After a restless night's sleep, I finally got myself out of bed at 7am, took a much needed shower, took advantage of the complementary coffee and toast in the guest house, and made an exciting discovery: heated toilet seats. I think I've found my birthday present to myself!
I rearranged my things - trying to find the right spot for everything and redistributing items between my bags. When traveling, it's really helpful to properly divvy things up and place your most important items in logical spots. Knowing where everything is is really necessary so that you don't fumble through your shit when you're on-the-go and so that you know you haven't lost anything. I always try to keep my stuff easily accessible, but not easily pickpocketable.
The Japan Rail booking office at the Ikebukuro station didn't open for an hour after I arrived, so I grabbed a ブレンドコーヒー (blended coffee) and did some reading. I booked all my train travel in Japinglish and apologized for holding up the line. That Japanese granny behind me looked none too pleased. Unfortunately, I misunderstood the ticketing lady and thought my train left Ikebukuro at 11:03, and not from Tokyo. Thinking that I had plenty of time, I went for some food at another little place where you order on a machine. I was a little confused at how to operate it, but I made out 「すすめ」(recommendation), and ordered that. It turns out that I ordered my favorite Sichuan (Chinese) dish: mapo tofu. It came with a side of miso soup and salad. Nom.
I didn't realize my time mix up until I went to board the Yamanote line to Tokyo, but I was able to get the next train once I arrived with minimal wait time. I was able to tell the woman that I had missed my train and wanted to get on the next one to Kyoto, and ask where the train is - entirely in Japanese. AND I could understand her responses. :-D
The train was pleasant, as expected.
When I arrived in Kyoto, I followed the instructions on how to get to my hostel, as given in their email. This got me to the nearest subway station, but I only knew it was a "ten minute walk" from there. I stopped one woman for help, who spoke English very well, but had to stop another woman after a bit. This woman spoke nearly zero English, but helped me find my hostel. Literally, she walked around with me, asking people for help. The Japanese are SOOO nice. When we finally found it, she congratulated me and said it was a miracle. "Mirukaru desu ne!" Hai, mirukaru desu.
Checked in, I went down to the lobby to meet up with a friend from GW, Danny Wein, who was on his way back to Tokyo, but made a pitstop in Kyoto to see me. We had lunch and beer and chatted. It was quite nice, especially after speaking Japinglish for 24 hours.
Some Japanese sweet that Danny brought from the Tokyo station
Karaage (fried chicken)
Once he parted, I rested for a bit and then went to explore the city. I first went to Pontcho Street, a quaint little street with awesome alleyways, paper lanterns, and a serious old timey feel.
Next I went to Gion and Yasaka Shrine.
Then to Shinkyogoku and Teramachi shopping streets. Where I bought nothing but delicious ramen with miso dipping sauce.
Now I'm back in the hostel, relaxing and typing this up. I'm exhausted.