Day 8: Kyoto, Gion Matsuri third day: Yoiyama

16 July

Weather:  37 C at noon, felt as 40 C 

Sunrise and streets

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. 

and another one in another corner

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. 

Bicycle renting

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

Gyoza festival

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.

Total steps of the day: 10875

next post: The procession of the MATSURI

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Day 4: TOKYO, Ameya Yokocho Market

12 July– Weather 29 C at noon 

Last day before Kyoto…

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.

Just a decor of a fish shop:) a bit too much, don’t you think? but again, it’s Japan, everything is too much
what is this? I really don’t know

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. 

Outdoor shopping

We saw some shops in the way, and bought outdoor trousers from North Face for the hikings ahead of us. 

Shinkansen tickets

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?

Sushi at a real sushi bar in a unremarkable spot in Tokyo. Still delicious…

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!

as always the summary of our day

Total steps of the day: 10595 

Day 2 (cont.)- TOKYO, Ueno Park

10 July (continued)

JOMON EXHIBITION

We saw the banners and we saw the posters. Some odd looking clay figures and pots that look deceptively simple. 10000 Years old prehistoric art in Japan. Even though we had not planned a visit, we had to see it; which was the best thing about a long trip: space for unplanned events and exploration!

If you ever have the chance to see it yourself, go for it! We saw the exquisite Dogu figures which resembled to little gingerbread people 🙂 (for more information Wikipedia) as well as many more interesting arts and artifacts in the complete collection of the museum.

Erhan’s note: From a game developer’s perspective, the Jomon period explained almost the entire history of Japanese game art and where most of their inspiration came from (especially the mainstream ones such as mario, zelda series etc.). It was especially surprising for me since I would have never thought to see the roots of digital art in a museum featuring 10.000 year old artifacts. In retrospect it makes total sense.

The rest of the collection was worth visiting too. Having been exposed to classical western and to a degree islamic classical art for the most part it was amazing to see what kept the Japanese inspired and busy through the ages.

Even though it seems from the photos that Erhan is defiling and pillaging the ancient artifacts like a hapless giant who hopes his wanton destruction goes unnoticed, these were only interactive parts of the exhibition, which made it more interesting.

Further interesting photography from within the museum as well as other details of our museum tour

Erhan’s note: The 4th picture looks totally like it is from a Mario game.

Of course we were not the only ones who spent the afternoon to avoid the sun, as always there were lots of people enjoying the AC and some even relaxing in the cool air of the museum by sleeping on the benches (during the journey we learned by experience that this behavior was totally normal for Japanese people).

Inside of the museum
the best place for sleeping, the hall of the museum
A little overwhelmed, I am sitting in a dark corner of the museum waiting for Erhan to shoot some more photos:)

First Curry Experience

For lunch, we saw some food trucks in front of the museum, we took some food and found some shade. 

Erhan’s note: This is where we ate our first curry and rice in Japan. II have to say it was not good. Mostly because it was from a food truck in front of a museum under sweltering summer heat. I have to admit I thought all Japanese curry had to taste amazing for some reason. I blame Ghibli animations.

In front of the museum and the food truck in question
our first curry in Japan, thankfully not the last (curry is so delicious normally)
Walking to the museum in the sun

University of Arts

After the museum, we continued to walk in the park and saw Tokyo University of Arts. Giving in to our curiosity, we walked in, (usually entering university grounds is a big issue in Turkey and prohibited or entirely regulated by private security) and had a lovely time in their outside cafeteria. Watching colorful characters of students and staff, and seeing the university life was an interesting experience that not many tourists get to enjoy. 

Erhan’s note: This statue by Rodin (more about it here), standing in the garden of the Tokyo University of the Arts, drew my attention. People who are familiar with Japanese manga, anime, and otherwise popular culture are probably aware of their comically effeminate yet perfectly proportioned male figure trope. I thought it was just a quirky comical effect found in popular culture references. A way of poking fun at western idea of human perfection. It was a welcome shock to see it in the bronze in front of me on a park near the university grounds. Although many such casts exist out there across the world, this statue had such a stark contrast that it stood out along with its un-Japanese surroundings, and undoubtedly has influenced many people who attended the Tokyo University of the Arts. It was about two westerners (well Istanbulites at the very least) seeing what Japanese think the western values uphold. This among many other things we saw across our travels explained so much about what inspires the Japanese culture. Incredible adoption of German cultural features in some cases, as well as an infatuation with things of the French nature. We even visited an Italian restaurant in Tokyo towards the end of our trip and I am glad we did. (more about that later :D)

University’s garden
University students enjoying a fine day
Students

Let’s enjoy the park from above

Even though our short visit was refreshing, we had spent quite some energy walking around. We still needed to sit and drink something, and found a rooftop restaurant in a building within the park (Ueno Seiyoken), after a long day the first Japanese beer was rewarding and made up for all the exhausting steps.

small erhan’s note: my beard looks at tip top shape here… it gradually gets rowdier towards the end of trip. This blog is worth reading just to witness that if not for anything else 😀

Erhan’s note: I remember checking google to find a decent restaurant nearby and not coming up with much given we were in the middle of the park. We walked into the building that we thought was a restaurant but had to climb up to the top floor to find it. There is something that gives you the butterflies about not being completely sure where you will end up, but the relief when you arrive in a welcoming place as often the case is in japan is completely worth it.

The meal wasn’t anything to write home about, but from up there you can see the entire park, all green with water lillies, and the rest of the metropolitan city scape; it was a special moment of us that marked the first excursion in Japan, first real day of our adventure.

View of the park from the rooftop
View of the park from the rooftop
another perspective from Erhan’s camera

Erhan’s note: And it had gone spectacularly well for a first day too. 😀

We decided to finish our day after the beer time and to walk straight to the hotel but we were intrigued to see our first gashapon and claw machines in the wild, to be frank they are quit tempting even though you know it’s nearly impossible to win something worthwhile.

We passed some busy streets while walking to the hotel, enjoyed our first evening stroll.

When we reached the hotel, since the room was too tiny and no window could be opened, it was a little difficult for us to sleep with the AC (and we were still adjusting to the Japan time). 

our hotel room window

Have you been to Ueno Park? Did you enjoy it too? Did you see the full bloom? Comment below, let us know more!

Did you know that Google maps keeps your walking history? We learned that recently, here is the crazy summary of our 10th July.

total steps of the day: 17920 steps

The next day is another Japanese famous place: Akihabara…

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