That morning we got up before the sunrise to catch the golden hour (best time to take pictures are as the sun rises and sets). We walked and photographed between streets till the Kamo River.
It was truly a beautiful morning, I loved seeing how Kyoto is getting up, the shops still closed, people getting to their work slowly. Some people were sweeping their house front.
Near the river, there were young people just finishing the day, some still in their festival dresses.
Someone was sleeping with their luggage as the cushion, demonstrating how Japan is so safe.
After walking hours in the streets, we decided that today is the day we finally gave up walking and rent bicycles for the transport.
Early breakfasts day
Everywhere was closed except konbini stores, so we took small bites from Family Mart and walked more. Then McDonalds was the second place we went around 6 am but we needed a decent (or somewhat decent) coffee so once Starbucks opened around 7 am, we went there to have some coffee and truly wake up.
Before coming I read in many blogs that Kyoto is very safe to bike, it was our agenda already. After breakfast, we rented bicycles from the nearest bike shop until the day we leave for Osaka. We preferred J-CYCLE for the renting, but I believe there are many more options.
Erhan, living many years in the Netherlands was already used to bicycles, but me? I had not cycled for many years, but you know what they say like using a bike, it is true 🙂 I remembered quickly.
As soon as we rented the bicycles, we headed to Kyoto station for lunch. After spending the 2020 in isolation, looking back to photos from 2018 Kyoto it hurts my heart a little bit, seeing such a large crowd all together.
You will absolutely go to Kyoto station once or twice and if you have time to spare, go up and enjoy the unexpected beautiful terrace of the station with beautiful bamboo trees and a sky view.
GION MATSURI CONTINUES… YOIYAMA
It was already the third day of Gion Matsuri. Today we decided to have dinner outside of the festival area, and I already know what to eat and where with the help of my workings before Japan! Gyozadokoro Takatsuji Sukemasa ぎょうざ処 亮昌 高辻本店! Near our home in Kyoto, and without leaving the festival area. These were the best Gyoza I have ever eaten in my life (and also will eat in Japan through the journey). If you ever go there don’t miss it, you’ll regret it.
Erhan’s Note: Eating it came with a manual of how to. There were several spices and sauces to enjoy, first without any spice, then with the spices respectively and also the store made it clear that the gyoza was made all with Japanese ingredients.
After our own gyoza festival, we headed to the festival area one more time, and enjoyed to the last drop.
We saw the floats at night one last time and carved the scenes in our memories with their shiny lights.
We weren’t of course the only ones around the floats, the crowd was again in the streets of Kyoto.
and the famous stalls were still working full capacity, after all people loves these stands.
and of course the officers were again there with their lightsaberish things.
The next day was the main event of the festival, another early start was waiting for us, therefore we decided call the night early on.
We started the day with breakfast at the hotel (it is a little expensive to have it everyday outside since the breakfast at the hotel was included in the price). We had a pretty full schedule in Kyoto ahead of us, so it was wise to take the day off before heading to Kyoto. Having difficulty deciding what to do, we found ourselves in Tully’s again.
Japanese Toilets: Open Sesame!
I know that many people know about the Japanese toilets already but believe me I wasn’t expecting to enter the toilet at Tully’s and see the lid of the toilet open automatically for me 🙂 For a public toilet it’s super useful not to touch the lid, and of course you can arrange the toilet seat temperature, a music accompanying the session, the temperature of the bidet’s water. One could write a whole book about toilets and public restrooms in Japan, but I will leave it at a paragraph or I would never reach the end of this blog.
By the way the most common brand for the toilets is TOTO, which means butt in a cute baby talk way in Turkish, this coincidence made us laugh each time (You see I’m still talking about toilets)
Erhan’s Note: Japan toilets are famous for their adjustable bidets, temperature control, and pleasant bird songs that mask the noises digested matter makes when your body twists and strains itself to do you know what. Being Turkish we welcomed the idea of a bidet, a common part of the toilet experience, which I know is already a shock in itself for some westerners, especially Americans. Automating the whole experience of course adds to hygiene, especially in public areas.
Everyday life in Tokyo
We sat at Tully’s for a couple of hours, relaxed a bit, and enjoyed our time just sitting about 2 hours. If you followed the blog so far, then you know already that I’m amazed seeing daily life in my perspective as a street photographer. While sitting in Tully’s it was again the case, seeing these well dressed up ladies enjoying their cup of café together for example, or seeing the all black dressed cool Japanese guy gave me inspiration.
Two different views
While I’m oriented to shoot people in streets or streets in a larger perspective with people in it, like this one
or this one
Erhan is attracted to some very interesting objects and houses around. For example this little garden with its beautiful trees just between the houses
or this tree growing attached to the houses
or this electrical lamp while some may say it is grotesque while Erhan found it very interesting.
I love the fact that we see the same streets with different perspectives, we complete the world’s puzzle together.
A day off? Not really… then let’s go to Ameyoko
A day off? It’s difficult for us to sit somewhere for more than a couple hours, so we decided to go to Ameyoko (Ameya Yokocho) Market, again around Ueno. It’s mostly formed by fish, fresh fruits, and vegetable sellers. We didn’t buy a fresh thing since we’re staying in a very tiny room without a kitchen and felt overwhelmed after seeing so much stuff together.
Of course there was also Kebap House, I couldn’t think of a market without Kebap House, back in Turkey so it only made sense that in a Metropolitan area such as this, somebody, probably another Turkish person would import the idea of the convenient kebap. We didn’t try it since we’re in Japan and it didn’t make sense to us to eat kebap when there was so much else going around.
Erhan’s note: I would rather try a regular burger franchise in Japan than a kebap place. Who knows what the quality of the food they served there was.
There was also some cheap retails
It was again a very hot day and even the sellers were experiencing it pretty bad.
Erhan’s note: We were hearing the occasional “atsui”, “atsui desu” already 😀
What a towel really is for?
You know what Douglas Adams was right in “Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy when saying : “A towel, [The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.”.
Apparently Mr. Adams got the idea for this phrase when he went travelling and found that his beach towel kept disappearing, but I am sure if he had been to Japan he could have gotten this towel idea here as well. A wet towel around your neck keeps you sane, cool and healthy, or a light cloth towel around your head will prevent your sweat from entering your eyes in the hot and humid Japanese summer days. We learned pretty quickly that you shouldn’t NEVER NEVER LEAVE THE HOUSE WITHOUT A TOWEL IN JAPAN! Especially in the summer. I don’t know why we don’t practice this in Istanbul.
Photographer vs the shot
There is a trend going these days in twitter, photographer vs. the shot, so I wanted to share in this page from this day such a shot.
A close encounter with the eight legged kind: Takoyaki
After the market, we found a Takoyaki (octopus pancake balls (literally grilled octopus)) place nearby. Osaka style 🙂 Definitely worth the try. By the way, yaki 焼き means grill and we thought that the symbol looks like a man grilling 🙂 We saw some Gyozas on the menu so we had to try it too. Result: Of course we love them. As Turks, we were already fans of “mantı” and all associated cuisine (classic pasta dough rolled out and filled with a mince of either lamb or beef and onions and spices then folded and cooked in water), so basically it’s similar to Gyoza (Japanese dumplings) except the cooking process and the shape.
We saw some shops in the way, and bought outdoor trousers from North Face for the hikings ahead of us.
The next day, our plan was to continue our journey in Kyoto, so we bought our Shinkansen (Bullet train) tickets from the ticket machines (since we didn’t know the procedures we wanted to be pre-prepared ).
First sushi experience and the second dinner
By chance, we saw a sushi place called Magurobito Okachimachi by walking. I was pretty fond of sushi back in Turkey so I was very excited for this experience. We entered but couldn’t find any English menu, therefore we were completely out of our comfort zone, no tourist, full of Japanese people. Normally it is good sign, this means we found a local place but when you don’t understand a thing it’s really difficult to handle. We ordered by showing the sushi. Even though there was a man sitting right next to us and was nice to chat with us a bit in English, we were quite intimated by this experience (I didn’t even took a photo because I was afraid they will tell us not to do. So I decided to took a quick video but Erhan warned me, so it’s shaky and short. ) Thus we decided to stop before we were done.
We were still hungry, what to do?
So we wanted to find a cheap and simple option for our second dinner of the night. We saw a soba noodle place under the overpass of the Okachimachi station and we finalized our night by dessert to the room from Atré in Ueno Station.
We had a better night sleep, this means we’re adjusting to the time, Yay! The next day : Kyoto!
After fully resting, we were ready to get back up there and enjoy the night in Akihabara.
Akihabara in the night
Around 6 pm, we went back to Akihabara streets for more exploration.
The work hours were over and everywhere we looked there were Japanese salary men and women wearing a white shirt and black trousers and skirts. They were dressed as if they were the same person all over. Also some engaged in an interesting behavior: a few of them would stand around in a circle and each would bow to one another before going their own ways. I later learned this is often the case when the group of salarymen go out with colleagues (drinking and eating) and then when it is time to go home they say their goodbyes in this manner, especially in the presence of more senior colleagues.
Erhan’s Note: Travelling to other cities (especially Kyoto) we learned people often derided and ridiculed Tokyo way of living where salarymen style of career life is most visible. It was often told us that nobody wanted to live that life, like a robot, no offense.
The Hook for the Maid Cafe
There were some girls dressed as maids to attract customers to the famous Maid Cafes. We already watched some videos about these cafes before leaving for Japan, so we weren’t too interested in these, but believe me, many tourists were attracted to these girls and entering the cafes. I know there is nothing fishy going in there but then again as a woman, I’m not sure that I’m too happy seeing these girls having to work like this, but that is my personal opinion of course.
The maid realized we were taking her photo and did a cross sign with her arms indicating she would rather not be pictured so we decided not to put the photo here.
I’m sure that you have already heard Super Mario by Nintendo. And most of you may heard or seen in Instagram, the tourist driving around Tokyo routes with the Mario go Kart cars. By chance, we run into to their garage while walking from the hotel to the Akihabara station. It was fun to see this scene. Along the trip, we saw the karts around Tokyo many times, especially in Shibuya.
Go up for the cafes
Yes you heard it right, we weren’t used to go up for entering to a cafe but in Japan,many good cafes are situated in upper floors of an ordinary building, you just have to look up.
While walking in Akihabara, we saw many neon boards, again showing some anime advertisement and so.
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Since we skipped lunch outside, we earned the right to choose a good place to eat. Now, the research I did before coming to Japan had worked its magic and we went to one of our starred places: Kikanbo Ramen https://kikanbo.co.jp/. There were 5 people in the queue waiting, it was pretty quick because there was a machine outside where you choose the ingredients you want in your ramen and your drink and pay on the spot to receive a ticket. Once you enter you give the ticket to the counter and voila! The ramen you wished you had while watching all these anime is in front of you! The store’s ramen style was from Hokkaido and they had a dark theme going in the shop, which immerses you immediately, and the drums play a war tune in the background which went tamtı tamtıtı, exciting your appetite while waiting. Some monstrous creature sculptures watch over you from their spots on the wall. We loved the atmosphere, and once we tasted the ramen, OMG! So delicious and extra spicy. First ramen (and one of the best throughout the journey) .
Erhan slurping his ramen like a PRO!
a macro view to my ramen choice (the napkin in the video is very useful because the ramen was very hot, believe me you need one)
Eventually we were overwhelmed by the experiences of the day and went back to the hotel early. You could see from our timeline again, details of our walk.
We didn’t sleep much again in the night, still adjusting to Japanese time?