9 Thoughts I Had As A Tourist In Kyoto

9 Thoughts I Had As A Tourist In Kyoto

There's a reason Kyoto is the world's best city for travel.
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Kyoto is the home to ancient shrines and temples amid the busy clatter of a modern city, making it the hub of Japanese culture, both past and present. I traveled to Kyoto for the first time last week and I've documented my impressions of the city during the four days of my trip (with pictures!):

1. Kyoto Station is enormous.

I arrived in Kyoto by train from the Kansai Airport and I was met with a huge train station -- and by huge, I mean huge. Kyoto Station has 11 floors of restaurants and stores where you can find world-famous makeup emporiums next to tiny ramen shops. Thankfully, the locals are incredibly friendly and willing to help lost travelers (such as myself).

2. What a gorgeous view from my apartment window.

I was staying in a small studio apartment on an unexciting street I found on Airbnb for my trip. It couldn't get any more ordinary than that, so I was pleasantly surprised when I woke up to a stunning sunrise the next morning over a beautiful cityscape.

3. Everyone is incredibly polite.

Everyone said "ohayou gozaimasu" (good morning) as I passed him on the street, no one would push her way through busy subway stations, and cashiers thanked me profusely as they gave me my change. Best of all, there was no loud chattering into phones on the bus. It was a nice change of pace from the abrasive environment of my hometown.

4. Nature and the city -- Kyoto has it all.

Kyoto is surrounded by mountains, covered with trees, and has ancient religious architecture juxtaposed with modern buildings, skyscrapers and tiny apartments alike. The weather is also comfortably moderate. What doesn't this city have?

5. There's merchandise for every anime.

Although there aren't as many anime department stores as there are in Akihabara or Ikebukuro, I found merchandise for all of my favorite animes along Teramachi Street, one of Kyoto's well-known shopping arcades. I snagged plenty of posters, magazines and figurines in one visit.

6. Kyoto has an obsession with matcha ice cream.

It might be just in the tourist destinations, but there were so many matcha ice cream shops, I lost count on the first day of my trip. It's definitely not something to complain about though -- matcha ice cream is like the best green tea latte you've ever had made into ice cream form. It's that tasty.

7. Ramen lives up to its delicious reputation.

I ate at the ramen shops in the aforementioned Kyoto Station twice during my trip and I was surprised by how good the noodles were both times. Ramen is famous for a very good reason: the taste of creamy soup with springy noodles is incomparable.

8. Shinto shrines look exactly like they do in travel magazines.

I visited lots of tourist destinations in Kyoto but my favorite was the beautiful Fushimi Inari Shrine. Aside from the main shrine, there are numerous smaller shrines on Inari mountain that can be reached by climbing the paths lined with tunnels made of torii gates. The glow of red-orange in the sunlight is magnificent.

9. Did I mention the food is good?

I've already made two other points about food in Kyoto but it was so good, it merits another. In restaurants, the dishes are generally of small portions so that you can try as many different dishes as possible. Each dish also has its own unique method of consumption and restaurants have little signs explaining (in English too!) how to enjoy Japanese delicacies properly.

Cover Image Credit: Lucy Jing

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30 Things I'd Rather Be Than 'Pretty'

Because "pretty" is so overrated.
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Nowadays, we put so much emphasis on our looks. We focus so much on the outside that we forget to really focus on what matters. I was inspired by a list that I found online of "Things I Would Rather Be Called Instead Of Pretty," so I made my own version. Here is a list of things that I would rather be than "pretty."

1. Captivating

I want one glance at me to completely steal your breath away.

2. Magnetic

I want people to feel drawn to me. I want something to be different about me that people recognize at first glance.

3. Raw

I want to be real. Vulnerable. Completely, genuinely myself.

4. Intoxicating

..and I want you addicted.

5. Humble

I want to recognize my abilities, but not be boastful or proud.

6. Exemplary

I want to stand out.

7. Loyal

I want to pride myself on sticking out the storm.

8. Fascinating

I want you to be hanging on every word I say.

9. Empathetic

I want to be able to feel your pain, so that I can help you heal.

10. Vivacious

I want to be the life of the party.

11. Reckless

I want to be crazy. Thrilling. Unpredictable. I want to keep you guessing, keep your heart pounding, and your blood rushing.

12. Philanthropic

I want to give.

13. Philosophical

I want to ask the tough questions that get you thinking about the purpose of our beating hearts.

14. Loving

When my name is spoken, I want my tenderness to come to mind.

15. Quaintrelle

I want my passion to ooze out of me.

16. Belesprit

I want to be quick. Witty. Always on my toes.

17. Conscientious

I want to always be thinking of others.

18. Passionate

...and I want people to know what my passions are.

19. Alluring

I want to be a woman who draws people in.

20. Kind

Simply put, I want to be pleasant and kind.

21. Selcouth

Even if you've known me your whole life, I want strange, yet marvelous. Rare and wondrous.

22. Pierian

From the way I move to the way I speak, I want to be poetic.

23. Esoteric

Do not mistake this. I do not want to be misunderstood. But rather I'd like to keep my circle small and close. I don't want to be an average, everyday person.

24. Authentic

I don't want anyone to ever question whether I am being genuine or telling the truth.

25. Novaturient

..about my own life. I never want to settle for good enough. Instead I always want to seek to make a positive change.

26. Observant

I want to take all of life in.

27. Peart

I want to be honestly in good spirits at all times.

28. Romantic

Sure, I want to be a little old school in this sense.

29. Elysian

I want to give you the same feeling that you get in paradise.

30. Curious

And I never want to stop searching for answers.
Cover Image Credit: Favim

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Living With Celiac Disease

Kids would put food in my face and tease me about it, they'd tell me that my symptoms weren't real and that I was just faking it for attention; I even had adults tell me this too.

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At the age of eight, I experienced horrible stomach pain, weakness, and illness. I was doubled over, and I didn't know why I'd felt so horrible. It wasn't the kind of pain you feel when you have the flu, or when you have cramps. It was a different kind of pain, but I knew it wasn't good. My parents didn't know what was wrong with me either. The only thing my dad had suspected was that perhaps I was intolerant to gluten.

For those who don't know, gluten is found in many food items that primarily contain grains or are often high in carbs. This isn't to say that all foods with carbs or grains have gluten, but they oftentimes do. Gluten is a protein within wheat that is the primary ingredient in cake, pizza, and bread. It is even sometimes in food that you would never suspect, like Twizzlers. It's also synonymous with ingredients like monosodium glutamate, malt, barley…etc.

I tell you that to tell you this:
At eight years old, I was told I had celiac disease. Which just means that my body is unable to digest and break down gluten, preventing me from absorbing vital nutrients.

My dad found out later in his life that he was gluten intolerant after many years of breakouts and complications. He had ascertained the idea that maybe I had also carried this gene and that was why I was in so much pain. Each time we digest gluten, our body attacks our small intestine, killing off what is called villi. My body was in so much pain because I was eating gluten.

After taking gluten products completely out of my diet, I felt 100% better. I was no longer in intense pain, I no longer had rashes, and all other symptoms went away. From then on, I had to watch what I ate, as if I was on a life-long diet.

As you can imagine, this was a ton of responsibility for me as an eight-year-old because I now had to constantly check every label there ever was, make sure that the food I was eating at school didn't have any sort of gluten in it, and I was also now a novelty at school. Kids would put food in my face and tease me about it, they'd tell me that my symptoms weren't real and that I was just faking it for attention. I even had adults tell me this too. They thought I was being hypersensitive.

I had to remember everywhere I went that I had to avoid eating gluten. Do you know how hard that is? It's in so many things. When I was young, not many people knew what celiac disease was. There weren't any gluten-free alternatives out there, so I was eating lots of rice, beans, and salad. I had a very limited food palette. I could no longer have the amazing foods I enjoyed like pizza, garlic rolls, cake, or even ravioli. Although it seems odd, ravioli and spaghetti-o's were my favorite then and I was no longer able to have them. It crushed me.

Having celiac disease was hard as a child because when I went to birthday parties, I couldn't eat most of the food they provided. I couldn't enjoy birthday cake or the pizza that most people ordered. I always had to bring my own food and explain why every time. It seems silly, but I often felt left out. Not being 'normal' because of my allergy made me feel like an outcast. You'd think you wouldn't feel like that, but it generated a lot of those negative feelings because I was a burden to feed due to my allergy.

Fast forward 13 years later, I still have to be careful of what I eat. Celiac disease is something I'll never get rid of. It's a part of my DNA, and there's a good chance my kids will also carry the gene and deal with the same issues.

I don't usually tell people I have celiac disease because I can sometimes get away with having trace amounts of gluten and still be mostly okay. But when I accidentally eat gluten, I pay the consequences. There are times when I accidentally eat it and feel like I can't get out of bed because of the stomach pain. I joke that the pain is so horrible that I feel like I'm dying, but it really does feel severe in the moment.

Being gluten intolerant, I spend quite a bit more money on groceries because I have to find gluten-free food and it's way more expensive. Because gluten-free became a fad diet, more places began offering alternatives and it was easier for me to find foods I liked. When I find gluten-free goodies that aren't normally gluten-free in restaurants, you bet my eyes light up! It's exciting but also a relief.

Being gluten-free has oftentimes felt like a curse, but it's also a blessing sometimes.

The upside to this is that researchers are looking into developing a pill that will help those with celiac disease digest gluten easier and/or subside symptoms completely. So hopefully soon, I'll be able to eat the foods I once loved without feeling ill.

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