[Japan Report] Cruising ’round Kansai

Hey all, Lancen here.  I’ve been in Sapporo getting orientated for the exchange program, so I finally have some downtime to write up a post.  I’ll be summarizing my experiences in the Kansai area (Kyoto, Fushimi, an Osaka).

On June 21, Roy and I went to Fushimi Inari.  If you had a chance to read my blogs from January, I wrote about my first visit to the famous shrine.  However, unlike last time, I had enough time to hike all the way up to the top.  We arrived at the station after a good downpour, so the air was heavy and humid.  However, that didn’t stop us from making our way up to the top.

We got there a little before midday, so the place was crowded.

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This gentleman hand-carved numerous foxes out of wood as souvenirs to commemorate reaching the top.

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Amazake, Sweet Sake (non-alcoholic)
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This nice lady is the one who makes home-made Amazake for the hikers at Fushimi Inari. Her effort is found in the taste of her work. It was really good.

The street food at Fushimi Inari is really good too.

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On Friday, we took the time to go to Kyoto, where I revisited the Manga Museum.  Just like last time, pictures are not allowed, but I highly recommend visiting the place at least once.  You really learn about just how much manga has impacted the world.

After the Manga Museum, we met up with Dr. Jayson Chun again.  This time we were joined by his colleague, Professor Furmanovsky from Ryukoku University in Fushimi, and Chris, one of Dr. Chun’s former students.  We ate and talked about life and how Roy and I were feeling before the program.  All the while, the professors were discussing their presentation the next day.

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After eating dinner, we said goodbye to Professor Furmanovsky and decided that it would be a good experience for Roy and I to check out the Kansai Bar scene.  Dr. Chun and Chris took us to one of their favorite places, Bar Joker.  This place was a lot of fun.  Japanese bars are a great place to meet people and chill.  The drinks are there to soften the barriers, and there’s no pressure to try pick someone up.  You’re just there to talk.

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The bartender, Pauline, was a young, 18-year-old woman from France.  She came to Japan to study Japanese 8 months ago, but she’s already light years ahead of Roy and I.  Why come to learn Japanese?  Because she loves manga! I’m definitely gonna go back after the exchange program.

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Right-to-Left: The Master, Dr. Jayson Chun, Pauline-san, ME, Roy, and Miho-san

Oh, we also got asked to show off some of our art skills, and we drew the other  bartender.  Now our drawings are up on the wall, and we scored huge favor with the bar’s owner, simply known as the Master.  I highly recommend this place if you find yourself in Kyoto at night.

On our final day in Osaka, Roy and I went to the famous Kaiyukan Aquarium.  I’ll let the pictures do the talking for me.

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I don’t know how often I’ll be updating during the program, but please look forward to it.  There’s probably gonna be stuff I can only experience because I’m on the program.  Till next time!

Day 4: Making Manga and Memories

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Today’s adventure took our group to the famous Kyoto Manga Museum.  It was just a quick 5-minute walk from our hotel!  This museum houses the world’s largest collection of manga, dating all the way back to the ’60s, with some dating even further back.  Established in 2006, this museum was built in an old elementary school that had been closed down after the area around it slowly turned into a business district.

There, we got treated to a small lesson on how manga assistants work learning how to color in hair, draw motion lines, and add lines to evoke certain emotions from different panels.  As with the other museums, we were not allowed to take pictures of the museum in order to preserve the atmosphere and value of the museum.

I highly recommend that you try and take a trip here if you haven’t already.  There were so many more exhibits I wish I could have looked at longer, but we were on a tight schedule.

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After our visit to the Manga Museum, and lunch, our group packed up on the bus and began our two-and-a-half hour bus ride from Kyoto to Shiga prefecture.  Along the way, we took a brief rest stop at Shirahige Shrine, along the shore of Lake Biwa.  A short distance offshore, on of the shrines old gates stands in silent vigil as a testament to how large the shrine had once been.  The large red gate was a magnificent sight to behold, standing on top of the glassy surface of the lake.

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Proceeding from the shrine, we finally made it to our destination, a quiet little minshuku, or Japanese family-run inn.  Our group was divided among 3 different inns.  Our group went to the inn run by the Yoshinoya family.

I cannot begin to describe how great I feel in this place.  The atmosphere is just so relaxing and homey, all the way out here in the countryside.  We were treated to a very fulfilling meal of sukiyaki, followed by a calligraphy lesson from the family head.

After, our group of guys all broke the barriers big time as we shared the community bath.  It was most of our first time experiencing bathing with our peers, but we were all pretty cool about it as we talked about life, school, anime conventions, etc.

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Now we’re all relaxing as we continue soaking in the atmosphere.  The agenda for tomorrow is a trip into the nearby Kutsuki Forest, then preparing our presentations for when we return to Tokyo.  There, we’ll be presenting our findings, as well as our steps moving forward, to the Chief Secretary of the Cabinet Secretary.  What is our take on the “Beauty of Japan?”  What will we do to spread the knowledge of this beauty?  I’ll keep you posted.

By the way, it’s snowing here in Shiga, and I am absolutely ecstatic.  It’s my first time experiencing snowfall and actually getting to hold snow in my hand!  This trip has just been fantastic.

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