Arrived in Japan on the 20th, flying from Beijing to Tokyo. I wanted to get back on the plane with all my friends that were going home-- it's hard to transition from being with 10-15 people at all times to being all on your own-making all the decisions, taking all the blame etc. Plus it was a brand new plane, complete with the personal entertainment screens I am so fond of and a very cute boy from Ann Arbor, Michigan sitting next to me. Walking away from the line to reboard hurt. Got my entrance sticker and headed out in to Narita
to figure out exactly what needed to be done to activate my rail pass. As mentioned in the summary-- I whole-heartedly endorse Japan's rail network, and not even for the usual reasons.
Once I did find the ticketing office (easily enough--no horror story here) I received nothing but excellent service. Beyond getting me all set up and giving me a book of train schedules, the girl who was helping me set me up with best trains to get to Kyoto
, booked me seats (window! my favorite), and gave me the low down of how to find the platform I'd want.
Enjoyed my ride to Kyoto. Watched the fields and cities whip past and kept an eye out for Mt. Fuji-- elusive as ever. I did not arrive in Kyoto until 7:30 or 8 and lost at least an hour trying to find my hostel. Looking back, I don't think I ever got to the hostel in the same manner the entire time I was there. Five weeks worth of laundry and school books and Tibetan purchases were extremely heavy.
Finally found another foreigner with map to take pity on me and discovered I was only two or three blocks from my destination for all my wandering. Immediately did laundry, the first time I had dryer-dryed clothes in five weeks-- it was soap scented heaven.
I took the opportunity to sleep in the next morning and woke up to Bartolemeji from Poland talking to me in his skivies in the center of the room. He was a great guy-- had decent sense of humor about being stuck in the girls room and hilarious stories about his working for a Japanese company (in his case, they weren't working til 9pm because they were working hard--they were staying to be the last to leave). As I'd lost several hours to sleeping my choices for daytrip were limited and I chose Nara as it was closest. I was still at a loss as to how one goes about travelling alone so Nara was not what it could have been for me.
The largest cast bronze buddha in the world!
The best moment of the day was discovering that Snow Cones are very popular in Japan. I had two. Nara is home to herds of sacred and friendly deer and herds of school age children. It is also home to the largest cast bronze buddha in the world. I bought a fortune, which was determined by shaking the box to see which stick poked out the hole in the bottom. Apparently it was a good one because my fortune was favorable-- it is a good time to travel, a lost item will be found, the one I am waiting for will come but might be late. Got very lost myself and ended up going north instead of south. No harm done-- I made it back eventually. Called it an early evening back in Kyoto after a dinner of Salad Pretz bought in the train station.