Category Archives: Biking

kelseydo nagashi somen & thrift shopping

Days like today I stop and think…wow, I am living in Kyoto! I am so lucky! Sometimes I forget. Actually often I forget. Trying to adapt to everyday life in a different country makes you forget how truly wild it is that you are there! But of course there are those moments of clarity. Today was one of those moments!

I started the day with a fun event organized by a tutor association (TISA) at Ritsumeikan. There were about 30 International students and 20 Japanese students participating in the event so I got to speak in English and Japanese which was great. We played a lot of ice-breaking/group-making games and then we enjoyed the main event: eating Nagashi Somen!

Nagashi Somen is an eating style where people catch and eat somen noodles with chopsticks as they run down a bamboo pipe in a stream of water.

Nagashi Somen Line Up!

Nagashi Somen Line Up!

Hard at work, pouring water and adding somen

Hard at work: pouring water and adding Somen

Catching noodles!

Catching noodles!

Good times

After the event, my friend Alex and I went on a mission for coffee. We had a particular cafe in mind: Cafe Kamogawa.

On the road

Alex on the road

Alex found this little gem on a website called Eat Drink Kyoto, that listed Cafe Kamogawa as THE BEST COFFEE in Kyoto so naturally we had to go all the way across town to try it.

Alex enjoying her coffee at Cafe Kamogawa

Alex enjoying her coffee at Cafe Kamogawa

My Iced Cafe Mocha came with a scoop of ice cream: DELIGHT

My Iced Cafe Mocha came with a scoop of ice cream: DELIGHT

Alex hamming it up

Alex hamming it up

Needless to say, the coffee was divine and the dessert was even better. Alex had a slice of lemon cheesecake and I had a piece of soufflé roll cake. I didn’t really need the dessert after I saw that my Iced Cafe Mocha came with a scoop of ice cream- amazing!

Outside of Cafe Kamogawa

Outside of Cafe Kamogawa

There are so many little unique cafes in Kyoto and this experience made me want to try them all! It was a fantastic way to spend the afternoon. Alex is a riot, she is always cracking me up with her funny sayings and ridiculous faces. I might have to pack her up and bring her back to Canada with me in my suitcase!

We stopped at a small recycle shop (thrift store/second hand store) that was loaded with incredibly quirky and unique items.

A highly stylized miniature bow & arrow set

A highly stylized miniature bow & arrow set

I managed to spy a few goodies and took home some loot:

A cool top $4.80

A cool top $4.80

Back side

Back side

A red coin purse with a small pocket inside for loose change $5

A red coin purse with a small pocket inside for loose change $5

Afterwards we rode our bikes home through Myoshinji, a beautiful zen buddhist temple complex near our dorm. It was “magic hour” (as Nick likes to call it) when the sun is setting and the lighting is nice and warm but not too bright.

Shameless bike riding selfie

Shameless bike riding selfie

Alex leading the way

Alex leading the way

I always wish my weekends were just one day longer! Especially the last few weekends because I have had class/work on Saturdays.

I only have 49 days left in Kyoto, guess I had better make the most of it!

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kelseydo a night out in kyoto on the cheap

Things in Japan can be really cheap but they can also be really expensive. There’s something for everyone’s budget I guess. Being a student means I have to put a lot more thought into where I spend money, especially when I have literally no budget for going out.

Of course it always costs less to stay in, but that can get old pretty quickly. Plus it’s important to get out and be social. I think if we spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping, we should spend at least that much time socializing.

Owning a bicycle and not being afraid to ride it in a variety of conditions is important. Free transportation is the first key to success when it comes to going out in Kyoto on the cheap.

Bicycle to and from your evening excursion Pros: It’s free,you don’t have to worry about missing the last bus home and you don’t have to shell out for a cab Cons: Bicycle parking can be rare downtown Kyoto and if you park illegally it is highly possible your bike will be impounded. Also, if you drink too much you will either injure yourself severely, have to walk that bike home, or leave it downtown and get it the next day when you don’t want to get out of bed.

Parking spot?

Parking spot?

Eat a deep fried snack at the izakaya There are many cheap and cheerful places to enjoy drinks and food but a couple of my favorites for a spontaneous (AND CHEAP) night out are Torikizoku and じぽんぐ (Jipongu).

Torikizoku has a couple locations in Kyoto, including Kitano Hakubaicho & Kawaramachi so depending on how far you want to get from home you can take your pick. I like Torikizoku because everything on the menu is 280 yen ($3.11) including large jugs of beer, a plate of fries or a couple skewers of delicious meat + onion…you can’t go wrong. The ambience is also good even though its a cheap chain it still has a bit of a rustic pub feel with the wooden interior.

Everything 280 yen

Everything 280 yen

280 yen beers

280 yen beers

Jipongu is great for meeting up with large groups but can be busy around 9-11pm on Friday or Saturday night. A pint of beer is only 200 yen ($2.22), which is usually all I order here but you can get small plates for under 500 yen ($5.54). The atmosphere is nice and actually seems a little upscale considering your only paying a couple bucks for beer.

Wall Art @ Jipongu

Wall Art @ Jipongu

Usually I’ve had my fill of beer by now and its time to engage in some other activity beyond sitting and drinking.

Dance at Butterfly & get a free drink If you go to Butterfly on a Friday or Saturday night before 10pm there is no cover for women and only 500 yen ($5.54) cover for men, both get a complimentary drink. The music is generally top 40 club and rap anthems so after about an hour it starts to get repetitive but until then it is a total riot. If you go after 10pm the price for entry increases and it doesn’t seem desirable to me at all.

At Butterfly Club

At Butterfly Club

Find a hole in the wall There are many small bars on the 3rd and 4th floor of random buildings and they are usually always interesting for at least one drink. Usually drinks at these types of places are about 600 yen ($6.65) so I like to order a Long Island Tea which is generally just 4 ounces of alcohol, you will only need to order one: money well spent! A couple smaller bars I like in Kyoto: ING , AF JAM (still searching!) and some busier drinking spots: HUB, RUB A DUB, A-Bar

ING Bar

ING Bar

Ooh where does this go?

Ooh where does this go?

I still can't find The Dylan I

I still can’t find The Dylan I

Sing your heart out If you didn’t bike downtown, and you missed the last bus, you have the choice to pay for a cab or stay out all night until the first trains start in the morning around 6am. The best thing to do at this point is to go home (if you have that kind of self-will at this drunken moment) but if you’re still in the mood to party- head to Karaoke. It’s open all night, so you and your friends can get a private booth, take turns singing and curling up to catch some zzz’s on the comfortable couches. I like to bring in a snack and a drink from the nearest convenience store (this is something you should enjoy without the karaoke staff knowing). Generally you will pay around 1000 yen ($11.08) to hang out at Karaoke for the rest of the night and the morning train will only be around 200 yen ($2.22) to get home.

Karaoke Room

Karaoke Room

Something I always forget to do when I get home: SHOWER and WASH MY CLOTHES! Smoking is allowed at most establishments in Kyoto and you are going to smell like an ashtray when you get home. Having a shower and throwing your clothes in the wash is a must. There is nothing worse than waking up hungover and having everything smell like cigarette smoke. Barf.

There are lots of 食べ放題Tabehoudai/飲み放題Nomihoudai’s (all you can eat/drink for around 2500 yen/$27.70) which are great for large 飲み会nomikai (drinking parties) but I am more interested in the hole in the wall type places at this point. Apparently Osaka has a lot more nightlife but I have yet to travel that far for bar hopping!

The tornado wiener at Chifaja Yakiniku

The tornado wiener at Chifaja tabehoudai…weird, very weird

All-you-can-eat ice cream at Chifaja tabehoudai

All-you-can-eat ice cream at Chifaja tabehoudai

All-you-can-eat Kalbi Beef

Cooking our Kalbi Beef at Chifaja tabehoudai

Cooking our food at Chifaja all-you-can-eat yakiniku + salad + ice cream for 2000 yen ($22.16)

Cooking our food at Chifaja all-you-can-eat yakiniku + salad + ice cream for 2000 yen ($22.16)

I am still searching for good, cheap places to go to in Kyoto, so if you have any recommendations or you want to come find some fun spots with me  feel free to join in! かんぱい!kanpai!

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kelseydo Kyoto Imperial Palace & 三十三間堂

Today I went on a solo adventure to visit the Imperial Palace. Twice a year, for about 5 days, it is open to the public. It was pretty busy for this reason, but still a must-see. Bonus: it’s free to enter.

Floral Arrangement at the Entrance

A sports demonstration…seemed like glorified hacky sack to me

ししんでん

おつねごてん

Imperial Gardens

After finding a nice shaded bench at the Imperial Gardens and polishing off a Bento I had made earlier, I biked to Sanjūsangen-dō to see the 1001 statues of the Buddist deity, Kannon. I was blown away by the beauty of these statues and of the 28 guardian dieties, and my jaw completely dropped when I saw one gigantic seated statue (aka the National Treasure). It was epic! I couldn’t take photos inside the building but I managed to take some photos of the beautiful surroundings.

三十三間堂 literally means the thirty-three ken (Japanese architecture measurement) length hall

The temple was a really peaceful and it smelled amazing. I b-lined for the gift shop to get some incense and I also scored some postcards to show you what the Kannon statues look like.

Gigantic seated Kannon

1000 Kannons and their guardians

I think it probably goes without saying that these photos of postcards don’t do it justice! You have to see it in real life to understand the full beauty and sheer magnitude of the building filled with statues.

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kelseydo Bike Trip to Lake Biwa

Lake Biwa is the largest freshwater lake in Japan and is located about 20km east of Kyoto. I have been missing the ocean like crazy, so I figured a 670 km² lake would do the trick to fulfill my sea needs.

One of the international students, Andi, who has also been a bike tour guide before, organized the day trip to go to Lake Biwa. What we thought would take 6 hours, ended up taking 12 hours, but it was a beautiful trip and an amazing experience. The two other girls that came with us, Seika and Natalie, had only ever been on bikes a handful of times, but they made it through the trip and complained less than I did! Our one-speed city bikes did pretty well going such a long distance and over all those hills!

We tried to take a mountain route on the way back to Kyoto, which ended up being closed for the weekend, so we had to detour back to the way we came, adding another hour onto our route. Then we got some poor directions and ended up on an expressway (no bikes allowed), missed our turn off and had to back track a little bit. Needless to say we were happy to be home and in one piece when all was said and done.

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