The Slightly Longer Way Series - Table of Contents
|Day 0 – Friday, May 05 2023 to Sunday, May 07 2023||Flight from Edmonton to Tokyo||-|
|Day 1 – Monday, May 08 2023||Train from Tokyo to Kyoto||-|
|Day 2 – Tuesday, May 09 2023||RSJP Orientation Day||W1D1|
|Day 3 – Wednesday, May 10 2023||Placement test, Kinkakuji/Golden Pavilion||W1D2|
|Day 4 – Thursday, May 11 2023||Kyo-Yuzen Dyeing Workshop||W1D3|
|Day 5 – Friday, May 12 2023||Mori Touki-ken Pottery Workshop||W1D4|
|Day 6 – Saturday, May 13 2023||Ichihime Shrine, Nishiki Market||-|
|Day 7 – Sunday, May 14 2023||Nara, Todaiji Temple||-|
|Day 8 – Monday, May 15 2023||Urasenke||W2D1|
|Day 9 – Tuesday, May 16 2023||Nijojo Castle||W2D2|
|Day 10 – Wednesday, May 17 2023||Tojiin Temple||W2D3|
|Day 11 – Thursday, May 18 2023||Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto Sanjo Shopping Street, Tsubomi||W2D4|
|Day 12 – Friday, May 19 2023||Kyoto Station||W2D5|
|Day 13 – Saturday, May 20 2023||Kamogawa River, Shimogoryo Shrine Kankosai||-|
|Day 14 – Sunday, May 21 2023||Shimogoryo Shrine Kankosai||-|
|Day 15 – Monday, May 22 2023||Kimono-Pro||W3D1|
|Day 16 – Tuesday, May 23 2023||Ritsumeikan Library, Hama Sushi||W3D2|
|Day 17 – Wednesday, May 24 2023||Domoto Insho House, Kamogawa, Ichijoji||W3D3|
|Day 18 – Thursday, May 25 2023||Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Hama Sushi (with Kel)||W3D4|
|Day 19 – Friday, May 26 2023||Super Karaoke||W3D5|
|Day 20 – Saturday, May 27 2023||Nothing special|
|Day 21 – Sunday, May 28 2023||Demachi Masugata Shopping Street, a long walk home|
|Day 22 – Monday, May 29 2023||Nothing special||W4D1|
Friday, May 05 2023 to Sunday, May 07 2023 (Day 0)
Pre-trip Notes and Stuff (Written May 05)
The title for this blog series comes from this scene from the fourth episode of an anime called My Clueless First Friend, which is currently airing:
In the episode, the two main kids took the slightly longer way home from wherever they were in order to enjoy each other’s company a little bit more, and as a result of that they saw lots of fireflies along the way as well. I thought it was a sweet gesture, but I liked that line (or translation of said line) in particular because it evokes a lot of connections for me — it speaks about being mindful of the beauties of life, it speaks about enjoying life and not being in a hurry, it speaks about the importance of not following the same routine day after day, and it hints of the hidden treasures and magical scenes that one might find just by deviating a little bit from one’s usual routine. More importantly, it doesn’t outright say any of this, but leaves it to the readers’ and/or watchers’ imagination, and it’s a little bit artsy or pretentious to boot, which is just the way I like my blog titles.
For me, this title is apt for this particular trip because it represents something I never had to do for my main goal in the first place, my study abroad program in Sophia University in Tokyo during this upcoming Fall/Winter. It was always something I had eyed as an additional thing on top of my main desired study abroad experience, as something that would enhance my main trip, give me more Japanese language and culture experience, and allow me to study abroad in two Japanese universities instead of one, but ultimately it was me being greedy and doing a side quest on top of my main goal.
And I think it’s fine to be greedy like this! It did make my last couple months a little more difficult, having to apply for two different programs at once, and I’m not going to enjoy the long plane trip there in May, back in June, and then there again in late August or early September, but I do want to do this, and I think my life will be enriched even further by this experience. It definitely makes my path through life and my journey toward Sophia in particular just a little bit longer though. About two plane trips longer, to be precise.
It also represents the extra time it’s taken for me to get to this point, where I’m ready to leave my job and go abroad. Thanks to COVID, my study abroad was delayed 2 years and 3 times, but I got plenty of nice experiences and more money out of it so in the end I think it was still quite worth it, even though I would have preferred to go abroad while I was still a little younger. This will also be my third major trip out of Canada in the past 12 months, and my fourth in 18 months, so it’s not like I’ve been idling either.
Furthermore, it’s a play on words in that a Way of something, or something-do, is used a lot in Japan to describe a lifelong lifestyle and dedication to something, like kendo, judo, bushido, chado, kyudo, and so on. So in a vague sort of sense, the Slightly Longer Way is a dedication to wandering and writing and being mindful about things.
Anyway, this trip also acts as a dry run for not only me leaving work, as mentioned in My Diary #096, but also for what I want to do and what I can do while in Tokyo later this year, regarding my blog. The best case scenario for me is to be able to maintain a daily post while I am abroad, but I honestly have no idea if I will be able to do this on top of whatever school activities or homework I might have on top of any logistical or technical issues while there. I might have to end up adjusting to a post every week, or a post every 2-3 days instead, and one of the goals of this trip will be to see what I can do in this regard, especially since the format of this trip will be a lot more similar to what I will experience in the Fall, than the Japan trip I did last Oct/Nov, when I was constantly travelling around from city to city and lodging to lodging, and working remotely on top of that.
Still, I will likely have to curtail what I type on a daily basis in order to still have time for everything else that I need to do. I would like to have a daily post schedule still, because that will enable me to capture, record, and later on recall the largest number of my memories before they’re eroded by the waves of time, but we will see if I can keep to that schedule.
The preparation for this trip was a lot less stressful than the last Japan trip. I still have a bag of Japanese yen from the end of my last trip, 17,526 yen or so that I never did convert back to CAD, so I did not convert any money here prior to going. I’ll just do a withdrawal or two at some point from a 7-11 ATM once I am there. I didn’t have to do much research in terms of travel locations or housing, which took up a fair amount of time last time. Nor did I have to stress about how to pick up my SIM card or JR Pass this time, as I already know how to purchase the former and am skipping on the latter this time around. I ordered another 45-day Sakura Mobile SIM card and had it ready for pickup from Narita International Airport. I also know how to use Hyperdia to plan my journey using more or less the best routes around. My shoes are also broken in rather well now, so no more tortured feet from tight shoes for the first two weeks of my trip this time around.
I did stress a little bit over the train trip from Tokyo to Kyoto on Monday, May 08, as it was right at/after the end of Golden Week in Japan, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get a ticket or not, but as mentioned a couple of weeks ago, one of the other students going from UAlberta to the RSJP gave us a tip on a website online where I could purchase a ticket, so I did so there. My biggest stressor right now is just how to get to and from my residence to Ritsumeikan itself, but I will figure that out as well once I am there. And then it’s the school activities itself after that, as it should be.
My itinerary for the first couple days looks like this:
Edmonton to Vancouver
🛫 Sat, May 06 2023, 7:30 am MST
🛬 Sat, May 06 2023, 8:07 am PST
Duration: 1h 37m
== Layover 4h 43m ==
Vancouver to Tokyo
🛫 Sat, May 06 2023, 12:50 pm PST
🛬 Sun, May 07 2023, 2:55 pm JST
Duration: 10h 5m
Sun May 07 to Mon May 08 housing: APA Hotel Akihabara Ekihigashi (5,994 yen)
Mon May 08 travel: Nozomi 229 (Tokyo to Kyoto, 1:00-3:15 pm) (13,770 yen)
Mon May 08 to Sat Jun 10 housing: Floral Green Maple House (221,130 yen for 33 nights)
A lot of my postcards last trip came from an airport store called Hudson News, and according to what I can see on Google, this store opens at 6:00 am, so I should be able to buy some postcards here again this time before boarding at 6:55 am. I am only bringing two postcards this time from outside the airport, so if I don’t actually manage to get some postcards here from this or another store before boarding the plane, then I won’t be doing the postcards thing that I did last trip. The two cards that I did have prior to arriving at the airport are scanned below anyway:
I didn’t buy any extra gifts for people this time. I did reach out to Ran to see if she wanted to meet up a few days before the trip, but she didn’t answer for a couple days because it turns out she was in vacation in Shizuoka Prefecture, and then when she finally did reply she said she was now residing in Tokyo for work purposes instead of in Osaka. We might still meet at the end of my trip, or later on in August/September at the start of my Sophia adventure, though she said that she was possibly moving back west to Osaka, or perhaps to Nagoya, around July as well. Outside of Ran, I might reach out to and visit either Akira or Hisako while I am in Kyoto, to say hi, but I’m not certain if I will yet. After all, is it really following a different path if I just visit all the same people and places from last time?
Despite being in one location for most of this trip this time, I’m still not bringing any checked luggage — I have a laundry machine in my suite, which the hotel rooms (local) wouldn’t have had (they have a communal shared one though), so about five days of outdoor tops, my usual skirt, and two days of indoor clothes as pyjamas should be perfectly fine for me. I actually have to bring along a dictionary and my last textbook as well — this was part of the instructions in the Pre-Arrival Guide that we received, and this will take up some extra space over a regular trip. There will at least be one kimono/yukata to bring back as well, plus whatever study material the University gives us as part of the course, so some of the free space in my bags is pretty much already spoken for, but I’ll definitely find space, time, and cash for some CDs and plushies and pretty notebooks and other loot too.
I have absolutely no idea where my Suica card, the transit card that I brought home with me, is. I know a couple places where it should be, but it’s not in any of those places, so I guess I’ll chalk it up to the gremlins that make things disappear around the house now and then. Oh well. I’ve also imported a bunch of vocab words from my other journal that I brought to Japan back in Oct/Nov last year, into a new one that I’m bringing with me this time. Maybe I’ll have more time to develop a proper vocabulary list this time around.
Edmonton (Saturday, May 06 2023)
There’s apparently an AuroraWatch red alert this morning. That’s an auspicious sign, even though all I could see when I wandered outside at 12:15 am was a tiny smidge of it.
My first plane ride this time starts an hour later than my last trip to Japan, so instead of catching the 4:10 am bus (local) from Century Park to the Edmonton International Airport, I could afford to catch the 5:00 am one instead, which would get me to the airport at 5:22 am. This should still be plenty of time for me to check in and get to my gate. Edmonton International Airport isn’t a major airport and won’t be busy this early in the morning.
Even if it is, Kel alerted me that EIA now has a YEG Express (local) service, where YEG is Edmonton’s airport code. It’s a thing where you can pre-book your security screening spot, and you can book it up till 75 minutes or so in advance of the plane’s scheduled departure time. It’s free and I don’t have anything to lose by doing it, so I booked mine for 5:45 am, which is a little before the cutoff of 6:15 am for the 75 minute window before my flight, and a little after my bus is scheduled to arrive at 5:22 am. There was to be a window of 15 minutes on either side of my scheduled appointment for me to reach the security gates, and I figured that that should be just fine.
I left my apartment at 4:31 am, at which point the sky was already ever so slightly blue from the first pre-dawn signs of the sun threatening to burst forth across the sky. I booked an Uber ride to the nearby Century Park bus station, and was there by 4:45 am. The airport bus came right on time, at 4:56 am, and this ride was free for me for once because it’s covered by our University’s current iteration of the U-Pass, the student “free” transit pass. So that was a nice bonus. We arrived at the airport early, to the point that even by the time I went to print out and collect my boarding pass, I still had a few minutes before the start of my appointment window. There was a Hudson News store outside in the pre-departure lounge area though, so I went in and bought a whole bunch of postcards for 99 cents each. 10 of them in all, so now I have 12 Edmonton postcards on me, ready to foist upon people that I might meet on this trip. I don’t expect to use them all this time, but I can just carry forward any leftover postcards to my Sophia trip this September anyway.
I then checked in — the YEG Express thing was fine, I got shuffled into a slightly more express line at the security check counter, but the regular line only had 5 people waiting in it (plus about 25 people going through the baggage check and security scan part in the regular lanes) anyway, so it wasn’t a huge time saver. I actually still arrived two minutes early for my appointment, at 5:28 am instead of the 5:30 to 6:00 am window, but I was waved in anyway.
Doing an inventory of my stuff, I realized that I had forgotten two last-minute things. One was my USB computer mouse, which would have been nice to have for my laptop because I don’t particularly fancy trackpads. The other was that I had put out a half a mineral bottle of blessed water from Kuanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, that my parents had given me something like 10 years ago and that I had still not finished up yet. I was planning to drink some on this trip, but I left the bottle on the kitchen counter absent-mindedly. Oh well. I’ll be visiting several of her temples on this trip for sure anyway, since she’s also everywhere in Japan.
Later on in Vancouver, I used my phone scanning app (vFlat) to “scan” the postcards, and I’m uploading those here as well. They’re all glossy so I think those bands of light on the left and right side of the pictures are unavoidable given the current tools.
It’s likely not all of them will make it home to be scanned by my actual scanners, so this was the next best thing. City skyline and map postcards definitely were most desired by the people I offered cards
Edmonton to Vancouver plane ride (AC 235)
There’s not a ton to say about this flight, I’ve taken a variation of this flight many times already and know exactly what to expect from it. Although, unlike the AC 233 plane that I took the last time, this plane felt a lot narrower and squished together. Thankfully I had planned it so that there was no one in the seat next to me either, so I used the underside of that seat to stuff one of my bags under so I had more room.
Like last time, and every other time that I’ve taken a trip, in-flight accommodations here included a Biscoff caramelized biscuit and a half a cup of whatever drink of my choice I wanted. I actually managed to fall asleep on this flight though, and so missed out on the biscuit altogether, which I did not mind in the slightest. My drink was tomato juice of course, as always.
I did see this though, which annoyed me a whole bunch:
Air Canada is such a lousy, penny-pinching airline.
The airplane itself was also really cold, and they didn’t provide blankets because it was just a short-haul 1.5 hour flight and Air Canada are cheapskates. I only had a short-sleeved blouse on and no jacket, so it wasn’t a very comfortable hour and change on board that plane. Once we disembarked I noticed that my left hand and wrist had white lines on the skin from a lack of moisture and the cold, and I went to soak my hands in a sink until they felt better. The plane’s wheels took off from the runway at 7:39 am MST and landed at 7:49 am PST, so we actually landed a bit ahead of schedule, but we then taxied around a bit and sat around at the gate a bit more before we were let off the plane, and by that time it was pretty much the original 8:07 am arrival time.
Vancouver (May 06 2023)
Ah, Vancouver. After checking for my next gate and visiting the washrooms, I made a beeline for the Skyteam VIP Lounge over at the International Departures terminal, not too far from my actual gate. I had already done the setup with the Visa Airport Companion app the last time I was here, and I was also forewarned from experience this time not to bother wasting money on the food in the public food court area, since I knew there was free food up in the lounge.
And I definitely took advantage of said free food. I was going to be here for nearly 4 hours, after all. First up, from the kitchen, I had the Ham and Cheese Sandwich in White Bread, and Shumai.
Then, I had some of their western providings — Scrambled Eggs, Pork Sausage Patty, Potato Tots, and Tomato Bisque Soup. This was superb.
Then I had some Tricolor Fusilli Salad, Coleslaw Salad, and Salsa Sauce:
An hour and a half after I arrived, they switched out the breakfast menu for a lunch one, so of course I went back for some White Rice, Fried Noodles (Vegetarian), Cajun Chicken, and Thai Curry.
They also had lots of free drinks, including some weak alcohol, but I went for a second bowl of that earlier soup instead.
My view from the lounge while I ate and worked on my blog entry looked like this:
Vancouver to Tokyo plane ride (AC 003)
When I got to my seat, someone else was in it! I had picked an aisle seat near the back of the plane that still had a center seat next to it that was unoccupied earlier in the day, hoping that it wouldn’t fill up, but it did — the plane was literally packed full without a single extra seat that I saw. Anyway there was a Middle Eastern or Indian couple occupying my seat as well as that middle seat next to mine, apparently hoping that I wouldn’t turn up or something, so I showed them my ticket so that one of them would vacate my seat. While I felt a little bad for them, they had two terrible middle seats half the plane apart (they had 63F, next to my 63G aisle seat, and 34F, on a plane where most B, E, F, and I seats were middle-of-row seats), and I wasn’t going to be that charitable with an 11 hour flight in front of me.
The plane was scheduled to fly off at 12:50 pm, but even though they started boarding a full hour early (I got a text telling mw to drag my languid self out of the lounge and go to boarding at 11:51, though I didn’t actually see it until 12:10), they only had one desk handling boarding for some reason and it was well past 12:40 pm before I even got into the plane. We didn’t end up particularly late though, the plane wheels lifted off the runway at 1:07 pm Vancouver time, and landed down at 2:27 pm Japan time. We again coasted around on the runway for several minutes, then sat at a gate for a while (without WiFi, as Narita Airport’s WiFi coverage is poor and never reaches the planes on the runway) before the doors finally opened at 2:43 pm, and we ultimately still got out of the plane right on schedule, as my timestamp on when I reconnected to WiFi once I was on solid land again was 2:59 pm.
Canada’s budget airline, Air Canada, did a pretty terrible job with stewarding the plane as always, as one of my pet peeves with Air Canada and the singular reason I always go for aisle seats over window seats these days is that they love to serve up a meal, and then take over 30 minutes, sometimes over 45 minutes, before sending one of the stewardesses reluctantly along to collect all the trash so we can put our seat trays up again. I absolutely hate feeling “trapped” by the seat trays for such an abnormally long length of time. I’ve experienced this both in Economy as well as Premium Economy, so it’s not a seat tier thing either. Comparatively, I like taking the Japan Airlines planes from Vancouver to Tokyo because they clear trays really quickly after meals in my limited experience with them.
That being said, this time Air Canada was really low with the cleanup of the first meal tray, but really punctual with the second one, and this was funny because it was due to a different reason — for whatever reason they had held off on our second meal until less than 90 minutes before landing time, so they had to rush to give it out and then rush to pick it all up again. Did they forget about the second meal? Got caught off guard by the flight time somehow?
Anyway, here are pictures of our airplane meals in chronological order. The first meal, basically “dinner”, about 2 hours after takeoff, was Rice with Chicken. (The other option, that I didn’t take, was Seasoned Beef.)
The second “meal”, a snack about halfway through, as a chicken sandwich with a Biscoff cookie. I wonder why Air Canada likes those cookies so much. There’s no escaping it.
The last was “lunch”, and mine was Pork with Noodles, with the untaken alternative meal being some sort of omelette.
The Air Canada attendants on this AC 003 flight were also very stingy — there were no freebies like toiletry pouches or anything like I remember from past AC flights, and they also said during the pre-flight announcements that they were going to give out complimentary headphones or earphones but they must have forgotten to do this or somehow did it while I was dozed off. No one around me that I saw seemed to have one either though. Budget airlines, I tell you.
I actually got off two naps of about 45 minutes to an hour each during the plane ride somehow, and also played a bunch of Persona 5 Royal on the Steam Deck, though it was uncomfortable because the guy next to me (after his girlfriend had banished herself to seat 34F) was wearing a puffy coat and also took up the shared armrest between us for most of the trip. I did feel a bit bad for him over and above the middle seat thing because I was also hemming him in with a bunch of bags that I like to slide beneath my feet and the chair in front of me instead of in an overhead cabin though, and I also claimed the shared power socket between our seats for my Steam Deck charger, so I didn’t begrudge him the handrest. I just had to contort myself into weird angles to actually have enough elbow room when playing the Steam Deck. By the end of the trip we had had some minor positive and friendly interactions with each other, so that was good.
Just before the plane landed, I requested a paper copy of two forms that we had to fill out, the Disembarkment Form and Customs Declaration, after seeing Mr. 63F filling them out too. There were apparently online versions of those too, but I didn’t care for them. There was some off and on moderate turbulence in the half an hour or so before we landed, though, so it did make filling the forms in a bit of an adventure.
Tokyo (May 07 2023)
Once I arrived at Tokyo and trudged through a long series of passages to reach Immigration and Customs, I learnt a very weird thing — Immigration refused to accept my Disembarkment Form because I had used a pencil for it, and asked me to fill a fresh copy in using a pen, but Customs had no such qualms and just took my form regardless. Whatever. I got through that, then beelined over to the Sakura Mobile counter to pick up my SIM card, except no such counter existed in Terminal 1. Looking closer at the email, it looked like I was told to pick it up from the JAL ABC counter, which was a postal service that people were using to do mail stuff and also to leave their bags for shipping to elsewhere in Japan, a popular thing to do (local) here. That counter was next to another counter doing the exact same thing (local), which I found amusing.
Anyway, I picked up my 45-day SIM card without incident, except that I found out that they didn’t actually have a 45 day SIM card and had given me a 30 and a 15 instead. Weird. I installed and activated the 30-day one without incident, though. I then also picked up a Pasmo transit fare card this time, to match the Suica card that should be somewhere at home but I never did find. Now I have one card from both of the major transit card providers.
The last time I went from Haneda to Tokyo proper, I had taken the Keisei Skyliner train, which was an express train. On the way back, I had taken the Narita Express, which was around the same thing. This time though, in honour of the blog being titled The Slightly Longer Way, and also being a massive cheapskate since I didn’t have a JR Pass this time around, I opted for a slower Keisei train route instead. The fast Keisei Skyliner would have cost 2,570 yen to take, but would have taken me slightly over an hour to get to my desired station, which was Akihabara Station via a transfer at Nippori Station. Instead, I ended up on the Keisei Rapid Express train, which took a different route and stopped at a lot more stops along the way, and took about 90 minutes instead. This got me to Asakusabashi Station for only 1,107 yen though, and I got to Akihabara Station from there for about the same price (or possibly slightly cheaper) as from Nippori Station.
Although the train wasn’t very packed when it left the station for Terminal 1, the International flights terminal, it immediately got filled up with a bunch of locals arriving home when it stopped by the Terminal 2/3 station for domestic flights. So that was neat, though I would probably have been singing a different tune if I didn’t already have a seat. It was also raining, but the extra time I spent in the train let the rain fade away to a gentle whispering drizzle by the time I alighted from the train. And overall, it was good to be back in familiar Tokyo.
The hotel wasn’t very far from the station, so I stumbled over in that direction and checked myself in at a fancy LCD panel. The room, while tiny, is very cosy, and I have pictures of that in a separate section below. I charged all my batteries, pounded out most of the rest of this blog, and then went out to get dinner. While there is an adage that the first meal one has in a country is generally a terrible one due to tiredness and just needing something before falling asleep, I drew from past experience and already knew what my first meal was going to be — I looked up nearby supermarkets and minimarts and planned to raid one for a couple of bento box/side dishes that were on sale.
The weather was still drizzling a bit as I left the hotel, although it had stopped totally by the time I was heading back home 30 minutes or so later.
I was on the other side of Akihabara Station from most of the glitzy anime-related shops that Akihabara is known for — that’s west and north of the station, whereas I was a couple blocks east. There were a number of supermarkets nearby, and I visited a couple. The second one was called Life and it blew me away with how much stuff it had on sale there. And no tourists at all. They’re totally missing out even though it’s only a couple of blocks walk from the station to the supermarket.
I bought 742 yen worth of stuff — three bowls for the night’s dinner that cost a mere 630 yen, and the fourth a bunch of bread for the next day’s breakfast. Around 9pm was when the stickers started to get upgraded from 30% off stickers to 50% off ones.
I microwaved the three dinner bowls in the microwave at the ground floor level of the hotel on my way back to my room. The croquettes were to die for as always! Japanese croquettes are so good. As usual, the dish only came with chopsticks and not a spoon, but I was prepared this time and brandished the Curry Spoon that I had bought on my last trip to Japan. It has since become my main spoon, and on a whim I brought it along on this trip as well.
Before I left the supermarket, I also saw a bunch of drawings that I guess people or kids in the community had drawn and posted near the foot of the escalators leading up to and down from the supermarket, in an early celebration of Mother’s Day. I took a picture of all the drawings to chronicle and preserve them:
They’re cute, aren’t they?
APA Hotel Akihabara Ekihigashi
Finally, here are some pictures of the hotel. I was only here for one night, so I booked the cheapest decent non-dorm place that I could find a couple of days before my vacation actually started, which coincided with these APA hotels having a last-minute-deal sale to try to fill up their vacancies. I thus got this room for a night for a smidge under 6,000 yen.
The room was very cozy and great for a one-night stay — minus things like not having a kitchenette or laundry, which aren’t really hotel things anyway, I have nearly nothing to complain about with this hotel, it was very much worth its cost. And I had forgotten how great a warm toilet bowl bidet was. I love the way the bed is snug up against both the bed and the wall and the head panel, it felt like it was tailor-made for the room.
I was given room 911, a very easy room number to remember.