This post was originally titled “A Weekend in Kyoto,” but due to the direction of this weekend, I didn’t actually end up going to Kyoto. 🤷🏼♀️
But first, a Thursday in Osaka! ☀️
On Thursday, I met up with Tara in Osaka for some fun! We went to see 大阪城 (Osaka Castle) first. 🏯 It’s my second time seeing the castle, but it’s still just as beautiful. The leaves are turning colors around Osaka now, so the green scenery from September has turned to oranges, reds, and yellows. It made for some fantastic shots!
Osaka Castle is one of the most popular attractions in Osaka so I was a bit nervous it’d be too busy (especially since it was a holiday), but the crowds were manageable. It was a lot more crowded the first time I went, but I also went on a fair weather Saturday. That can make all the difference, I think.
Osaka Castle: it’s free to see the castle and wander around the park, but in order to go inside and view the museum (or go to the top), it’s ¥600 ($6).
Now for the weekend in Hikone!
On Friday at around 5pm, I met with two friends and my boyfriend at Umeda station. From there, we took about a two hour train ride from Osaka JR Station to Hikone JR Station. Hikone is a city in Shiga prefecture and in order to get there you have to pass through Kyoto. Our original plan was to stop in Kyoto on Friday night, but all of us were fairly tired and unmotivated to go through Kyoto with suitcases. My boyfriend and my friend’s boyfriend were falling asleep standing up on the train (it was packed on Friday at around 6pm because that’s return rush, so we stood for roughly an hour and a half before the train emptied enough to sit).
The place we stayed in Hikone actually belonged to my boyfriend. It’s his parents’ house, but it sits vacant most of the year. It’s an absolutely beautiful house and very traditional, but the bathroom, kitchen, and rooms are fairly updated. It can hold well over 30 people comfortably since the rooms are massive and there are two levels.
Traditional houses in Japan are generally measured by tatami mats, and the size of rooms depends on such things, but I didn’t get a good luck at the amount of tatami mats in each room so couldn’t guess. However, each room was about the size of an average American living room, and there were more than 5 rooms in total. My friend’s boyfriend (who’s also Japanese) couldn’t stop saying “This is the biggest house I’ve ever been in.” 😂
Friday Night 🍻
We spent Friday night drinking sparkling wine, eating convenient store snacks, and playing the Japanese version of The Game of LIFE! 🎲 It was such a blast. The Japanese version of LIFE is a lot more complicated than the American version I’m used to playing. There are stock investments, lotteries, and various other additions to the game that I’m not used to. There’s also very little emphasis on marriage and kids! You’re forced to get married (as usual) in the game, but unlike in the American LIFE, you’re not having kids every few turns. There’s also not much of an emphasis on owning a house or various other “life” amenities. In fact, you may have to pay $25,000 to buy your dog a sweater. 😮
After finishing one game of LIFE, we decided to play another round…but this time it was “adventure” LIFE! Think Indian Jones meets the standard form of the game and you’ve got it. This one was a lot of fun too, but there are less opportunities to make money and it’s more like random “quests.” It’s definitely an interesting game, but a lot of fun! 👍
Lazy Saturday 💤
Originally, we’d planned to head into Kyoto on Saturday to see the autumn leaves. At the moment, Arashiyama and Kyoto’s changing leaves are one of the biggest attractions. Kyoto is packed full of people, but it’s worth the trip if you’re willing to deal with the people. Unfortunately, none of us went to bed until around 4am, so naturally none of us woke up until roughly 11am. We’d originally planned to wake up at 9am and leave by 10, but all of us felt lazy.
At around 11, my friend and her boyfriend came into the room my boyfriend and I were staying in because we had a TV, and the four of us sat on the floor. My boyfriend was in and out of sleep until 4pm while my friends and I played Animal Crossing, watched TV, and did pretty much nothing.
6pm came along pretty quickly and since we’d told our boyfriends we were going to cook Thanksgiving dinner, we headed out to the supermarket and grabbed everything we’d need for a great dinner! 🦃 We spent around ¥11,400 at the supermarket, but we grabbed so many things while we were there. More than enough food! My favorite thing was finding pre-made gyoza, which my boyfriend cooked as our “appetizer” and fed to me as I mashed potatoes. 🥔
My favorite part about the supermarket was that it felt like someone smashed Smith’s and Walmart together, but made both higher quality. I definitely considered doing some clothes shopping, but decided against it since we were already running short on time and had a huge dinner to make!
I made mashed potatoes (my mom’s delicious recipe 🤤) and Caesar’s salad while my friend made mac n cheese with broccoli and garlic & honey chicken. Her boyfriend made guacamole (he was ecstatic to find good avocados at the supermarket), and as someone that doesn’t usually enjoy guacamole, I can say I definitely loved the guac he made! 🥑 I couldn’t stop eating it, ha.
Unfortunately, by the time we actually finished dinner (around 10pm), I wasn’t that hungry anymore from the gyoza, guacamole, and other random snacking, but I still enjoyed digging into the Caesar’s salad! I love a good salad, so I was happy to munch on that while my friends enjoyed the rest of our Thanksgiving meal. 💙
On Sunday we had to say goodbye to the Hikone house. We were planning on heading into Kyoto (finally) on this day, but at the last minute decided it’d be better to do a day trip another weekend. All of us felt too lazy and weren’t that motivated to deal with the crowds, so instead we headed to the Hikone JR Station and bought some quick souvenirs in a tiny shop.
While checking out at that shop, one of the older women working there asked me where I was from. I told her America and she said, “Ah! ようこそ!” which is the Japanese greeting for “Welcome.” Even though I was clearly with a Japanese person, she could tell I was visiting (I obviously stick out in Japan), and I appreciated her warm greeting. After I finished checking out, I walked over to where my boyfriend was standing with our luggage and handed him my bag when I suddenly felt someone touch my arm. I turned around to see a man I didn’t know smiling at me. He was also elderly, but maybe only in his 40s or 50s, and he stuck his hand out to shake mine and said “Hello.” My boyfriend thanked him in Japanese, and then the man was gone. For some reason, both exchanges warmed my heart. ☺️
After this, we caught the train heading back to Osaka. My boyfriend wasn’t planning to leave Hikone since he was going to meet up with his friends before returning to Osaka, but he came a few stations on the train to see us off before getting on another train to return to Hikone. Tomorrow (November 27) is his 22nd birthday, so he’s returning to Nishinomiya so we can see a movie, get dinner, and spend some quality time together! 😋
I loved this house, even though my boyfriend isn’t so keen about it. I think it’s because his allergies act up when he’s here, though he says it’s the atmosphere that he doesn’t like so much. That being said, the TV in our room did keep turning on randomly throughout the night… 👻
And in the backyard was a beautiful garden, though I think it isn’t at its “full form” since no one usually lives in this house.
Hopefully we’ll head to Kyoto either this weekend or the weekend after. I want to see the leaves before they fall, so we have to go as soon as possible! 🍁