Japan 🇯🇵 - Day 39, 40, 41 & 42 - Kyoto

Japan 🇯🇵 - Day 39, 40, 41 & 42 - Kyoto

For my first day in Japan, I slept in, only getting up late morning. I was still tired from the exhausting sick days at the end of my stay in the Philippines.

When I was in the airport the night before, I picked up one of those prepaid SIM-cards so I could have mobile data on the go in Japan. It's usually not recommended to get them directly at the airport because they usually bump the price up so you end up paying way more than you could if you got it in some other kind of shop. Anyway, this time the prices didn't seem excessive, so I got it from the airport SIM-card vending machine.

It turns out that was still a mistake. I couldn't properly set it up to work with my phone, so that ended up a useless spend. I resorted to taking travel e-SIMs with Airalo. It wasn't the cheapest, but I didn't originally plan on taking several. I thought one or two would be enough for the whole trip, but I burnt through more data than I thought, so I topped it up a few more times.

We went out just after midday, took the bus to go into town.

Japanese people are overall shorter than the global average, and I'm widely considered a tall person, standing at 194cm (6'4"), so naturally, most Japanese infrastructure isn't well suited for me. My legs were way too long for the bus seats, so they had to stick out on the side to fit.

We stopped on the edge of town to go to Kiyomizu-dera Temple (清水寺). It was evidently a fairly popular tourist attraction in Kyoto judging by the number of people about, and how many pictures they (we) were all taking.

It was my first experience of Japanese crowds — the airport doesn't count, it's mostly foreigners, though to be fair here was too, but with the Japanese atmosphere and environment.

We walked past the many different shops, all selling either food or souvenirs like chopsticks and traditional Japanese robes. My friend and tour guide Kouta told me no one wears those anymore — he never wore one himself — only tourists do.

During our wandering around, we encountered an unusual-looking Starbucks.

Very traditional Japanese-looking Starbucks, far from the usual modern style

Once we were satisfied with the walk around Kiyomizu-dera, we walked towards the centre of Kyoto.

By the time we got there, it was getting just after 2pm, so we stopped at a ramen restaurant. It was a bit hidden away in back streets, but apparently very well known and recommended.

After a nice lunch, we continued walking around until we jumped back into the underground to get back to Yamashina, Kouta's district.

There, we sat down in a coffee shop so Kouta could join an online meeting. He said that's what he usually does instead of working at home, and so did a lot of other people by the looks of it.

Once he was finished with his call, Kouta showed me around to a clothes shop and headed back out.

I hadn't anticipated quite how cold Japan would get in winter. It was only about 5ºC then, and not much warmer during the day, and I only had a fleece and a jumper to keep me warm, so it really was more sensible to get a proper coat.

I found a nice winter coat in Uniqlo for a reasonable price, though I had to take the largest size available, and even then it was only just big enough.

For some reason, the shopping centre had a massive organ right in the middle of it. I've no idea if it was ever used or purely for decorative purposes.

I made my way back to Kouta's place for the night, but he wasn't back yet. His parents were home though, so we tried our best to have as fluent a conversation as we could, without knowing a word of the other's language — automatic translators are so very convenient!

They were so sweet and really trying to communicate despite the language barrier.

After a while, they said we could go to a sushi place and Kouta would meet us there. It was very close, barely a 5 minute drive.

I don't know if it's common to all Japanese people, but I noticed they tend to eat later than we do in France or the UK. It was already 10pm when we left for the sushi place, and it seemed quite normal to wait that late until going for dinner.

Soon after we got to the restaurant, Kouta said that wasn't feeling well so he wouldn't be joining us. The left me having dinner alone with his lovely parents!

They were probably entertained by how fascinated I was about everything in the restaurant: the food, the conveyor belt, the layout/seating, even the finding a table process. There wasn't a waiter at the entrance to point us to a free table, we just had to enter the number we were on a tablet and the system would tell us which table to go to.


It was the first time I went to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant.

The way it works is quite clever. First you order on the tablet associated with your table, then it warns you when your food is about to arrive so you can pick it up from the belt. You keep all the colour-coded plates to make a big pile on the side of the table, and you pay at the end.

When we got back home, Kouta's parents wanted to take pictures with me, apparently I'm ✨ good looking ✨.

The next day I met up with Kouta directly in the centre of Kyoto, in the area we walked around the day before.

I had lunch in town on my own before we met, so we went to a Mamesiba cafe. It's not a particularly common place to go to for Japanese people, but Kouta thought it would be nice to experience — and I thought it would be fun.

It wasn't at all like I expected. The only café aspect was the drinks vending machine at the back, otherwise it was just a room line with a sort of tatami mat where people could play around with the dogs.


Once our 30 mins were up, we continued walking around the city, exploring different areas, even some Kouta doesn't usually go to.

Sunset came along fairly quickly, so a lot of our wandering about was by night.

I got a real feel of the city of Kyoto with this walk about. We walked through the small streets, along the river, to a temple, a shrine, past the Museum of Art, and circled back to catch the underground to Yamashina.

Kouta's parents had prepared a nice Japanese dish for dinner. I don't remember the name, but it's probably a very Japanese-sounding name.

I even got my own sensei to show me how to eat it!

You first take the meat from the boiling dish in the middle, dip it in your bowl of chopstick-whisked egg, bring it over to your bowl of rice, and enjoy!


After dinner, Kouta's sister and her husband came around for the evening. They were also absolutely lovely. We chatted using as much english as they knew, played table tennis, and I even taught them a couple french words! The pronunciation was very hard for them, just as Japanese pronunciation is for me.

After a good night's sleep, we went on a late-afternoon/evening trip to Osaka to meet some of our friends, Momoka and Terumi.

We'd planned to meet up in Osaka to have dinner and spend the evening together. It was the most convenient place for all of us to meet.

The first thing we did in Osaka after meeting up with our friends was to go up the Umeda Sky Building to enjoy the view over the city.

Access up to the 39th floor is free, but you have to pay to get to the very top, up to the open-air deck. The free part already gave us plenty to see.

We then made way to the restaurant where we booked a table.

It worked pretty much the same way as the sushi place did. We had a table in a booth, with a tablet at the end. We could order from the menu on the tablet at any time, and someone would bring the food over a few moments later.

That's another incredible thing I noticed in restaurants in Japan. Service is always super fast. Sometimes your whole meal is ready within 2 minutes of ordering.

After the nice and varied dinner, our friends took us to a huge mall with plenty of shops on the lower floors, and some arcade and photo booths on the upper floors.

The arcades here aren't video games. It's more Gashapon—the very Japanese capsule-vending machines—and other claw machines.

The photo booths are even more Japanese. It's a whole floor where you — usually rather girls — can take "kawaii" (cute), heavily edited pictures, overlayed with a very obvious filter. The result looks unnatural as can be, but brings your face up to Japanese beauty standards, with big eyes and white skin.


Outside that mall, Momoka insisted I must try the "Mignon" mini croissant. The price was pretty reasonable, so I yielded and bought a couple different flavours to try out.

The croissant themselves were surprisingly good, but some of the fillings were a bit strange.

We continued walking around the city for a bit, and ended up back at the station to get home.

When we arrived back at Yamashina station, Kouta remembered I told him I'd never tried Starbucks before. Being a very loyal Starbucks customer, he absolutely wanted to get me to try it, even though it was already way past 10pm as it was already my last night in Kyoto.

Kouta's parents offered to take me out me ramen one last time before I left the next day. Kouta was already out to work, so it was just me and his parents.

We just went to the ramen place around the corner just a 2 minute walk from their home.

They also gifted me some very nice chopsticks! They're really the nicest hosts ever.

I said goodbye to Kouta outside the Starbucks at Yamashina station, from which he was working, and made my way to Nara.