12 November 2012

V in Japan - Day 11

Day 11: Yodabashi and the Hot Springs at Kurama

  • Date: October 23
  • Weather: Rainy
  • Mood: In for some shopping!

Yeah, let's NOT go to Nara today...

We woke up in the morning and looked outside. Rain, rain, rain. Yikes! We looked up a weather report and see that it's going to be rainy the entire day (seriously?).

We originally planned to go to Nara today. But due to the rain, we decided to postpone that for one day. We contacted Colette by phone and she was happy to hear we weren't going to visit Nara in the rain. While thinking on what we could do instead, we remembered a tip from the German guy. En route between K's House and Kyoto Station is a gigantic shopping mall called Yodobashi. We decided we should visit that instead.

After getting washed and dressed, we went for some Japanese breakfast at a Sukiya shop somewhere along the way to Yodobashi. While Steven went for a Japanese breakfast, I had some curry again, but this time around it tasted less good and the sauce was more greasy (eew). Not noteworthy or picture-worthy this time.


After breakfast, we walked further on, to Yodobashi. It’s a BIG shopping store (bigger than any store in Belgium), close to Kyoto station. The whole building kind of reminded me of Harrods (though less fancy and more supermarket-like).

Yodobashi is Six floors of everything you could want. Computers, phones, clocks, beauty products, massaging chairs, camera’s, camera gadgets, toys, games, electronic devices, household electro, TV’s, music, music instruments, clothes, shoes, it has everything!

After a short while, we decided to split up to experience as much as possible. We would meet up again at noon on the sixth floor to eat something.

I bought quite a few things. And for the second time in our trip, I spotted a Duel Terminal Machine and I decided to try it out for once (we don't have those in Europe, so I wanted to try it). I get a Samurai of the Ice Barrier and try some games, but I stopped after a few minutes, because I don’t get the Japanese shouting (and there was so much else to see in this store).

In one of the departments, I spot the V-Jump magazine for the first time (I couldn't find it in normal book stores or shops). I was tempted to buy it, but instead I went for another magazine that had a Servant Saber figurine (from Fate Zero). Fate Zero IS still one of the best animes I have ever seen!

At noon, I noticed I couldn't find the other guys and it took a while before we finally find each other. The problem? I had the wrong phone number of Francis and Steven’s phone was out of battery. Technology really saved the day (not).

When we finally did meet up, we went to eat in one of the many restaurants on the 6th floor (a ramen restaurant chain named Chabuton) and have some ramen with a free serving of rice.

During lunch, We talk about the possibility to stay longer in Japan (over our 14-day period). We all want to explore more, but our trip was nearing its end. We talk about the wwoof system the German guy worked under, since Steven was once tempted to do the same. But he didn't like the fact that those people have like one day per week to actually visit stuff and they don't earn any real money (safe tips). And since working people can stay in Japan for longer periods of time than tourists (see further below), we thought about what job we could do in japan. When leaving the restaurant, we jokingly take a picture of the job add outside of the Chabuton restaurant.

While walking back out of Yodobashi, we tried to figure out from which song the melody of the Yodabashi theme is based upon. The theme constantly hums in the store (much to Steven’s annoyance). After a while I finally got it, it’s “Glory Glory Hallelujah” (aka the battle hymn of the republic). The bigger shopping bags in the store had a music score printed on them and after reading/humming the score, I realize it’s the same Yodobashi theme (lol, that makes sense).

Return to Kurama - Visiting a REAL onsen

After Yodobashi, we walked back to K’s House. While Steven and I wanted to try out a real Onsen (in Kurama), Francis was kind of tired and decided to stay at the hostel to reload his batteries. So Steven and I went back to Kurama, because it was the nearest place where they have an onsen/ryokan.

So we go to the subway just next to K's House (yes, we learned our lesson) and took the underground trip to the local station for Kurama (instead of walking).

When we arrived at the station, I noticed that it was not as crowded as the day before (*sigh of relief*). We had some discussion with the office lady (language barrier, you strike again), but she wanted to make clear that we could buy a special train ticket that includes both the back-and-forth trip by train and an entrance for the hot spring (and a free shuttle bus ride back and forth). After a few awkward minutes we finally got the message and bought the ticket.

After a train ride and shuttle bus ride, we arrived at the Kurama Hot Springs.

We walked to the entrance and wanted to obtain towels. But the guy in the booth pointed us to the vending machine next to him to obtain a ticket.

No, this is not a joke. We had to buy a ticket from the vending machine, take the ticket, walk one meter to the left and hand that ticket to the guy at the counter to obtain a towel set... not to mention the fact that the vending machine only had ONE type of towels. Could getting something this simple get any more complicated?

Anyway, we bought a ticket, exchanged the superfluous ticket to get a big and small towel and walked inside. After getting ourselves over those few moments of awkwardness again (quite a few dudes in the nude, you know), we rinsed ourselves and went into the hot bath.

After relaxing for a while, we got out of the bath, got dressed and went back to the hostel. We decided to walk back to the station instead of taking the shuttle bus... and end up walking the wrong direction again. Though this time we quickly realize our mistake and retrace our steps.

There's no place like Manzo's

Back at K’s House, we met up with Francis again (his personal batteries were fully recharged now). We noticed that the Slayer fan in our room had checked out and was been replaced with another Aussie who had a few days off from his job in Japan (not under the Woofing system. Steven was quite interested to hear his story).

At dinner time, we decided to try out a different restaurant than Manzo. When returning from Kurama, we walked by a restaurant that served Korean Barbecue, so we went there. And believe me, it tasted amazingly good. This is one of the best things I've ever eaten, but the amount of meat we got was soo little and the price was too expensive to have another serving.

Korean BBQ. If you don't mind spending money, this is your meal.

With our stomachs only half filled, we end up going back to Manzo for another (small) dish. This time for me, some fried Chicken (not the set, that would be too much). Francis tried the fried potato and we realize that (unlike our potatoes), they fried a sweet potato. Quite a nice taste, if you ask me.

After Manzo, we do the usual. Buy some beer in the “Family” mart and drink them in the Lounge room at K’s (believe me, way cheaper than going to a real pub). This time though, the beer had alcohol (lol).

Tips for traveling in Japan - duration of the travel

When going to Japan, you don't need any kind of visum to enter the country, you only need a valid International Passport.

Depending on how much money you have and how many days you can take off from work/school, you might extend your stay in Japan. But you should remember something.

Tourists can only stay for one month in Japan. That is a rule that can be bent a little (Colette was able to extend her stay to two months or so I heard), but in general one month is the maximum duration for tourists.

One way you can stay in Japan for a longer time is to actually work. While working, the duration can be extended for several months (depending on employer, work period, etc).

One such method of working is the WWOOFing system. No, that's not bad Engrish, that's an abbreviation (click on the previous link). This method allows you to work for several people/companies while they give you a place to sleep and food. And in weekends (one or two days a week, depending on where you work), you get time off to explore Japan. This way, you can extend the 1-month barrier.

But take note that the limited amount of free time and the fact that you DON'T earn ANY money (unless you're tipped), put quite a limit on this system. But it is handy if you want to spend less on the trip to Japan while being there for a long time and if you want to experience different working atmospheres.

Another method is being regularly employed by people (without the woofing system). This method is riskier. Yes, you can actually earn money this way. But you're stuck to that employer and the employer is accountable for you (he has to take care of all migration shizzle). And if he says you're fired, there's a good chance you might have to leave Japan ASAP.

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