all these places was the number of tourists including locals and kids on field trips. It was really crowded!
My favorite of all these was the Kiyamizu temple.
The hike to the temple is full of stores with Kyoto specialties like Dango, Matcha based sweets, Japanese fans and other local handcrafts.
People can dress up in Kimonos (available for rental) and visit the temple. Little kids and women in Kimonos was a sight to see!
The Fushimi Inari shrine was another unique shrine and has thousands (12,000 to be exact) of vermilion colored gates called the Torii. I almost got lost within those gates trying to find my way back. 🙂
It’s impressive how well these temples are maintained even after hundreds of years and many many tourists visiting every year. It is no wonder there are so many world heritage sites in Kyoto. A day or even a week is not enough to completely cover Kyoto. It is a truly beautiful place with a lot of history.
Stay tuned for my next posts – Japan part – II of Tokyo and Kamakura and a very interesting part – III about amazing Japanese food and travel tips!
I am Aswani Kurra. I am an engineer, dreamer and part-time wanderlust, writer and wine lover. I always had an urge to write, create and travel. So I created this space to satisfy my creative itch and combine all my skills to help you plan your Charming Escape.