Japan in my mind: Kyoto and Osaka

  • Posted on: November 9, 2013
  • By:

On the summer of July 2013, I have decided to leave Canada for a 2-week adventure to Japan. A brief background about the rationale and my thoughts about my whole trip warrant another entry. In the meantime, I would like to share a small amount of photographs that I took when I went to Kyoto and Osaka.

I left Tokyo close to midnight of July 15th and took the overnight bus to Kyoto. I think I caught a lot of friends/colleagues/acquaintances by surprise by telling them that I took the night bus alone in a foreign country. Hey, this trip is something that I considered as a personal adventure!

I find that I am a very light sleeper during longer hauls, so I wasn’t very well-rested when my bus finally arrived at Kyoto Station around 7am. The first thing on my mind was to find a place to eat that is not fast food. I ended up eating inside the station, with my breakfast ending with one of the patrons being picked up by paramedics due to difficulty in breathing. Whew.

Armed with the Kyoto map that my friend and I acquired a few days back, I first headed to Fushimi Inari Taisha, which is a Shinto shrine. It took me a while (and broken Japanese) to realize that I cannot take the bus from Kyoto to the shrine and had to take a train to Inari station. After taking the wrong train, I finally reached the shrine. I was excited to find out that the place is not crowded if one arrives early (after all the mishaps I think I arrived sometime around 8:30).

After spending some time at Fushimi Inari Shrine, I decided to head up and go to my next destination: Kiyomizu-dera. The temple is part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto and as such gets really crowded. The climb was even more unbearable and I started to see a mirage ahead of me (I am not kidding!). Heading back down I decided to just eat something because I don’t have the time to sit down and have a better meal and was running out of time.

I planned to skip Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion) and decided to head to Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) instead. I made a terrible and seriously annoying mistake. Because of fatigue, I mistakenly went to Ginkakuji without realizing until I arrived to my hostel. After taking a shower and writing my postcards that I realized that, errr, yeah, the building is white but not because it was Photoshopped.

I obviously lacked iodine and electrolytes at that time as I cannot think on my feet. Yikes!

After a quick dinner, I joined the rest of the hostel group and its staff and visited the Kyoto downtown area for the last night of Gion Matsuri. Now this was the main reason why I decided to fit Kyoto in my Japan itinerary – I wanted to catch the Yoiyama. The place, as expected, was packed with people – old and young, couples, children, foreigners, and more.

During the walkabout I met one Japanese girl that stayed at the same hostel room, and a nice Japanese elderly lady who talked about visiting Calgary 30 years ago.

After given the time to roam around the festival I met up with my group and headed back to the hostel to sleep.

I woke up early the next day to take a quick shower, had a hearty breakfast, and planned my way to visit Kinkakuji for real. I caught the first group of visitors just before the pavilion opened. I was totally in awe to see the pavilion and thought to myself it would have been a total shame if I completely skipped this without knowing.

It was just beautiful.

Shortly thereafter I headed to get a glance of the Yamaboko Junko, which is still a part of Gion Festival. The blocked areas are already jam-packed with spectators – locals and visitors alike. Soon after I headed back to Kyoto station and took a train going to Osaka.

Personally, Osaka was not even on my destination list initially because I thought it would be too time-consuming. However my friend T said to just try and visit. So I took his advice and decided to catch my bus there. I was definitely too early for my bus back to Tokyo, so I walked around and tried to locate my bus station, and then headed to Dotonbori to rest and to eat.

Now Dotonbori is an interesting place and worth a visit because of the plethora of restaurants that you can see there. I was desperate to find an internet connection to kill time, and eventually found myself sitting in one of the biggest Starbucks I have been to, which was located inside Tsutaya Bookstore.

Closer to dinnertime I decided to eat at an Okonomiyaki place called Takohachi and headed back to the station. After being caught in an unfortunate situation where I booked the wrong bus schedule, the staff accommodated me and finally I got myself in an overnight bus back to Tokyo. Yes, it was an adventure.

Just a friendly heads-up to anyone who is wishing to follow my itinerary: wear comfortable shoes or sandals. I went to Japan during the summer where heat was unbearable even for someone like me who was born and raised in Southeast Asia (well, I guess I got acclimatize to Canada). If you think you can handle wearing walking shoes, I suggest to have one with mesh material in order for your feet to breathe. Otherwise, get sandals with support. Personally I would recommend wearing closed-toe shoes, since I got bug bites shortly after my day trip since majority of these locations are on the mountainside and surrounded by plants. Do not forget to bring your map, cash, sunscreen, insect repellent, anti-itch cream, a small towel to wipe your sweat, and bottled water (PET bottled drinks abound).

If you happen to be traveling just between Tokyo and Kyoto, using your Suica card to take local trains should suffice since you’ll end up taking JR lines (or equivalent) anyway. I also recommend to stay at Utano Youth Hostel!

I strongly recommend NOT TO BRING HEAVY CAMERAS. As a tourist who will be visiting a lot of places situated on or near the mountain, the best way to spare your neck and back from hurting would be bringing a smaller camera.

I still have a couple of entries to go about my trip last summer. I hope you enjoy reading this part!