First Impressions | Kyoto

From TBD to LFG!

When I paid my Remote Year deposit back in last October, I was originally not planning on going to Asia. I was signed up for a program that was still leaving in April, but only going to Europe and Latin America. However, in January, I got the news that the program I had signed up for was no longer being offered and a new one, called Kaizen, was taking its place (RIP Ubuntu, we barely knew thee 🙏).

There was only one catch — Kaizen was spending four months in Asia.

I never considered going to Asia, but this new itinerary had Thailand on it, so that at least piqued my interest. Adding to the Asian intrigue were three little letters following the month of October — “TBD”.

After some convincing from my then gChat penpal, Milena, who already signed up for Kaizen, I got work onboard with Asia and was officially in on this new itinerary with the mysterious October.

When you have six months of time, a mystery month on your itinerary, and an obsessive personality, you can’t help but go down the rabbit hole of what it’s going to be.

I didn’t think it was going to be a city that RY already went to, like Phnom Penh, because why wouldn’t they have already determined that? No other groups were scheduled to go there during October (I had mad spreadsheets, yo). No, it had to be something fresh. Something they hadn’t done before — or at least not in a while.

My guesses were either Tokyo or Seoul — with the former being my preference. There was something about Japan that made me drawn to it. I have no idea what it was, because I had never been there, but there was something very intriguing about it.

After months of bombarding poor Rosé, RY’s On-Boarding Lead and C🍕O, with emails (the kind that made me immediately ask myself “why am I like this?” after hitting send) regarding the TBD month, we finally found out in February that we would be going to Japan! Not Tokyo, but Kyoto, which was fine by me.

I instantly had a new “most excited for” month.

All I knew about Japan were the typical things you usually hear about — that the cities are generally very clean and orderly, people actually follow the rules (!), the people are very kind and respectful, that Japanese tradition is very important, and that things in Tokyo get weird…real weird.

All of these things, save for the latter, are very apparent after spending two weeks here (I plan on being able to confirm first hand that Tokyo is as weird as I hope it is soon).

My First Impressions

I have a suspicion that if any country we visit this year is going to be “my place”, it’s going to be Japan. I have a level of appreciation for things here that I haven’t necessarily reached with some of the other places we’ve lived in. Nothing at all against the previous six, but something about how I feel just walking around the city resonates with me on a different level. I frequently have those moments while walking around at night where I am grinning from ear to ear like a big, dumb idiot, in awe of how happy I am to be here. It’s an incredible feeling.

I appreciate the attention to detail that everyone seems to have for just about everything, I appreciate how important tradition is to them, I appreciate how punctuality is so engrained into Japanese culture, and I, above all, appreciate how immaculately clean everything is (if you’ve ever seen my apartment back in Austin, this should come as no surprise ✨).

From Chaos to Calm

I wrote previously about the chaos-o-meter and how Chiang Mai was a couple of notches down from Hanoi. If Hanoi was a 10 and Chiang Mai was a 5, then my first impression of Kyoto is that it is a -28.

Kyoto honestly feels like it might be the safest place on Earth, too. Sure that might be a baseless conclusion, but you can almost hear a pin drop while walking down some of the busiest streets. I mean, even Japanese cars barely make any noise.

everyone in kyoto

When people talk to one another on the streets, and in most places, really, they do so with very hushed voices as if not to disturb others around them. At first, the silence was deafening and occasionally awkward. It was all I could hear or think about. It has started to become something that I appreciate and enjoy.

Needless to say, Kaizen makes its presence known when we go most places — unintentionally…I think.

🤗 Rules 🤗

Now, I don’t think I’m a full blown Type A person, but I for sure have some Type A tendencies, mostly pertaining to rule following.

If there’s a rule that I think makes sense, whether it’s an explicit rule or one that Liz Lemon and I refer to as “the rules of being a person” (punctuality, cleaning up after yourself, doing the dishes immediately after you eat, to name a few), then I try to follow it and can get frustrated when others around me don’t. Admittedly, this can sometimes end up with me being perceived as a little uptight.

Well, in Japan, these rules are a part of their day-to-day life and everyone follows them! Now, instead of me having an internal struggle for 30 minutes deciding whether I should (1) just tell Janice to get her dirt ass feet off of the furniture and risk coming off as a curmudgeon or whether I should (2) just jump out of the nearest window to avoid confrontation, I can just politely tap her on the shoulder, point to her dirt ass feet on the furniture, and give her an “Ugh, Japan, amirite?! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”.


One of the most interesting rules that people (mostly) follow is pertaining to crossing the street. There are these small, one way side streets that have lighted crosswalks and even if there are zero cars in sight, people will still stand and wait for the light to turn green. It might seem silly, but I find it interesting and have been trying to follow suit.

The Late Late Night Shift

Until now, I think that most people have been doing alright with the night shift in Asia. I think the prior two months were toughest for people working PST hours, but as a whole, not too bad.

I think this month has been a little tougher for everyone. You can tell because of how late people are at the workspaces. Instead of there being one or two people there past 2 am, there’s now almost a dozen. Japan is 14 hours ahead of CST, so going to bed before 2 am is just not an option for me — and for a lot of people, 2 am would be considered an early night.

It’s not ideal, but it’s certainly worth it IMO.

it helps to have two nice workspaces this month

If you can’t already tell, I’m beyond ecstatic to spend 40 days in Japan. There are so many places to see in the next couple weeks that I’m already a little worried of how long this month’s BTMU post is going to be.