Japan – Day 7 (10.3)
I got up at 6am in the morning, so that I could have my revenge on the Magi special at the Animate cafe, but then I decided to make better use of my time (and rail pass!) and head out of Tokyo instead.
It might be a good idea to consider getting a rail pass if you’re going on a trip to Japan, as it gives you unlimited rides (within a certain area) for a flat price. It may be a little pricey at $300USD for 7 days, but it works out in the end as a one-way ride on the Shinkansen typically costs between 6000~10000 yen.
I took the Yamanote line to Shinagawa, then got a ticket to Kyoto. The train would arrive at 7.40am and reach Kyoto at 10.13am. I spent the train ride reading stuff on my phone and sleeping…
I had no plans for Kyoto at all, so I just took the first train that came and googled for recommendations for tourist spots and interesting places on the train.
Not knowing where to go, I went for the first thing that came to mind when I think of Kyoto.
Obviously, Kyoto = Kyoto Animation, right? No? (´・ω・`)
And that was how I decided to locate their studios, take a photo and move on.
According to their website, the studios are within walking distance from Kohata Station, which happened to be on the Nara line, right outside the Shinkansen platforms. It also happened to be the train I was on! Lucky!
There was an overhead bridge to cross over to the second platform, which is something I’ve never seen before.
It was rather quiet outside.
This is the view right outside the station. Looks like a normal neighborhood! I was suddenly doubtful if I had gone to the right place.
I ventured a little further down the road…
It’s where all the good stuff is made! Like I did when I found the A-1 Pictures studio, I stood outside envisioning all the awesome things that must be happening inside. It was probably Chuunibyou at that time.
There was also a map on the noticeboard with the posters, which gave directions to the Kyo-Ani Shop nearby. That would be my next destination!
Quaint, old houses.
Following the road, I came to a second train station, which is one of the landmarks for finding the Kyo-Ani shop.
The next landmark was a Seven-Eleven outlet, and the building next to Seven-Eleven (Hi-shop Building) is where the Kyo-Ani shop is, along with the rest of it’s studio space.
The Kyo-Ani shop is on the second floor, and the entire third floor is their studio/office space.
It was hidden in the back of the second floor! There was a sign saying that photography was prohibited inside the shop, so there won’t be any pictures of the interior.
The shop is basically a one-room space, filled with KyoAni goods, posters, and other displays. There were a few cast-autographed posters in the shop, most notably for Hyouka and Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu.
The merchandise on sale were mainly for their recent/more popular series, like K-ON!, Hyouka and Nichijou. There were also two gachapon machines near the entrance, with shop-exclusive button badges. It’s 200 yen a pop, and you have to use special coins (available at the cashier) to play.
Also of interest are information books about animation, published in-house by Kyoto Animation.
There were two other customers in the shop when I was there. After browsing for a long time, I settled for buying almost all the Hyouka goods and posters, and one shop-exclusive Nichijou pen case. The lady at the cashier was very friendly, and she asked if I was here on vacation. I told her where I was from, and she seemed pretty surprised they probably don’t get a lot of foreign vistiors. They even helped me re-roll the posters I bought into one tube, and put it in a cardboard box “so it won’t get damaged on the way back”. It was so nice of them!
And then, the question that I should have foreseen, came.
Lady: So how do you watch Hyouka from overseas?
Me: …Uh, Niconico douga?
She seemed convinced enough… I was also asked about my favourite character (Houtarou!) and talked a little about their upcoming series, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! (The novels were also on sale at the shop).
I paid for 10 tries at the gachapon machine for Hyouka badges, and managed to get one of each character, with two extra Houtarous and two Chitandas.
I had achieved my goal of visiting Kyoto Animation, and I decided to go to the Kiyomizu Temple next, which was pretty close to Kyoto station.
The rail pass doesn’t cover private subway costs, so I had to buy a ticket.
The weather was nice, but a little too hot for my liking.
I reached the subway station with no trouble, but then the map at the station revealed a 10km walk from the station to the temple. I was okay with that at first, then I went outside into the blazing heat.
I walked for about 10m before giving up.
Getting back to Kyoto station, I picked up a few souvenirs and reserved another Shinkansen ticket to Osaka.
Osaka is about 15 minutes away from Kyoto via the Shinkansen. I transferred to the subway after reaching the Shin-Osaka station, with one place in mind: Nipponbashi.
Nipponbashi’s Denden Town is said to be the Akiba of Osaka. I transferred lines from Nanba to the Nipponbashi station, which was a mistake because Denden Town is actually closer to Nanba than Nipponbashi. I spent a lot of time consulting and comparing the station map and Google maps before realizing my mistake. Too lazy to buy another ticket (My Suica only works in Tokyo, and not Osaka), I decided to walk to Nanba instead.
There were goldfish in the station for some reason.
Relying on Google Map’s incredibly accurate positioning of convenience stores in Japan, I started walking in the general direction of Nanba.
I wandered into a few shops but I didn’t have anything to get. The shops here feel more like Nakano Broadway on a street rather than Akihabara, because of the many small used figure/gachapon resale shops. There were also the usual names like Melonbooks and Toranoana, and a giant Namco building!
There were many gachapon machines and ufo catchers on the first floor, and the rest of the floors were filled with arcade games.
While exploring, I chanced upon a small Tari Tari exhibition!
Photography was allowed inside.
Autographed surfboard by the voice actors and animation staff.
From the cast- I’m only familiar with Takagaki Ayahi and Hayami Saori.
There was also a Robotics;Notes collaboration cafe! As much as I love the Science Adventure series, I didn’t have the time nor money to stop to see what it was like inside…
My last stop was Animate, before I returned to Tokyo.
I got lost looking for the right station on the way back because I wasn’t familiar with Osaka train lines, but I managed to get to Shin-Osaka at 6pm and bought some souvenirs and an ekiben for dinner.
I bought the infamous Omoshiroi Koibito cookies. I’ve always thought it was an internet joke until I saw it at the souvenir shop! Omoshiroi Koibito is a pun on the popular white chocolate cookies souvenir, Shiroi Koibito, and since Osaka is proud of it’s comedy, Omoshiroi (koibito) works as a double pun.
It was almost 10pm when I got back to Tokyo, and it was raining, which made me miss the warm weather in Kyoto and Osaka a little.
Kyoani Shop loot!
Japan – Day 8 (10.4)
On day 8 I woke up at 7am, but having slept at 2am the previous night, I was a zombie. My plan for day 8 was to visit a certain place in Shizuoka. I had second thoughts about it at first because I was pretty tired, but then I reasoned that I could sleep on the train.
When I left the hotel, it was raining, and the temperature was definitely below 20deg Celsius. In the station, there was a huge crowd in front of the Yamanote ticket gates, as the clockwise direction of the Yamanote line was not operational because of the typhoon (along with two or three other train lines), so there was a huge crowd at the gates. I managed to squeeze through with my rail pass after a bit, and got on the train, which was crowded beyond the levels of the Yurikamome on Comiket…
At Shinagawa, I reserved a ticket to Shizuoka, but the train would only arrive in an hour. I spent the time walking around the station (Fortunately, Shinagawa Station is very large and there are a lot of shops and food), until it was time to board.
My destination was not actually Shizuoka, but Kakegawa, which is a stop after Shizuoka. Getting off a Shizuoka (I spent most of the journey sleeping with my neck in a strange position), I transferred to the Kodama, a slower train which stops at all stations, including Kakegawa.
I was headed for the Kamo-sou, a mansion with a long history of 240 years. It is open to visitors, and has a large expanse of land converted into a garden, which comes into full bloom in late June. Kamo-sou has been relatively off the radar for most tourists going to Japan, but you’ll see what’s interesting about the place soon :)
According to their website, to reach Kamo-sou, one can either take a taxi from Kakegawa station (It will cost an estimated 3000 yen), or take the TenHama line from Kakegawa to Harada station, which is about 20-30 minutes away from Kamo-sou on foot.
I opted for the cheaper option via the TenHama line. However, after sitting down for 20 minutes without a train in sight, I decided to check the station timetable and realized that there was only one train every hour, and I had missed the previous one.
One train per hour…
There was nothing I could do about that, so I started killing time on twitter and facebook, uploading pictures of the deserted station and train schedule and making my friends worry about me (Though the responses were mostly suggestions to check in on foursquare, which I don’t use…). When it was time for the train to come, there was nothing, and then I realized that I had been waiting on the wrong platform.
Giving up, I wandered the station for a bit, and decided to take a taxi instead. There were a lot of taxis waiting outside the station, so I had no problems getting on one. I showed the driver the map on my phone, mispronounced Kamo-sou terribly, but apparently it is a popular attraction in the area, so he knew exactly where to go.
I talked to the taxi driver on the way to Kamo-sou (It’s quite some distance away from Kakegawa). It was an interesting change from the taxi in Tokyo, who said nothing at all during the journey. He seemed surprised when I mentioned I was from overseas, because not many people would go out of their way to visit an ‘inaka’ (a suburb). However, having come from a country which is mostly city and nothing else, large expanses of green fields and mountains were a refreshing sight for me!
Shizuoka is known for their tea, and apparently the people of Shizuoka are very informed about tea (Source: Taxi driver). I learnt a lot of tea brewing tips in that one trip…
He also mentioned that if I had come later this month, the surroundings would be painted in lovely autumn colors, and helpfully pointed out the route I would have to walk if I wanted to take a train back to Kakegawa. I guess what I heard about people in the suburbs being very friendly was true!
I’m not quite sure how long the ride lasted, but soon we reached the foot of a mountain, and a very long and huge mansion, which was my destination. It was a lot larger than what I had imagined!
Now, you’ll see why I came all the way to visit this place…
The place is huge, and there’s a mountain right behind it.
It’s huge inside too!
Upon entering the Kamo-sou, and crossing the pond, the main entrance came into view. I greeted the lady who was tending to the plants outside, and she showed me in to the reception hall. Immediately I was asked if I was here because of Hyouka. I sheepishly admitted it, but I told her that I also wanted to see the flowers the mansion was so proud of, but apparently I came at the wrong time and they weren’t in bloom. If you’re planning a trip there, perhaps you should try going in late May/mid June, when the flowers are in full bloom…
The entrance fee was 1000 yen. What left a strong impression was that once you entered the house, the temperature falls and it’s very cool and comfortable. It had something to do with the way it was built, apparently. I was told to relax and be at home (You can go on the tatami bare-footed or with socks, it doesn’t matter), but not to touch any of the decorations, because they were all antiques of great value (Like the paintings, and the furniture).
At the reception, there were many other brochures for local attractions under the same group as the people who own the Kamo-sou, and on display next to the brochures were gifts from other Hyouka fans who had visited the place, like fan art and photographs.
I was given a brief introduction to the history of the mansion. The structure is built out of wooden pillars and frames in the old style, and not a single bolt or screw was used in its’ construction (Much like how some of the older temples in Japan were built), so it consists of very sturdy wood, designed to fit and hold together.
The structure has lasted for 240 years so far, and due to the nature of it’s construction, it is able to withstand earthquakes.
The mansion used to be a normal family house, but it was opened to the public and it’s grounds were converted to a large garden (Gardening was apparently the grandmother’s hobby) at the start of the Heisei period. The current entrance used to be the back entrance, which leads to the kitchen (Not in use now, but the stove still works). The old main entrance, which is depicted in Hyouka, is blocked away now, but you can still see it from inside the house.
And on to pictures!
I really want to live in a house like this…
There were ducks in the pond! You can feed them too :)
It was the first time I saw a live duck! The ducks even eat from your hand. The lady explained to me how to tell their type and gender apart from the colors of the feathers.
The other side of the mansion leads to an old storage area, which was used in the past for the refining of rice and grain. Much of the tools used back then are still preserved there, from the contraption used to remove the husk from the grain, and sickles. The door that leads out from this storage area brings you to a stone-covered walkway, and a horse shed (Not in use presently). The walkway was lined with stones because they used to have horses pull the stacks of grain from the fields into the house.
There was also a snake and a red/gray lizard outside which scared the hell out of the lady and me. Apparently insects and small animals are quite common because the house is built at the base of a mountain.
After taking a lot of photographs, I took a break next to the pond. It’s where the Classics Club sat in one of the screencaps above!
This is a special snack unique to the Kamo-sou, and is actually edible amazake (甘酒) with soybean flour. They also had a special Hyouka Onigiri set, modelled after the rice balls Chitanda made in episode 4.
Before I left, I decided to leave a message in their visitor’s notebook. There was one for Hyouka fans!
I tried to draw Houtarou but since I was sleepy, I didn’t manage to draw him as nicely as I wanted. But I’m satisfied with leaving my mark on the notebook! :)
I left at around 3pm in the hopes of catching the 4pm train.
The place was really just a large expanse of road and fields and soon I wasn’t sure where I was going. I managed to ask an old lady who was tending to her garden, and she pointed me in the right direction. People in the suburbs are so friendly!
This was the station… Though it looked nothing like a train station.
I was reminded about the Koboro station thread I translated several months back…
The train frequency wasn’t as bad, though! I wanted to sit down and wait for the next train, but there were cobwebs on the seat so I paced the platform instead.
You can do stuff like this because there’s nothing and no one at all!
After a long wait, the train finally came and I got on. There were many students on board.
It was my first time on a countryside train and I was very confused after I got on, but I tried not to let it show. The first thing I wasn’t sure about was how to pay for my train fare.
Apparently, as I found out later, you only pay at your destination station.
It was a scenic ride.
The train comprised of only one car. It was very cute!
Ending this part with a picture of the Shinkansen in the sunset!
The next part will go out of Tokyo again, much further out than where I’ve been to in this report, and go back to Tokyo for a look at the newly-established Noitamina Cafe and Theater in Odaiba.