Despite two and a half more weeks in Japan, goodbyes were imminent with the end of my study abroad program. It has been exactly five weeks since I flew into Narita Airport and arrived in Tokyo. Now, I had to say goodbye to the comfort my new home and family and leave Tokyo.
Since it was a Saturday and Masaki-san was off from work, my host parents accompanied me all the way to Tokyo Station from where I would take the Shinkasen (bullet train) to Kyoto. I loved having a few last moments with them before I had to leave. It was good they came, even for practical reasons, since the ticketing machine at the train station thoroughly confused me. There were different kinds of tickets, and there were several different trains, much of which was explained in Japanese.
|Goodbye Tokyo and new family!|
After having said goodbye to Tokyo and to my host parents, I was on my own. This was my first time solo travelling. As I always am when I’m alone, I was more alert and more open to interacting with new people, whether through words or gestures.
I reached Kyoto around 4 p.m. in the evening and took a cab to my hostel, which was in an obscure lane of the city. Nevertheless, the hostel was cozy and comfortable, and I met some other solo travelers there. A middle aged Japanese lady who was staying at the hostel taught us how to make paper cranes. Even though she couldn’t talk to us because of the language barrier, we spent a considerable amount of time with her. After the origami session, I went to an izakaya for dinner and drinks with my three new friends: a girl from Taiwan, another from Holland and one from Germany. We were quite an internationally diverse group, also very different in personalities. That made it all the more fun. We had a lot to learn about each other and from each other.
Kyoto, unlike Tokyo, closes pretty early, and we had a hard time finding a lively izakaya. Later, we went to a convenience store and picked up some astonishingly cheap alcohol to drink back at the hostel. The sake was packaged like fruit juice. The choice of alcohol at the convenience store was incredible-there was whisky, wine, beer, everything. After spending some time drinking at the hostel, we decided that we didn’t want to leave each other’s company just yet and decided to go out clubbing. So we walked towards downtown Kyoto hoping to find a lively street. Finally, we found a place with throbbing music of different kinds and alleys leading to more bars and clubs. We made some local friends and ended up at a karoake bar, which was amazing. Even though people at the bar were all strangers, after some time, it felt like we had all known each other a life time. People were handing each other the mike as they sang global hits and people danced on top of tables. At 5 a.m. Sophie (my dutch friend) rushed to a sports bar to watch the world cup match in which Holland was playing. Bianca (my German friend) and I stumbled back to our hostel and fell asleep around 6 a.m., in the hope of catching some sleep before our checkout time at 11 a.m. I was exhausted but so satisfied. Within twelve hours of solo travel, I had already made amazing new friends and had new unexpected experiences. If there is one thing I learnt from this, it is that travelling alone can potentially be the most social part of your life if you want it to be.
|Origami at the hostel in Kyoto|
|Dinner and drinks with my new friends Sophie (left) and Lu (right) at an izakaya in Kyoto|
|My dinner: a sushi bowl, with pieces of raw fish on top of some rice|
|Bianca, Sophie and I with some of our new friends (blurry in the background) at a Karoake bar|