How I got to Kyoto very last minute

Memories of my Kyoto days

TRAVEL – It is true. Every bad decision leads to a good thing. The bad decision in this story: staying in Kuala Lumpur for ten days with no plan whatsoever. The good thing it led to: Kyoto, Japan.

My girlfriend and I just got in from a two month trip in Indonesia when we said to each other: Kuala Lumpur is so interesting, it is so diverse, it feels like a few different countries in one city. This is gonna be fun! We were staying in Chinatown, but a short ride on the bus or train gets you to the Indian part, or the Malay part, or to the modern businessdistrict. I think this ‘interesting’ feeling held up for two days. I don’t know if it was the heat, the room (or better: closet) without windows we slept in, the hundreds and hundreds of malls everywhere you looked, or the fact we didn’t had our mind set on the next destination. But we started to enjoy KL less and less by the day.

We wanted to use our time in Malaysia to look for a new Workaway project somewhere in Asia. We had a great time teaching English and helping out on a farm in Indonesia and decided that working on projects while travelling was the way to go. We wrote a few e-mails to Myanmar and China but we didn’t receive a reply, and then suddenly the end of our ten day stay in KL was nearing. We had to decide. Both of us were not really attracted to any other parts in Southeast Asia. We wanted to fulfill dreams on this trip, not go somewhere just because it’s cheap. So we narrowed our destinations down to central and east Asia.

Cherry Blossoms all over Kyoto

Cherry Blossoms all over Kyoto

I had my mind set on Japan, while Janne was still doubting between Taiwan and Japan. Then suddenly she had a guesthouse in Kyoto she could work for in exchange for free accommodation. She booked her Air Asia-ticket to Osaka and with one day to go, my hopes on getting on the same plane with her were very low. I wrote a few guesthouses, but no volunteerspots were available. It was the last day and I felt terrible. I didn’t want to stay in KL – no way – but I had no project to go to. Janne pushed me to look further and so, finally, eight hours before her flight was scheduled to depart for Osaka, I came in touch with Yashi.


One of the last minute replies I got from a guesthouse in Japan. Love the reason for apologizing!

Yashi, together with his wife Sunam, is the owner of the Gion-based guesthouse IchiEnSou. He replied my e-mail straight away, saying that he was looking for a cleaner and that he wanted to have an interview with my on Skype, the next day or the day after. I wrote him back asking if an interview in person would be fine too. I was so excited by now that I just wanted to get on that plane the same night. He said it was fine and so I booked the ticket for the midnight flight. Two or three stressful hours followed, packing, eating something really quick, booking a ticket OUT of Japan to Korea in case they would ask for a proof of exit at customs. Heading to the airport. And then – I think it was 16 hours after I had no hopes on getting to Japan that same night – I WAS IN JAPAN. A big time dream coming true.

Happy kids at the beginning of spring in Kyoto

Happy kids at the beginning of spring in Kyoto

And the best decision I ever made. I stayed at the IchiEnSou guesthouse for about two months, a guesthouse with 5 rooms and 16 beds total. Imagine how cozy that was. The volunteers were great, Yashi and Sunam were the kindest people, and their two adorable kids who would come to the guesthouse between 5pm and 7pm to eat (and play – yes, that’s why I came back at 5pm a few times too) were so cute.

No offense to yours but these are the best kids in the world.

No offense to yours but these are the best kids in the world.

And that all in an inspiring city as Kyoto. It is the city where you can feel the magic of ancient Japan, where you can be part of a buzzing city or retreat yourself to the relaxing parks along the riverside, the little temples and shrines scattered all over the city, the mountains just outside the city, the relaxing hot springs. And it is, of course, the Japanese city of tea. The place where I decided: I want to throw myself completely in the world of tea.

Tea Ceremony with Geisha's before the Miyako Odori

Tea Ceremony with Geisha’s before the Miyako Odori

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