Hello friends! I arrived safe and sound in Japan last night, and managed to get on the right train to come to Kyoto. I’m very fortunate I already have experience flying into Kansai International Airport (KIX), so I managed to make it through immigration, customs, and baggage fairly easily.
I meant to try to write a few posts to get this blog started before I left Hawai’i about packing and getting my visa, but somehow the time just flew by. So I suppose my arrival in Japan will have to be the first post for this blog! I’d say that’s also fairly appropriate, wouldn’t you?
Three movies and suffering two very awkward seatmates later, I finally, finally, finally landed in Japan. After clearing immigration and customs, my first major task (other than trying to maneuver two giant pieces of luggage, a carry-on, and a backpack by myself) was to get on the Hauraka Express from KIX to Kyoto. I’m somewhat familiar with Japan’s automated ticket machines, so I thought I’d try to buy my ticket through one of those – but nope. Three clicks in and I was pretty sure I was about to buy a Haruka ticket, but also maybe I was only reserving a seat, and also maybe I was buying it for the completely wrong train – who knows what I was really doing. So I gave it up, let the two very patient Japanese gentlemen behind me use the machine, and went to the JR Ticket Station to speak to an actual human being.
After a short wait in line, the staff helped me buy a JR West 1-Day Rail Pass for only ¥2,300 that I could use to pay for my ride on the Haruka Express train!
The rail pass! You don’t put it through the automatic ticket gates. (In fact, I don’t even think you’re supposed to remove it from the sleeve.) You just show it to the staff to get through!
Documents provided to me by Doshisha had me expecting to pay ¥3,000 and to be on a Haruka train for 2 hours, but to get from KIX to Kyoto station was only 1 hour and 16 minutes! I should mention for those of you about to ride the Haruka for the first time – 15 minutes before the train arrives, start lining up on the platform where the Haruka car entrances will be. (That’s marked on the ground on the platform.) Also, make sure you’re lining up for the correct type of car (reserved vs. non-reserved). I totally forgot that lining up in front of cars was a thing, and when I finally remembered the lines were already very long! That made me late to get in the train, and I really struggled to find space to put my luggage. All the good luggage spots were taken – as were all the good seats! Another passenger kindly helped me shove my final piece of luggage onto the shelf just as the train began moving.
I’d never been to Kyoto station before, but once I arrived, it was easy enough to navigate. Since I was arriving in Kyoto at about 8pm, I wasn’t able to move into my dormitory as it was too late, so I had made accommodations to stay at a hostel called K’s House Hostel. It was only supposed to be a 10 minute or so walk from the station, but because I was dragging 70 pounds of luggage with me, I decided to take a taxi!
I’ve never ridden in a Japanese taxi before. With the help of Google Maps, being unable to read aloud the Japanese address of my hostel proved to be no issue. In five minutes, my taxi driver dropped me off right in front of K’s House Hostel! The only thing odd about my taxi ride was that I had to really fight the urge to open and close my own door. It seems that most Japanese taxis have automatic left side passenger doors – or if they don’t, the driver will open and close it for you. (My driver also helped me get my luggage in and out of the taxi trunk – thank you!)
The street in front of K’s House, where the taxi dropped me off. (Taken this morning!)
The entrance to K’s House. It is a really great hostel!
After I dropped off my luggage, I immediately went out again to meet up with my friend Delia, who I met in Japan while I was here last year for a different Japanese program. After very poor communication on my part, we found each other at Kyoto Station, and went to go get dinner. I was feeling pretty good up until the end of dinner, when I realized I had been awake for a solid 23 hours. We parted ways and I went to sleep, and so began today.
In a few hours, I’ll be moving into my dormitory, and will definitely update you all on what that’s like!