18 Jun - 23 Jun 2013 Kyoto

East Asia
State of Japan aka Land of the Rising Sun
Nakanocyo 568, Bukkoji agaru, Termachi dori
Comfortable and clean dorm bed with large locker and curtains for JPY 1,800.- or US$ 17.80 per night. Shared bathroom with very clean Japanese high-tech toilets (proximity sensor and control panel with 12 different, very bewildering buttons, e.g. for sphincter-relaxation music, seat warming, anus/vulva washing, blow dryer and air deodorisation); free wifi everywhere; fully-equipped communal kitchen; large and cosy, Japanese-style lounge and all the amenities of a modern and well-run backpacker hostel.
Enthusiastic, knowledgeable and helpful international and Japanese and staff.
Beer: 500-ml cans of ice-cold but awful Japanese Kirin Beer (c. 5 % alc./vol., no flavour) for JPY 172.- or US$ 1.75 per big can from the nearby Fresco supermarket; the alternative: reasonably priced, full-bodied Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon (JPY 498.- or US$ 5.10 per bottle) from the same Fresco supermarket; kanpai!

Click below for an interactive road map of the Backpacker's Hostel Khaosan in Kyoto, which we would highly recommend, and for directions:


Matt: Drowning in the heavy downpours of the beginning southwest monsoon, which arrived at full throttle and much earlier than usual, and exploring the indoor attractions in my new neighbourhood, the covered (up-)markets on historical Teramachi Street between Shijō Street to somewhat above Sanjō Street, an arcade containing an assortment of shops and services, both traditional and modern, with a large number of temples and shrines thrown in for good measure.

Matt: Spying on the ingenious Japanese and gathering valuable intel about their high-tech ways of taking a leak (after all the sake) or having bowel movements (after all the rice) but still wondering which one of the two directional buttons a transgendered person would have to press whilst/after using one of those space-age washlets aka woshuretto.

Matt: Having a look at the atmospheric and well-frequented 656 CE Shinto Yasaka Shrine +81755616155, once called Gion Shrine, cleansing my mouth and my hands at the purification fountain, listening to the monks’ otherworldly chanting, batting around the surrounding park dotted with holy sites of all sizes and learning about the distinction between a shrine and a temple: two primary religions are practiced in Japan, Shinto (the religion of earthly matters) which is practiced at a shrine, and Buddhism (the religion of spiritual matters), which is practiced at a temple.

Matt: Prowling through the parks north-east of Gion at the foot of the Higashiyama mountains and checking on my heretical must-see list: (i) the 1234 CE Chion-in Temple, the headquarters of the Pure Land Sect aka Jōdo-shū founded by Hōnen (1133–1212 CE, obviously a trailblazer of modern brain-washing and ahead of his time since he proclaimed that sentient beings are reborn in Amida Buddha's Western Paradise by continually reciting the nembutsu, Amida Buddha's name), (ii) the 12th-century CE Shoren-in Temple, which is one of Kyoto’s monzeki temples, which are temples whose head priests were traditionally members of the imperial family and a symbol for the sleaze of secular and spiritual power, and (iii) the famous Heian Shrine, ranked by the Association of Shinto Shrines as a beppyou jinja, the top rank for shrines, and consequently being heavily commercialised and monetised (e.g. entrance to the gardens: JPY 600.- or US$ 6.10 per person).

Matt: Test-walking the Nightingale floor (as in Gilian Rubinstein’s Across the Nightingale Floor) aka uguisubari, a means of defence against ninja at Nijo castle +81758410096 (entrance: JPY 600.- per person), another one of Kyoto’s stunning UNESCO World Heritage Sites, listening to the floor boards' treacherously chirping sound when walked upon and studying the floor's design where the flooring nails rubbed against a jacket, causing chirping noises and assuring that none could sneak through the corridors undetected.

Matt: Applauding the young warriors who practise traditional Japanese martial arts at the Kyoto Budo Centre +81757511255 which thrives as a practice area for archery aka kyudo, karate, sword practice aka kenjutsu, kendo, naginata, aikido, judo, sumo, shorinji kempo and the Chinese tai chi chuan, and wondering about the question who their real role model might be: some famous samurai or perhaps Jackie Chan from Hong Kong?

Matt: Recuperating from my extensive walking tours through Kyoto City and visiting the out-of-this-world gourmet wonderlands in the basements of the nearby Takashimaya and Daimaru department stores which offer freely and generously samples of their international and Japanese delicacies: (i) from Norwegian smoked salmon to Japanese caviar, (ii) from German sauerkraut in Franconian white wine to Japanese radish pickled in sake lees aka  kasuzuke (the yeast mash that is left over after filtering sake), (iii) from heavy Austrian sachertorte cake to the finest and lightest Japanese pastries aka wagashi, (iv) from a diversity of Scotch single malts to multiply distilled Japanese shōchū, (v) from Sumatran civet-shit coffee to oh-so-subtly aromatic Japanese green teas and hundreds more – another tough day in Japan!

Matt: Picking up quite a few silly similarities between France and Japan, especially in their peoples' attitudes and values who both seem to have a nationalistic chip on their shoulders, a xenophobic inferiority complex which they try to over-compensate with the help of (i) a constrained make-up of their paraded cultures (…of ossified hierarchies), (ii) hyped-up cuisines (…based on animal cruelty) and (iii) dubious political traditions (…both were reborn after WWII and have been stagnating after the fall of the Berlin Wall).

Matt: Taking the comfortable city bus no. 5 straight to Kyoto Station (JPY 220.- or US$ 2.25 per person for the short ride) and thereafter the even more comfortable JR (“Japan Railway”) Nara Line from Kyoto to Nara City (c. 45 min, JPY 690.- or US$ 6.75 per person), the capital of Japan from 710 to 784 CE and a treasure house of ancient history and culture set in a beautiful natural environment with free roaming deer.

Click below for more blog posts about heads, loos and squatting
18 Mar - 18 Apr 2013 Bangkok
23 Aug - 28 Aug 2012 Pingyao
08 Feb - 06 Mar 2012 Bangkok

Click below for a summary of this year's travels

Facing Japan
© Konni & Matt

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From the 2013 Moral Travel Compass for Our Grand Children's Journey of Life:
It’s bad to keep a secret;
It’s good to listen.
Keep your bearings!