It’s only 24 hours since I left Melbourne? Are you kidding?!

Well hello folk out there! My brain doesn’t know what is quite going on right now, but let me try and befuddle it a little bit.

As I type this I am enjoying fast free wi-fi in my hostel in Kyoto. I have decided to take a well earned couple of hours break before World Cup action fires up in the hostel bar. With Japan playing first, then Australia, I will either be wired or crash severely.

So you are probably asking “what’s your problem Matt?!”. Hey! No problem! Quite the opposite. I am buggered from sheer joy. I left Melbourne about 6pm last night (Friday). It is now about 6pm Saturday Japan time (only an hour out). So what I am about to tell you is all in 24 hours. Let’s backtrack.

Uneventful flights to Sydney then on to Tokyo. Uneventful in the good way in that I had a quiet person next to me, I got some sleep through the night, and my backpack was waiting for me on the carousel in Tokyo at about 6am.

It was then a quick change of a rail voucher for a rail pass and I was on my way to Kyoto.  The train swap at Shinagawa was the start of the “firsts”. I bought my first can of coffee out of a vending machine…

Black Gold from a Vending Machine

Black Gold from a Vending Machine

and I hopped on my first Shinkansen…

Shinkansen at Shinagawa

Alas it was bit early for beer and bento on the way to Kyoto, so that will have to wait for another day. The bullet train was fast, but I probably expected lightening. But still a hell of a better experience than Metro.

The scenery alternated between cities and towns, to fields. When I saw my first old dude on a bike riding through some fields I had a little smile to myself. In fact I think I was smiling all the way. I was in Japan alright.

With minute-perfect timing, I rocked in to Kyoto about lunch time… and proceeded to get lost for the first time. Well, not too lost but I knew I went out the wrong exit of the train station. What a crazy ass train station. But I’ll get back to that.

So on the right track it was off to the hostel, a quick 10 minute jaunt. As expected the welcome was warm (like the humid hot weather) and I dropped my gear off. Now, I COULD have taken a break. But, meh. Why? I may as well crash bad later. So a change of clothes and freshen up and I was off to get my bearings.

Close by was Shose-ien Gardens. What strikes me about Kyoto is how odd it is that gardens and temples just pop up in the middle of the city. I know it is a bit different on the outskirts, but it was nice to feel like I was in a city (quite foreign) but then have some buildings centuries old.

Anyway, the gardens were a nice was to relax and start to really soak it all in. Holy crap, I’m in Kyoto! Along with nice bridges etc…

Bridge in Shose-ien

… were signs that made me laugh.

Mind the Bees

Close by was my first temple, Higashi Honganji. As luck would have it some kind of buddhist ceremony was happening, so shoes off and on to the tatami for me for a breather and get in touch with any spiritual side that may be lurking in there (not sure there’s much there… maybe I’ll be converted). It was quite gorgeous to unwind to the smell of incense and sound of buddhists actually.

Higashi Honganji

From there it was another temple, this one a bit older, Nishi Honganji. After washing my hands from the mouth of the dragon, it was time to wander in. No ceremonies this time. In fact I was the only one in the main temple. Eerie and awesome.

Nishi Honganji dragon

By this time I realised I was starving. I had just been snacking the whole day. What to have! I decided to wander back to the train station to scope out the restaurants in the myriad shopping centers. Holy moly. Yes, I got lost again. Ironically I got lost in one called “The Cube”. Maybe that is where the inspiration for the puzzles in the movie Cube came from.

Anyway, after my usual indecisiveness I went with some okonomyaki. I need to take notes how they will vary as I travel. This one was quite fishy. Good though. I got some yakatori to go with it. Yum. Sorry, no photos.

It was time to wander back to the hostel to get some rest before world cup started, well, that kind of gets us right to this second. In between though I started my hunt… for Kit Kats. So far… empty handed 🙁

A few different convenience stores have proven fruitless. That’s OK. It’s just day one. I treated myself to some kind of ice cream though. Not sure what I ate, but it was that weird stale waver stuff around a fish shaped ice cream. Maybe green tea and red bean? I know it was definitely red bean in there.

Fishy Ice Cream

So there we go. Man, this has waffled on. But all this in 24 hours. In fact my first 12 hours in Japan. I loved today. People are awesome, the city looks great. And it only gets better and crazier.

I expect the entries might get a bit briefer from here. We’ll see what happens. Tomorrow I think is a big walk near the forest to check out some temples there and meet some deer. Nara, Himeji, bamboo forests and monkey parks to come. Oh, but it is World Cup tonight. Go Japan and go Aussie.

Sayonara (and well done if you actually made it this far… heaven knows I would have stopped reading ages ago).


  1. Bolden
    June 19, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Good work cracker…. keep up the updates…. and go the Blue Samurai and the Socceroos! 😉

  2. Michael M
    June 19, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Hi Matt,

    Good to see you made it to the land of the rising sun safely.

    Maybe those temples will calm you down a bit. 😉

    Did you here that Germany got done 1-0?

    Just about to watch Japan play.

    Have fun.


  3. batmanisnotgay
    June 20, 2010 at 12:57 am

    hey matt love the stories so far …damien still laughing at your “fish” ice cream ..glad you are safe & enjoying every minute. – Yakka

  4. CC
    June 20, 2010 at 1:14 am

    You didn’t mention AstroBoy greeting you as you walk out of Kyoto station! Glad to hear you got there safe and sound, Dr Butt.

  5. Lindsay
    June 20, 2010 at 11:11 am

    A fantastic days meander, and you’ve only just begun – I can see you’re going to need a rest when you get back 🙂 Love the look of the Shinkansen and as for the coffee in a can … intriguing (was it hot/warm or cold)

  6. June 20, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    Sounds like a fantastic first day. Ayako and I wish we were there. Kyoto station is quite large. I spent a few hours there waiting for my father to take some photo’s of the station. Kit-Kats are hard to find but they will pop up in out of the way places. Try “yatsuhashi” which is a well known food in Kyoto (a sweet). Hope your second day is as enjoyable as the first.

  7. muttler
    June 20, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Thanks for the replied folks! Am just about to start episode 2. To answer some questions…

    – CC… I found both Astro Boy and Kimba later in the day when I found the proper entrance/exit of the station 🙂

    – Paul… thanks! Pity neither world cup game went according to plan. Oh, and I ate a Blue Samurai ice cream yesterday too!

    – Anna and Damien… the fish was good! I like going in to quicky marts and finding the strangest thing I can.

    – Michael… I am thinking I should become buddhist

    – Glen and Ayako… the station is quite something. With the crazy roof in the main hall no wonder your dad was wanting to take photos!

    – Lindsay… the coffee was cold. And yes, I will be after a rest on my first day back in the office 🙂

  8. szotdogs
    June 21, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    These pictures are all being taken with the mighty pancake I hope?

  9. Maz
    June 29, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Glad to see you’ve immersed yourself in culture and Kit Kats! Waiting to hear your responses to the manga madness in Tokyo!


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