(Birth)Day in Kyoto, Japan [Part I]

25 Dec

Happy Holidays Friends!

Wishing you all health and happiness in 2013.

2013? I can’t believe how fast time has flown. Could it be that I’ve already lived in Korea for 2 years?! 헉!

And while we all begin to make plans for our big new year’s celebration (lie: I’m not planning on planning a thing), I thought it would be the perfect time to share how I celebrated my new year – of life – during my most delicious birthday ever.


It all started one week before my birthday, when G and I were playing a romantical game of cards (Geriatric love, anyone?) and I was complaining about my self-induced pressure to host a party with no venue in mind.

By the way, I’m faced with this conundrum every year, which usually results in avoiding the birthday-thing altogether.  

G, having (undoubtedly) anticipated this annual conversation, smiled and whipped out a piece of paper saying, “Oh yea, I printed out the weather report for your birthday weekend, so we could figure out what we wanted to do- picnic, bbq…”

And then time stopped.

Because this I know for sure, G has NEVER, in his life, noticed the weather (nor planned a weekend in advance, but I’m not gunna go there).  This kid does what he wants, when he wants, rain or shine-  making this conversation entirely suspect.

I puzzled-ly took the paper from his hands and realized – HOLY SUSHI – G had printed out the weather report for KYOTO!

And that is how my surprise birthday weekend in Japan was unveiled.


A few days later, G & I landed in Osaka and took the JR WEST train straight to Kyoto (approximately a 75 minute ride).

Quick tip #1: Travel to Kyoto is exceptionally easy as the train station is located right outside the airport.  Also, foreigners are able to buy discount tickets (Japan West Rail Pass) at the tourist information counter, as seen below.


 Quick tip #2:  Make sure to stop by a 7-Eleven around the airport to pick up some water and Japanese snacks for the journey (ice cream waffle sandwich is our personal favorite).

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Kyoto, the former capital of Japan (quite possibly my favorite, non-homeland, country), exceeded my high expectations in every way.  The city is traditional with pops of new; quiet, but lively; inviting yet secretive; majestic and humble…

and all juxtapositions aside, it’s really just perfect.


We hopped off the train, stashed our backpack in lockers, and immediately set off for our first destination – Nishiki market, Kyoto food mecca.

What?! With only 48 hours in Japan, one must seize all Japanese food intake opportunities.

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Nishiki Market is a narrow, indoor, food market that spans a delectable 5 blocks.  The market has over 100 tiny shops and restaurants selling local ingredients and specialized, ready-made food.

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IMG_030906 Kyoto4

I have no idea how long we spent eating our way through the market, but every second was delicious.


To walk off the few (million) calories absorbed during our foodie-adventures, we headed to Gion, Kyoto’s famous Geisha district.  There, we purposely lost ourselves in the beautifully preserved streets, peeping into dimly-lit tea houses, and finding treasures as we explored.

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We were also lucky enough to spot a few Geishas, who hurriedly walked past the swarming, paparazzi-like tourists.


At the East end of Gion’s main touristy-street, Shijō-dōri, we stumbled across the Yasaka Shrine.

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This was just the first of many religious places we stumbled upon in Kyoto- a city packed with over 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines.


And as much as I can’t wait to tell you about all our religious & non-religious activity (sashimi and Asahi, anyone?!), I’m realizing now that this post has grown too long and I am about to miss my flight…

Part II in the works!

10 Responses to “(Birth)Day in Kyoto, Japan [Part I]”

  1. roomaomao at 9:28 am #

    A birthday trip to Kyoto?!? Awesome to the max!

    • akonrad at 12:34 am #

      Thanks Roomaomao! I know – it was an unbelievable experience.

      • roomaomao at 9:46 am #

        One of these days I’ll make it over to Japan.

  2. Opher at 10:20 pm #

    You got something wrong: Quite possibly your fav non homeland country is located somewhere in the middle east. Please make sure all your jap friends know they’re in 2nd place!!! 🙂
    When _are_ you gonna finally redeem all those years spent in korea and drag G for a couple of years in the holy land??

    • akonrad at 12:36 am #

      Oph – of course Israel is #1, hence the comment “Japan (quite possibly my favorite, NON-HOMELAND, country).” How could you doubt my love? As for you sir, I agree, agree, and 10x agree. It will happen. xoxoxoxoxoxo love xoxoxooxoxoxoxo

  3. moushifj at 6:26 am #

    Wow! Great job catching a real Geisha! Though I think she may be a Maiko, or an apprentice geisha as they are also called, and really, Geisha are called Geiko in Kyoto. She’s very lovely either way. It would be great to know her name~

    • akonrad at 7:16 am #

      Moushifj, you are totally right about Geishas being called Geiko in Kyoto – I wish I would have remembered to weave that into the blog! As for being a Maiko, how can you tell? I’d love to know!

  4. moushifj at 7:33 am #

    Lol whoops I made an oopsie, late night. But it looks like she is a Maiko because of her hair ornaments and her make up. It’s more showy than a geiko. I was talking to someone else about it and I confused the conversation XD Lol Just disregard that last one.The first picture in those ones I linked is a Geiko. You can see how much more simple her make up is and she doesn’t have the hair ornaments. Now the Maiko you caught is past her first year of training. The Second to last picture I linked is a Maiko in her first year of training, you can tell by her Kanazazhi (That dangly stuff by her face) and the fact that her lower lip is painted, not her lower and upper. The final picture I included is a Henshin, or a tourist dressed up as a Maiko. They pay good money for that. XD

    • akonrad at 8:04 am #

      Moushifj, I’m so impressed by your knowledge. Thanks for sharing this information! I did see a few more Geiko/Maiko on the street/running into cars that I didn’t have time to photograph (unfortunately, my camera broke so all the photos were snapped on the iPhone). Now I wish I had those photos to identify their position.

      • moushifj at 4:34 pm #

        Yes, they are quite the celebrities there. There are actually people who are much more knowledgeable than I, who are able to identify who they are by name. Personally my favorite is Mamehana-san who you can see here http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_syz0xp6N24Y/TO4muTKN1WI/AAAAAAAAAsw/zzq0hOM0dpY/s1600/IMG_2298_1_1.jpg
        But sadly she has retired quite a bit ago. These girls are so famous and so sought after by photographers that a group of people have volunteered to protect them. People have actually tried to touch them and pull on their kimono which is absolutely unthinkable! Most geisha though, are able to handle themselves, luckily.

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