Boda Boda Time

“It’s a Sunday and we aren’t going to be shooting.” I remember this being said and a wave of mixed emotions entered my brain. On one hand I was disappointed because the work elements of the trip were just starting up and having to stop on day 2 seems like an energy kill. Contrast to that reality, I got to spend a day exploring the city of Mbarara and observe the regular on-goings of its citizens.

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The city is bustling with boda boda taxies and people going about their day. The road system operates under the order of functional chaos rather than structured alignment back home.

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This is something that you really don’t get used to in a short period of time. The idea that you can pass at any speed or proximity took me by surprise more than a couple of times. I may have had a few close calls walking across the street.

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After we collected our items and found a kiosk that would sell us some mobile data and time, we returned back to the university guest house and proceeded to enjoy the evening. I think this was the first evening that I wasn’t fighting jet-lag and got proficient sleep.

Moving forward we are going full-out on filming this project, and I get to see some places in Uganda that are the definition of rural.

-KB

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Kiyomizu Dera

It was the last day in Kyoto and we weren’t going to waste it. When I say last day I also mean a measly 5 hours as we had to catch the shikansen back into Tokyo in the early afternoon. This meant that Joe and I had to make the most of the time we had left, and that we did. After waking up and checking out of the 9h capsule hotel, we took a brief stop at a MOS burger for breakfast and started making our way to Kiyomizu -Dera. After trying to hike our way up toward the temple, Joe and I realized that the incline was far too steep and exhausting for us as we were carrying 20kg of gear. We paused briefly and decided to take a bus the rest of the way (best decision all day).

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Elevator at the 9h Capsule Hotel in Kyoto

The grounds were busy with school children and their teachers. I’m not sure if it was the season for the locals to visit or if it’s just that busy everyday but it was one of the most crowded locations we had visited. Additionally the veranda and main hall were then being renovated which limited the amount of photo locations I was going to be happy with. Ignoring my hobby, the temple itself is beautiful and a masterpiece of Japanese ingenuity and wood work.

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Locals praying in the main hall

Joe and I didn’t particularly like being around the large crowds so we ventured off into the then leafless forest that surrounds the main hall and explored a bit. My favourite shot of the day was of this small shrine. It was just tucked away from everything and looked undisturbed.

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Small shrine at Kiyomizu Dera

Then the “reality wall” hit, and it hit hard. Once we left the temple we’d be officially done with our tourist activities. The rest of the journey would be happening on trains and planes, and would be far less exciting than wandering around local streets. From what I remember I was conflicted because on one hand I was excited to go home and see my family, while on the other I never wanted to give up on the perpetual adventure. Travel can be addictive, it’s the constant motion forward, the exciting unknown. I hope more adventures are to come, but who knows cause the world is an ever-changing place and life has a way of making barriers. As a Canadian I hold a very special ability and privilege to visit the majority of the world without much cause for concern. It’s been 6 years since I was in Japan and I have had other adventures since then, but none have been as influential.

-K

 

9h Capsule Hotel Experience

Back in 2011, capsule hotels were a strange concept to Western countries. They weren’t as widely known and I felt compelled to experience something so uniquely Japanese. Who would pay good money to rent out a coffin like tube where you slept in the presence of other people who would be stacked on top of you? Right?!

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It turns out that the 9h capsule hotel in Kyoto was the strange experience I was looking for. The process for checking in and utilizing the space felt very much like a hostel with the exception of being designed by someone who loved 2001: A Space Odyssey. Admittedly I was fond of how they supplied absolutely everything you’d need to have a satisfactory night of sleep. Immediately after checking in you can unlock your personal locker, which contains a set of pjs, shampoo, conditioner, tooth-brush, tooth paste, and towels. The washroom was very clean and I appreciated the standing showers. Something that was unique to 9h was how you set your “wake up” call. Each unit is equipped to illuminate at a set time, and due to the capsules translucent/reflective material it blasts a very warm light to wake you up.

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The only serious criticism that I had would be just how late people were wandering into the hotel. I remember waking up at 3 am as some other travellers or business women were making their way into their capsules. In hindsight I would have brought some ear plugs and that would have made my stay that much better. There does need to be warning that if you do suffer from claustrophobia this would not be the place for you, but over all the capsules themselves are pretty spacious for what they are.

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I never asked Joe about his experience or whether or not he had any problems but I’d say for $50 CAD a night it’s equivalent to any Japanese hostel but with better beds.

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Kyoto yet again proved to be one of my favourite cities to visit, and tagging off the capsule experience just made it even more satisfying.

*I’ve also always wondered if we made it onto Japanese TV.

-KB

Last Piece of the Puzzle

There is a stereotype that I love about Japan; it is the world leader in tech. Cameras, video games, computers, you name it and Japan prides itself on being the first to push the limits on what’s going to be next. I absolutely adore technology, maybe it’s because I’m from Gen Y but technology is in my blood. So where do you go in Tokyo to find this magical land of technology? You go to the Akihabara  district.

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Tower in Shinjuku

Akihabara is all about tech. Everything you can think of that requires computer chips, LED lights and “nerdom” factoids is found in this part of Tokyo. The sheer number of store dedicated to tech was astounding and somewhat overwhelming. Back home you have shops like Best Buy and Memory Express which are the only retailers for tech (there are a few others but not on a large platform.) and they are self-contained units. Whereas in Akihabara you could spend days jumping from shop to shop. One of the biggest stores we went into was the Yodobashi store which is essentially 8 floors of tech, music, movies and gear. If I wasn’t on such a tight budget I think I would have spent several hundreds of dollars in that store. Lucky for me my suitcase was another barrier in preventing me from spending an absurd amount of cash.

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Going into the Shibuya Underground

 

After we were done in Akihabara we traversed the Tokyo metro to find our way back into Shinjuku. This is where we filmed the 3rd and final piece to Kaz’s short film. Joe was the talent, Kaz was Dp, and I directed. What I loved about this part of the film was that I got to showcase the atmosphere of Tokyo. Honestly guerilla shooting is nerve-racking you never know who’s going to tell you to stop filming, which was the case on our very first shot. A security guard for one of the office towers we were shooting beside caught us on their property and Kaz was able to talk with him and explain our circumstances. After a brief discussion the guard advised us to just move locations (about 20 meters away) and we shouldn’t have a problem. From that point forward we made sure to quickly and discretely setup our shots.

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Shibuya Crossing | 2011

Our last stop of the day was in Shibuya to see the district crossing (yes another Lost in Translation spot.) It was an interesting place. Lots of people, and a lot going on. Besides our tech purchases the 3 of us aren’t huge shoppers so we only spent 30 minutes in the area to grab photos and experience the energy.

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Joe in Shibuya Streets

Overall this day was the tech experience I wanted. Got to see what Tokyo had to offer and it was amazing. Every time I think about new technologies being released I know that the people of Tokyo are some of the first to ge their hands on it. As a Canadian nerd, I’m jealous!

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Alternate Angle of Shibuya Crossing

-KB

Nabe is the best!

Some days are actual roller coasters. It all starts at the top of a sky scraper, then you plummet down to reality where time flows as it wishes and the clouds look so much further away. Your feet meet the ground and your bank account suddenly has limits and your ability to forget about the common problems comes rushing back like the Japanese humidity. It’s an inevitable reality for someone who was just out of school and traveling on a budget. However even today as someone who has been working for 6 years, I look back on the Park Hyatt experience as unique and burnt into my memory. The elevator rides, the sound of fine dinning, the smell of the pool, and most definitely the view. All these memories are complied into a single entity. A single feeling. A gift to myself.

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Final look out of Park Hyatt Building

Not everything in a “commoners” life is bland or insignificant though, it really just depends on how you manage your perspective and the company you keep.  The family that welcomed us to Tokyo the first time round had yet again offered to shelter us for 2 additional nights. I was beyond myself when they welcomed us back and how much they were willing to go out of their way to take care of us. I’d imagine it would be a hard sell to take in 3 relative strangers into ones home and offer them such hospitality. At the core of their structure I could tell kindness as a key element. It was evident by the way I could hear them speak to one another through the walls and how they interacted from afar. Yes people tend to put the best versions of themselves forward in the presence of visitors but sometimes you just know.

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Park Hyatt Tokyo – Upper Floor Lobby

I am so thankful to them.

-KB