February 8th - 10th: Kyoto - the land of shrines and matcha green tea
School break means one thing and one thing only. It's time to get out of your regular routine and embark on an adventure to new places, discover new things and see the world in a different light. So me and my IES Abroad buddy, Becky Honnold, packed our suitcases Sunday night and headed to Kyoto the next morning.
Taking 3 long-distance trains, then taking the subway with 3 line transfers in total was worth the effort when we arrived at our traditional Japanese-style guesthouse located in a more rural area of Kyoto. It was a wooden house owned by a Japanese man, who kindly provided us with a hand-drawn map of the neighborhood and showed us our tatami-mat room, a family bathroom and kitchen that we could use. After putting our luggage down, we went out to the streets for dinner and discovered a vintage movie-themed Japanese restaurant. Menus entirely in Japanese, family-style business, old movie posters, children's advertisement books of the Showa era (1980's) filled the place with warmth. There, the restaurant owner - a lively middle age man wearing a blue apron who always seemed to be cooking or meticulously plating - chatted with us about the wonders of Kyoto, the city of classical movies or in Japanese, "eiga-machi". As I walked around the restaurant, observing posters and camera decorations, he showed me a magazine that depicted numerous popular historic horror and samurai movies, all originated from and filmed in Kyoto. Little did I know that the neighborhood near the Uzumasa train station I stayed in was home to 4 different movie studios in Kyoto. After dinner, we parted ways but the lingering feeling of amazement from the hospitality of the shop owner, the hidden charm of Kyoto nights, the dusty comics and quiet sound of bicycles passing by the window, still remained.
The next morning, carrying this newly found curiosity for the Kyoto's quirks, we walked 3 kilometres to Arashiyama, a mountainous area famous for its variety of ancient shrines, temples and parks. Despite the beautiful rocky river running through a arched bridge, and foggy mountains still as painted landscape, Arashiyama seemed to have lost its natural beauty with crowds of tourists flocking in to buy souvenirs, eat green tea goodies, and take selfies. We actually felt a bit guilty that we were part of that tourist group as we also bought some matcha sweets and visited there with the goal of seeing the Japanese macaques in the monkey park and walking through the bamboo forest trail. However, that didn't stop us from gasping in awe whenever we encountered a macaque glaring at us because we didn't give them treats, felt the smoothness of the bamboo trunk, and saw the view of the entire city from the top of the monkey park mountain. Those were the highlights we simply won't ever forget, which energized us for our next action item on traveling list: hiking up a mountain in Kobe.
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<p>Hi there! I'm Kristie. Currently a junior at Tufts University majoring in Quantitative Economics and exploring other areas of passion like marketing, community service and photography. In my free time, I like coming up with cooking recipes using seasonal ingredients in the market to create dishes that have a hint of my Vietnamese upbringing. Reading food blogs, taking pictures, watching Miyazaki movies basically sum up my life. Having lived in Russia, Vietnam, America, I love traveling and always feel the hunger for a new adventure, a new place and new culture. From friendships to random encounters with strangers, I'm excited to experience it all during my semester abroad in Japan.</p>