I wish I started this blog sooner. 4 years sooner. Alas, I procrastinated with it, just like I have done with every aspect of my life since adolescence. (Really, how did I graduate college?)
But, since I didn’t launch Away We Stray until 2015, I haven’t been able to share my misadventures until now. However, now that I’m wholeheartedly putting my soul into this blog, I believed y’all deserved a monthly Round Up of accomplishments, highlights (and lowlights), and tips, budgets, hints, etc. In the style of Alex in Wanderland‘s “The Great Escape”, I give to you a belated Stray with Me”.
Stray With me
Hats off to an extra day in February! I used my Leap Day to relax, recooperate, and apply for tourist visas into Mainland China. February was a month full of friendship, train travel, and botched dinner plans. While I still haven’t used my passport since entering Japan, that is due for change in March, 2016!
Where I have been:
- 24 nights in Tokyo
- 2 nights in Kyoto
- 2 night in Osaka
- 1 night in Hiroshima
- Like any cliched American, I am obsessed with Football. So of course, I got up at 6:30am in order to drink heavily and watch the Superbowl in Roppongi. I was hammered by noon and loving every minute of the all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink fun!
- A third trip to Kamakura proved yet again that Kamakura is my favorite area in the Kanto region. I love the plethora of temples, shops, and other whimsical elements of the area. Kamakura never fails to show me a good time. I discovered a particularly delicious Chinese restaurant off the main road, with a fresh oyster soup. My mouth is still watering thinking about that restaurant!
- Despite being laughed at by a preschool-age girl at my bicycle skills (I haven’t ridden one since I was a young teen), I had moments of pure, unadulterated joy while biking around Arashiyama. Whizzing in and out of residential neighborhoods on a cloudless day was nothing short of thrilling. I was having so much fun exploring the free temples that lay north of Arashiyama, I didn’t notice the wicked cold that prevented me from feeling my fingers
- A laborious hike up and through Fushimi-Inari proved to be my absolute favorite mini-adventure within Kyoto. The total time to the top is just under an hour, and the steady staircase wards off most tourists. You pass tens of thousands of individually carved and painted Torii as you climb to the summit. The adorable “angry-looking” fox guardians follow the path, along with a small, bubbling creek.
- Feeding Wild Deer in Nara was only eclipsed by watching the ruthlessly aggressive deer bite my boyfriend’s toosh. I’ve never heard him yelp like a girl until a rather large buck nibbled on his backside, and I will never let him forget that moment!!
- Following a close second to Nara Deer Park is Okunoshima, a land full (yes, FULL) of rabbits. These soft, fluffy guys will chase after you for pellets of food you purchase to fill their bellies. Thousands of rabbits inhabit Okunoshima, just waiting for a handful of feed and a gentle hand to pet them. The animal lover in me was ecstatic!
- Attending a show at Tokyo’s Robot Restaurant was even better than I imagined. Brandon and I saved the show for his friends’ arrival to Tokyo so we could attend together. Packed into an underground night-club-like arena, the room is filled with 90-minutes of LED lights, dancing girls and robots. It’s seriously one of the best shows I have ever been to!
- The AirBnB rental I stayed at in Hiroshima was within walking distance of the A-Dome, the last remaining remnants of the destruction of WW2. I felt shameful walking past the structure. Shameful at my country for the current destruction in the middle east, and saddened that more American’s couldn’t view this sobering building as a reminder that so many innocent live are being destroyed right now, and those effects will be seen even generations later.
- A visit to the Osaka Castle was less than exciting. The beautiful architecture is best viewed from the outside. I made the mistake of believing that all castles in Japan have been restored to their original interior designs, and was very disappointed to push through the overcrowded castle and view a museum about how the castle used to look.
- A visit to the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo proved overly frustrating. If you are looking for a visa into mainland China, be prepared to gather not only physical copies of your flight records, but your hotel reservations as well, and the paperwork for the visas. It’s a long process that seems overly complicated for reasons unknown to me.
- My boyfriends lifelong friend, Chris, came to visit Tokyo with us, and I took him to a restaurant serving Shabu-Shabu, one of my personal favorite dishes in Japan. Too bad it was a total bomb!! The poor guy couldn’t stomach the raw meat you dip into boiling water, and just couldn’t enjoy dinner.
Japan is expensive.
Let me lay that out right away. If you are coming here for a trip. You will save the most on Transportation by purchasing a JR Rail Pass. I can’t stress enough the JR Rail Pass. It must be purchased outside of the country, and is ONLY GOOD ON A TOURIST VISA (poor me). The pass is good for most Shinkansens (bullet trains) outside of the Kodoma line, and all JR trains (but not Metro or other train companies). Brandon and Chris purchased a 7-day JR Pass for ~$200. I’m going to guess they spent another $50 in train fare, or ferry rides as well. I spent a whopping $750 in transportation costs around the island.
AirBnB was our saviour. Between the three of us, we spent less than $250 in accomodation across Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima. There are some great deals in Japan. Although my host in Hiroshima was the most expensive, I have to recommend him. This place was the perfect location to the Peace Memorial and was perfect place to stay in Hiroshima.
Visiting temples and castles in Japan certainly does add up. I’m guestimating that I spent approximately $50 on entrance fees in total.
Food on the run is simple! Food is way cheaper in Japan than in the US. Breakfast costs me around $2-3 (at the convenience store) and I purchase my snacks there too. Ramen and Udon are notoriously cheap $3-8 per bowl. It’s very easy to save money on food if you know where to look (and you don’t have to worry about tipping!)
- Grab food from the street vendors outside of Fushimi-Inari. I filled up on a plate of Yakisoba for $2.50 (split with Brandon!)
- Skip Osaka castle and opt for Himeji if you have the opportunity. Its authentic, and roughly the same cost
- Save a full day if you want to visit Okunoshima. The trains don’t run that often down the coast. It’s possible that you might get stuck for a few hours in transit.
Thank you so much for your support throughout my journey. Let’s keep in contact!
As always, I would love to hear your feedback. Please comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org