Early last month in May I went to visit a friend of mine who lives in Osaka over Golden Week. For those of you who don’t know what Golden Week is, consider yourself lucky. It’s honestly one of the worst times to travel in Japan because everyone is traveling. Perhaps it’s similar to trying to travel and sight-see over Memorial weekend or Fourth of July in America. The difference is, you get about a week off from work (depending on your job) and since everyone else is getting time off, why not go places and see things? I decided to go to Kyoto and Nara. Both of which were full of tourists, but Kyoto was SO crowded. I was so surprised. There were crowded lines on the sidewalks just to get to temples and shrines.
I would not recommend visiting Japan during the first week of May. Everyone is going everywhere. Traveling is expensive because they jack up the prices during that time–because they can. Not only that, but tickets to travel by train, bus, or airplane are all sold out almost a month or two in advance because people plan ahead since it’s so busy during this week.
Because I am feeling lazy, here is a link to the pictures I took in Kyoto: http://www.flickr.com/photos/isshoni/sets/72157629971269309/
Here is a link to the pictures I took in Nara: http://www.flickr.com/photos/isshoni/sets/72157629591100774/
One strange thing, though. There was a guy at Fushimi-Inari Shrine (the place in Kyoto with all the red gates) who either had a REAL gun or a fake gun. He was dressed in American military wear, but the thing is the flag patch on his shoulder was not reversed, so it was clear that his uniform was fake. Diego and I stopped at the rest area on the way down to take a breather, and the guy came down and stopped just outside of the rest area, dropped his bag and pulled out a gun and proceeded to load a magazine. At that point I decided it was time to leave.
Other than that, the weather was beautiful. There were too many people, but that is to be expected of a tourist area. So many people say that they want to go to Kyoto to see “real Japan” but after living here for a year I can tell you that it isn’t “real Japan”. It’s a part of Japan set up to show you what they think you want to see. Yes, the shrines and temples are real. But everything else is just an act. People walking around in kimono or yukata pay someone to dress them up in that stuff so they can walk around Kyoto that way. Even the “old town” of Kyoto was rebuilt to show you what it used to be like and it’s all modern. It’s all tourist shops to try to sell you things.
If you want to see Japan, go to small towns. Get out of the big cities and just enjoy the surroundings.