This time we’re heading toward Osaka.

First, we went to an onsen in Osaka to have a bath because we decided to sleep in the car (because when Emi and Marina were in Washington we decided to sleep in my moms car that was parked in her driveway on our way back from Canada as a joke and now it’s a tradition). The onsen was really fun and I did this weird stem thing for my back in one of the pools and I felt like I electrocuted my whole body — like couldn’t feel my whole right side, kind of crazy. Apparently it’s supposed to help you physically, but I think it ruined me psychologically. I will get back to you on that in the long run. After almost killing Alecia and Marina in the steam room (because they don’t do well with heat), we went to a salt room and exfoliated our whole bodies and then jumped in the cold pool to make our skin smooth. I am only going this in depth because I feel the need to mention that three years ago when I first met these girls, I did not see us having a casual conversation while being naked.

This whole side adventure is all on the way to Nara, a prefecture that has deer that you can feed. I was really excited to do this as well as Emi and Marina, but Alecia feeds deer all the time since she lives in Alaska (odd Snow White flex but okay) and was less impressed by the idea — until she was highly entertained by the deer biting us if we didn’t feed them fast enough. She was also kind enough to teach us how to feed them so they didn’t nip our fingers, and I would like to say another first in my life is reprimanding a deer for biting me.

Example: *deer bites my sweatshirt* Me: “Hey! Stop that! That is rude and won’t get you food! Life doesn’t work that way!” ***DEER LISTENS AND STOPS***

Like what the heck? What kind animals! They even bow to you if you bow to them — it’s an interesting cultural conditioning.  🙂

道の駅 is a place where we stayed, the name literally translates to “road station” but they are basically rest stops where people can sleep in their cars if they are too tired to drive or truck drivers for example (or us — poor college students that prefer spending money on food than lodgings). Logically, sleeping in the car was a bad idea; the car was too small and my blanket was too little, my legs were too long, and we all were freezing. But the adventure was fun and entertaining as a whole 12/10 don’t regret.

Three female students standing in an orange tunnel.
Us on the nice, easy part of Inari-ji.

After Nara we drove to Kyoto! The first thing we did was hike up to the top of the Inari-San. The hike wasn’t hard and was about an hour, it was funny because there wasn’t any view of the city from the top that we could see (there was an observation deck at the top but it was closed because we decided to do a night hike). During the day there are shops open so you can eat snacks while you walk, but I preferred the night walk because of the quiet and the wind through the trees. It was very peaceful, but kind of scary if you don’t like the forest, or wild monkeys and boars.

Maiko-san is a similar word for geisha. There’s a street in Kyoto, that is predominantly for Maiko-san, but it is still hard to see them. They are only seen while they are working, and are looking to maintain their privacy so they don’t come out very often. The girls speak differently (in a very old Kyoto dialect) act differently, and live in a dorm with other girls who are also Maiko-san. The girls either choose to go into this rigid life, or they are born into a family of Maiko-san and follow their family’s footsteps. We didn’t see anything while we were in Kyoto, but I thought it was interesting that this tradition managed to stay healthy and maintained while Japan globalized.

Four girls stand on a path bordered by tall bamboo trees.
Us at the bamboo forest! Honestly it took longer to find parking than to actual walk through — still beautiful though.

The next day we went to see Kinkaku-ji, a bamboo forest and another temple,  Byodo-in, and had matcha in a restaurant that’s been open for 500 years. Kinkaku-ji and the bamboo forest were very brief stops, both are famous but as a whole very tourist trap-y in my opinion. The fun thing about Kinkaku-ji is that I went there when I was 13 years old on my first exchange to Japan! Matcha was supposedly created here in this prefecture and this shop has been run by the same family, in the same shop, with no separate locations, for 16 generations. The 13th generation was a tea ambassador to the United States, and presented a tea ceremony in the USA.

Author jumping in front of building.
I have made a habit to jump at every location we visit on the trip. Here is me at Byodo-in.

Also, in Japan there are nation wide symbols to represent various different things in maps, highway signs, etc. The symbol for tea is this shops emblem that they have used since the start of their business. The day we went to Kinkaku-ji and Byodo-in, by chance we met up with Yusa, a student that went to Linfield my freshman year. He lives in Osaka but texted the Japanese student group chat that he wanted to hang out with someone that day and we were nearby! We met him at Byodo-in and since he has a reputation for knowing everything he taught us about the meaning of Byodo-in (it’s a physical representation of heaven for the Gods) and he also brought us to the matcha place (they still make their matcha today). Afterwards we gave him a ride home to Osaka (by the way, Osaka was ever on the list to visit because Emi said there was nothing to do haha but this would be our second time going in three days) because it was on the way to our next stop, Tottori. In Osaka, Yusa took us to his favorite restaurants where we had okinomiyaki, yakisoba, takoyaki, some fried thing I forgot the name of, then we went to a shrine (that’s famous for being covered in lots of moss??) and they had lots of cats around!

Girl jumping above snow, blue sunny sky behind her.
Me jumping at the Tottori Sand (snow) Dunes.

After that we dropped Yusa home and drove on the highways to Tottori. Tottori is famous for having sand dunes which we were excited to joke about being in Dubai in photos, but it ended up snowing really hard so now it’s all covered in snow. It’s really cold here because this area is in a valley (-2 degrees Celsius), so summers are hot and winters are very cold, and the dunes are very pretty and on the ocean. We stayed up until 3:30 a.m. driving and woke up at 6 to see the sunrise. Alecia drove in the snow because she and I have the most experience, but I don’t have an international drivers license so my job is to stay awake with the driver and play music while everyone else rests so they can be good to drive later. In the morning I got to push Emi’s car out of the snow briefly which was fun, but I also felt like my dad for some reason (I haven’t really looked into why I felt that way, and I’m too tired to try but yeah). I’m also writing this on 2 hours of sleep waiting for the cafes to open.

Everyone else got a nap in first before we saw the dunes officially, when we did it was SO beautiful. The sand dunes are really important in Tottori so if you write anything in the sand or take some with you, you will be fined 50,000 USD (which is not worth it in my opinion). Emi and I were in Aikido when we were at Linfield so we did rolls down the mountain until Emi was too dizzy for more. We also (as usual) made sure to lay down in the snow and rest before going to a bakery and getting breakfast. The bakery we went to was so delicious and everything there was 100 ye (about a dollar) so everyone spent way too much money on way too much food, but we girls are not quitters so that food was gone within the hour.  After eating we took off to Yamanashi Prefecture (one I have previously talked about in another blog) that is also my favorite prefecture, to show Alecia another onsen and houto before sending her off to Korea.

That’s it for today!

I’m Isis Hatcher and you’re watching Disney Channel!