It was a holiday weekend so I was able to have a four day weekend for my birthday. I had a fantastic time! Thursday, we went to the annual Himeji ceramics market, which was amazing! There were ceramics from all over Japan. It was a good overview of what's available in Japan. It was also really great to see the crowds of people looking at and buying pottery! Julian went back two more times.
Friday, we got up early and headed for Kyoto. My friend, Masae, hooked us up by letting us know that we could get roundtrip train tickets for $30 rather than $45 - YAY for Masae! Kyoto is only 1-1/2 hours away from Himeji. We took the rapid express train. The picture below is classic Japan! You can set your watch by the train and bus systems, they are super prompt. My friend Mac and I get mad because sometimes the buses arrive 1 minute early and then we miss our buses and we have to ride our bikes or arrive late for work!
Kyoto station is really cool looking it reminds me of BWI (Baltimore Washington International Airport) or Darth Vader's Death Star.
We figured out our accomodations and met up with our friend, Mac who had been visiting the nearby town of Nara. We found a great hotel that was really cheap and close to Kyoto nightlife. Kyoto is a university town, so there are a lot of young, fashionable people and lots of fun places to hang out. There are about 1.5 million people in Kyoto. We went to a video game arcade "The Wonder Tower". Where we spent a couple of hours playing puyo-puyo, fight games, taiko drumming, etc. I use to play puyo- puyo on my home computer all the time, so I was really excited to play it in the video game arcade.
We met up with our friends and co-teachers from Himeji, Terry and Peter on Friday night at a pub where they had half-priced drinks for happy hour. They advised us on renting bikes and places to visit in Kyoto. Many drinks later, we went to dinner at an oknomiyaki restaurant (a restaurant that has a grill in the middle of the table for an egg/flower omlette with lots of vegetables and meat). Terry and Petter had to go back to Himeji that night.
Saturday,my birthday, we rented bikes. It was a gorgeous weekend! It's much better to bike around Kyoto, the buses move really slowly due to all of the traffic. I love just biking through the neighborhoods. There are so many little streets with all kinds of cool little mom and pop stores and interesting shrines/temples. We also walked along the river and played on the stepping stones that run across the river. Julian found a ring in the river and Mac was brave enough to wade into the water and get it...not sure if it's worth anything.
The Kyoto Imperial Palace was specially open for my birthday. Actually, it's not open to the general public, visitors have to reserve special passes to go to the palace. It happened to be open that weekend to the general public for its 150th anniversary of renovation, so we were lucky to be able to go there.
After sightseeing, we went to a cool cafe and sat outside and people watched. We ate lunch, drank mochas and realaxed. I also had a big piece of fruit tart! We walked around the shopping area and found several used clothing stores filled with American thrift store stuff. Stuff that you could buy for $1-10 in America that was going for $50-$100. Seems like a cool business idea! Gwynne, do you want to be the shopper and supplier of goods?
We biked around some more and then we met up with our friends from Himeji, Koki and Hanako. They visited Kyoto for the day and hung out with me for my birthday. They are so cool! Thank you Mac for organizing a party for me! We had some drinks and then had yakiniku, grilled meat and lots of it!!
We took birthday purikura! Thanks to Koki and Hanako who scanned the photos! YAY --- They rock my world. They gave me a beautiful pair of mittens for my b-day! We also played several more rounds of taiko drumming.
Thank you everyone for all of your sweet birthday wishes and gifts!! I couldn't have asked for a better b-day. A beautiful day bike riding around Kyoto, hanging out with Julian and friends, eatting great food and playing video games!! YAY!!