Last weekend was another 3 day one (isn’t Japan wonderful?) and I made sure I stayed busy. Before I did anything on Friday, I went to the post office and received my Japanese credit card and Pitapa card! Pitapa is a commuter card where train fares are automatically deducted from your bank account. It’s really useful because you never have to buy a ticket or keep buying prepaid cards and you don’t have to figure out how much fares are in the Kansai region! This saved my ass later on in the weekend.
Afterward, I went out with Andrew to get some dinner at a Spanish restaurant nearby. Although the portions were small, the meal was delicious! It was a bit pricey but I didn’t care; I usually start off the weekend with a nice dinner:
We then headed to a local bar where Andrew knew the master. Over here, bar owners are called “masters”, and are usually seen bartending the bar with one or two other bartenders. He introduced the master to me and we spoke a bit as we watched Japan beat Vietnam in soccer. I love Japanese bars because they have my ideal setting: low-key, quiet, and classy. They also mix your drinks very well and with finesse rather than just throwing all the crap in at once and calling it a mixed drink. Maybe it was just Minnesota but I never saw a place like that back home. For old time’s sake, I ordered a screwdriver, even if the price is twice as much than the average American one. After a couple of drinks, we headed home.
Saturday I was invited to play some futsal with my Japanese coworker at Ibukino Elementary. Andrew recommended it to me because it was much more laidback than the JET one. I was a bit weary at first because I didn’t really want to play for two hours as that is how I messed up my ankle. I’m glad I went because all the people there were awesome and the atmosphere was definitely not as intense or competitive. Don’t get me wrong, I like going to the JET futsal practices but sometimes I want to play and not be worried about disappointing my teammates. They were all fascinated that my name was Diego, it was probably because they were thinking of Diego Maradona, a famous soccer player. Throughout the game I would hear:
“Oh, there’s Diego.”
“Diego? That’s his name?”
“Wow, that’s so cool!”
I felt more relaxed here because a lot of people made a bunch of silly mistakes but we all laughed it off. Usually you’d be hearing someone say “What the hell was that??” but that wasn’t the case here. The players would always try to do some goofy things like start off a match by attempting a goal from the center of the field, always kicking the ball while in the air, as well as other actions. One of my favorite people that I met that day was this guy who had bleached ponytail. He has the samurai-style cut so everyone calls him “Samurai”. He was super friendly and would pass the ball to me frequently and whenever I had it, he would yell “Okaaaaay Diego! Let’s gooooooooooo!” in a thick Japanese accent. It was amazing. Also I learned a lot of Japanese soccer terminology. Here are some examples:
“Nice keep!” – Nice save; it refers to when you’re the goalie, (keep comes from goalkeep).
“Nice contact!” – Good block.
Also, goalies tend to say “Sankyuu” (Thank you) a LOT when you get the ball out of your side. Now that sounds obvious but they say it basically every time you do anything around them. When futsal ended, I was tired, but definitely not dead compared to previous practices. Afterward I just hung out at home, relaxed and bought a few things for my place.
On Sunday I was invited to go to Kyoto with Kris and Jess, who were meeting a few of their friends there. I hadn’t been there yet so I jumped on the invitation. We were going to go to Arashiyama to see the Iwatayama Monkey Park, a park where 100+ monkeys reside with no cage restriction. Getting to Kyoto was extremely easy; I just hopped on a train in Umeda and I was there in about 40 minutes. The great part was thanks to my Pitapa card, I didn’t have to worry about fares. I was then introduced to a few people: Jimmy, Jeremy, and Jeff. We ate some lunch and headed toward to Arashiyama.
When we got there, a beautiful river with tons of mountains surrounding it awaited us. It was incredibly gorgeous and I instantly regretted not coming here earlier. The weather was perfect too; it was about 70 degrees out. I took a lot of pictures of the area:
After relaxing and taking a few pictures, we looked for the monkey park. After walking a few blocks, Kris pointed to a sign and claimed this is the right way to it. What was bizarre was that the sign was pointing t o a very narrow path that was well hidden from the street, leading to a forest. I was extremely skeptical of his reasoning but went with it anyways. About five minutes in the walk, I knew we were going the wrong way. We were deep in some forest and some abandoned houses were surrounding us:
Regardless we kept walking on the path. Walking turned into hiking. The hike was pretty steep but the surroundings were beautiful. Nothing but bamboo was around us.
We walked around for 15 minutes and came to an opening which overlooked the forest: Here are some pictures and a video:
At this point we realized we were hiking up a mountain. Kris double checked anyways with a couple that were heading down. They confirmed that we were not heading towards the monkey park but rather, climbing another mountain. We decided to continue the hike anyways as it was a relaxing. That lasted for about 15 minutes. Soon we were drenched in sweat, getting worn out and I saw a sign saying that we were about only a quarter of the way up. After reading that, we gave up (for now) and headed back down. I looked at the sign again and noticed that the average hike time was about an hour and a half so it was a good thing we headed back when we did!
After asking an officer for directions, we headed to the monkey park. We climbed yet another mountain but this one was less brutal. An awesome overview of Kyoto awaited us at the top:
Oh yeah, there were monkeys! A lot of them. They weren’t restricted at all so you just saw a lot of them nonchalantly walking around the observation deck, climbing the roof of the feeding house, and standing by people:
Jess and Kris fed some monkeys, which was amusing. I took a short video of it.
After enjoying the view and the monkeys, we headed back down and went to Kyoto again. We grabbed some dinner before we parted ways. I got home at around 9, which is pretty amazing…having a day trip to Kyoto is possible! Monday I just relaxed some more and did some errands. After having so much fun, we are going to try to go somewhere every couple of weeks. Going downtown is fun but I really want to check out the scenic places in Japan as well as the temples and shrines. This was a good start.