If I haven’t mentioned previously, our first week in Japan involved some full on sightseeing. We visited four towns in a week, thank goodness Shinkansen rides are actually pretty comfy/bearable!
Instead of moving from city to city with our suitcases each day, we used Osaka as our ‘base’.
On the second day in Japan, we forced ourselves out of bed rather early, even after such a long 24+ hours traveling. We were off to Kyoto! I love that Kyoto is only about a 20-30min ride away on the Shinkansen and there is so much to see that really a day trip isn’t enough. We did chose to go Kyoto on a Sunday, with the intention of catching the locals out and about.. perhaps dressed in kimonos or praying at shrines.
Photos are taken by me (Fujifilm X100s) and Alfred ( Canon 5D3, mostly using 16-35mm f2.8L)
We were so proud of ourselves that it didn’t take too long for us to learn how to use the ticket machines at train stations (P.s. it’s been 4years since my first trip there aaaand… my memory is terrible). We simply had to identify the stations we wanted to go to on the route map above and select the exact fare shown. In smaller towns, you’ll find the route map doesn’t have english… this is when I’m glad that I still had a fairly good knowledge of hiragana! (learn’t during highschool and early uni years)
We realised we’ve splashed so much money just on transport in Japan, its usually approx. $2-2.50 per single trip. How do Japanese people afford this??
Was so excited about finding a Tokyu Hands downstairs of our hotel… but… we never went into it because we were usually gone before it opens and back after it closes.
Missed these sooo much! I also got Alfred hooked on these “Lunch Pack” sandwiches, they became our ‘breakfast-on-the-go’ or snack along the way. They cost about 132¥/pack so pretty good deal. Today, we got egg, peanut and…. mince cutlet? (if google translate is correct)
We had narrowed down a few main tourist attractions in our itinerary… that way we aren’t seeing Every temple/shrine… and we are saving some for next time. From my first trip, we saw just about every shrine in Kyoto across 3 days.. we were pretty ‘shrine-d out’, at least from that experience I can also have a rough idea of what Alfred might be interested in.
First stop, Fushimi Inari shrine. I wasn’t planning to go here because I thought our itinerary might already be unrealistic but we managed to fit it in. I’m glad we did because it was Alfred’s favourite attraction that day, oh and it was the only shrine that we went to with free admission. This shrine is most well known for its long trail of red/orange tori gates.
Work that pose uncle!
Wash your hands, rinse your mouth with holy water
Because we thought we had time constraints that day, we only made it about 2/3 way up which will take another hour PLUS the time to get back down…so did not get to see the view at the top, next time!
Busted! instagramming while Alfred sets up the tripod.
Was pretty excited to see some cherry blossoms, knowing that there won’t be much left.. so hard to take a photo with just about every pretty tree…
Fushimi Inari shrine was right across the road from JR Inari station – can’t miss it!
When you arrive at Kyoto central station, head down to the bus terminal, there is a kiosk there that sells these 500¥ all day city bus pass. In Kyoto it is most convenient to get from one tourist spot to another by bus (despite it being slower with traffic and all). With each trip ranging from 160¥~240¥*, you’ll easily make the most of the pass.
Its always daunting to catch a bus in a foreign city for me, fortunately it wasn’t too bad in Kyoto especially with the map provided from the kiosk which clearly illustrates which route to take, also the buses that you’d take are mainly along tourist routes meaning there will be announcements made in English of where the next stop is. Of course.. can’t forget about Google maps, which tells you the bus number and how many stops etc. pretty accurately.
Bus # 205 took us straight to Kinkakuji temple / Golden Pavilion
We reached there around 11ish, the crowd had already started to build up but not so bad that you won’t be able to get to the front of the best viewing spot. It really is a quick stroll through the grounds at Kinkakuji, you go in get snaps of and with the Golden pavilion and after a short walk maybe a prayer too, you’re out. I can tell that Kinkakuji is best as an autumn scene, so that would be a great time to visit for the extra colour. Otherwise the gold of the temple itself is just as stunning in photos, especially on a sunny day. (It was rather gloomy the day we went 🙁 )
You can light a prayer candle for yourself or a special someone with particular wishes in mind, Alfred lit one for his brother who’s doing his HSC this year.
Don’t be surprised to find vending machines even at a temple, they are practically everywhere.. but who’s complaining?
I grew to love walking in Japanese neighbourhoods, many times we opted to walk rather than taking public transport.. just so we can soak it all in. (I’m pretty sure that day it still hasn’t sunk in for me that we were in Japan).
There are 100¥ stores as well as 100¥ vending machines!
It was lunch time, and we decided to check out a highly raved ramen shop, Kyoto Gogyo, located just outside one of the Nishiki market exits. We got there about 1:30PM, it was a late lunch hour but we still had to queue for about 30mins. Luckily even with all the queueing in Japan, the food still comes out pretty fast.
It definitely is a unique kind of ramen that I don’t think you can get elsewhere?… burnt.. fat.. for that awesome flavour… what diet?
Alfred just about to get his first slurp of ramen in Japan! (though not the authentic kind).
We both got the Gogyo ramen set with the chashu for 1100¥, it came with rice and toro (had no idea what it was then so didn’t really finish it… that and because I was so full from the ramen alone).
Verdict? To Alfred, it was mind blowing. To me, it was nice but didn’t make me feel like I’ll crave this when I’m back in Sydney. As one of the soup’s ingredient is burnt pork lard… the soup was rather oily after a while and I can’t take anything too oily because I usually feel sick afterwards… luckily I didn’t. I don’t know how Alfred can finish the bowl, soup and all. If you want to try a different type of ramen, I would recommend checking it out though!
About AU$25 for 2 ramen sets, pretty much the same price as Sydney.
We stepped out of the restaurant and Nishiki market was just on our right. Nishiki market wasn’t on our itinerary either but we fit it in as well just fine! We did take a quick stroll through the market though, I wish we weren’t so full from the ramen so we could’ve sampled a few local delights from there. That moment I fell in love with local Japanese food markets.. just as much as the department store kind.
Ah those little octopuses look so cute and enticing at the same time….
This florist was selling bunches or branches of cherry blossoms for about 700-800¥.
While walking towards Maruyama, we took a detour through Gion area hoping to spot Maikos or Geishas… and came across…none 🙁
I read about the thousand(s) year old weeping cherry blossom tree in Maruyama park which is amazing when in full bloom… I guess we were too late for it as we couldn’t spot it out amongst the greenery 🙁 We found the pathway through the park which still had several food stalls set up. During full bloom cherry blossom season, it is much more livelier, more stalls and many hanami parties. There were still quite a few people out to picnic under whats left of the cherry blossom trees when we were there… how I’d love to see it during the busiest time! I can only ‘just imagine’ now..
Lots of girls (locals and tourists) dressed in kimonos wandering around Kyoto.. I wish I had rented a kimono too! But I knew we won’t have much time that day.
This is the prettiest weeping cherry blossom tree we came across the whole trip! We found it at a small park nearby, there were only 3 of these and you can tell why it caught my eye… it was still pretty ‘full’.
This was on the way to the Philosopher’s Path, you can tell the cherry blossom trees were just about bare… now just imagine again if it was during full bloom time..
After quite a long walk, we reached Philosopher’s Path, I love the little river with cherry blossoms leaning over, would’ve made for such a pretty scene for an engagement shoot… (can’t help thinking that way!)
We got to the street leading up to Kiyomizu temple, it was meant to be our last stop however there was quite a crazy queue happening which we found out was some special opening night during Spring, when the temple is open late for visitors. We chose not to spend more time in line that day and decided to wander up/down the other tourist attractions nearby; Sannen-zaka and Ninen-zaka.. which are these little streets lined with cute little old shops. It was the perfect place to pick up some unique goods, freshly made snacks and souvenirs while experiencing that ‘old town’ vibe of Kyoto.
Saw green tea puffs, had to have it!
We made our way back to Kyoto central station to find a place to eat, then it’ll be a quick trip back to Osaka from there.
We found Katsukura on the 11th floor of The Cube (right upstairs of Kyoto Central station!) and read they make some good tonkatsu. You get to ground the sesame seeds with the tool below, and choose from a selection of sauces (from savoury to sweet) to have with the tonkatsu. We both had the premium tenderloin cutlet set for 1400¥, it looks small but was rather filling (OR because we snacked a bit too much earlier)
I told Alfred, miso soup is usually the real deal in Japan, especially when you find clams and such! I can tell he grew to like miso soup during the trip 😛
The view of Kyoto from the top of the Cube building.
It was quite a long day taking long bus rides or leisurely walks from one spot to another… we couldn’t feel happier about being able to put our feet up that night! We didn’t get to see everything we would’ve wanted to see in a day, but that gives us a good reason to visit Kyoto again next time! 🙂
Next up.. is Day 3… Exploring Osaka and pretty portraits amidst cherry blossoms ;D.. come back soon!
*You can take a look at what we got up to (a sneak peek of whats to come!) on instagram – #clarfredtravels
Day 01 – Arriving in Tokyo, straight to Osaka. Night out at Namba & Dotonbori.
Day 02 – Kyoto daytrip (Fushimi Inari shrine, Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto Gogyo ramen, Nishiki Market, Ginza, Maruyama Park, Philosophers Walk, Ninenzaka & Zanenzaka, Katsukura
Day 03 – Exploring Osaka (Osaka Castle Park, Osaka Aquarium)
Day 04 – Hiroshima daytrip (Atomic Bomb site, Mazda HQ, Miyajima island) Osaka – Kobe Misono
I just love seeing Japan through the eyes of tourists, especially ones who take such gorgeous photos! And as for transport, yep, pretty pricey, but 1) If you take public transport to work, they pay for it, and 2) It’s still cheaper than owning a car with expensive maintenance checks and taxes every 2 years (about $1000), not to mention tolls and parking fees everywhere. If you live in an apartment building, you don’t automatically get a parking space – you have to rent that too if there’s any spare! But compared to the rest of our living expenses – food is cheap, rent is cheap if you don’t live too close to a station, etc – you just suck up the transport fares and buy a bike 😉