Greetings readers! I hope you enjoyed my last post about traveling to Kyoto! Now it is time to talk about what we did in Kyoto and Osaka!
On our first full day in Kyoto Lexi and I first adventured to Fushimi-Inari, one of the most famous shrines in Kyoto. Our Airbnb was just a short 15 minute walk away, so it was super easy to reach. We stopped at a lovely little coffee stand near the shrine and chit-chatted with the owner who was super nice. Coffee in hand, we walked up to the shrine. The road was lined with shops and food stands, which were super tempting. If Japan is good at anything, it is for sure street food. They have grilled meats, takoyaki, taiyaki, mochi, and more. So much deliciousness. Anyways, after walking past all this temptation, we arrived at the shrine. Thankfully it wasn’t too busy, so we were able to take some nice pictures without there being huge crowds. For the sake of time, we decided to forgo climbing up the hill to the other parts of the shrine and instead ventured onto our next destination: Kinkaku-ji.
Kinkaku-ji is one of the most famous temples in Japan. If you have ever seen a gold pavilion in pictures of Japan, you are seeing this temple. The temple grounds used to be the villa of a rich guy and became a temple after his death according to the wishes of his will. The name Kinkaku-ji literally translates to “Temple of the Golden Pavilion”, and it definitely lived up to the hype. It was quite beautiful and also not too crowded. The weather was also gorgeous, so it was the perfect day to admire the pavilion and the grounds around it. Check out some photos of it below:
After Kinkaku-ji we took a bus to the area around the Kyoto Imperial Palace, which was also near the university that Lexi studied at for a year. She showed me a bit of the university, and we happened to see students coming from their graduation ceremony. All the girls were dressed up in very nice kimono, so it was cool to see them. It was also interesting to see the difference in how we dress in the U.S. for our graduation ceremonies vs how they dress in Japan. The women just dress up in nice kimono and the men wear nice suits, but they don’t have any caps and gowns.
Our next stop was the park around the Kyoto Imperial Palace, where we got to see the sakura (cherry blossoms) starting to bloom. Lots of people were in the park around the trees taking pictures, but it wasn’t too bad. I think it was a lot less crowded than it would have been if COVID-19 wasn’t a concern. Throughout our whole trip we felt that things were less crowded than usual, though there was still a fair amount of people visiting Kyoto. Usually Kyoto is crazy touristy, especially during sakura season, but it wasn’t that crowded when we were there, which was nice. Anyways, Lexi and I thoroughly enjoyed doing our own mini photo shoot in the sakura, so check out some photos below:
The rest of the day we just meandered around downtown Kyoto and got some delicious food. We had walked around quite a lot, so we returned fairly early in the evening to our Airbnb and relaxed while waiting for our friend Jonathan to arrive in Kyoto. Once he arrived we got a quick dinner at the nearby conbini and chilled the rest of the evening.
The next day was by far our busiest and longest day. We started off fairly early in the morning back at Fushimi-inari to beat the crowds. This time we decided to actually hike up the hill through the whole shrine. It was a pretty cool walk through all the gates up the hill, but man, did that hike kick my butt. It definitely showed that I am out of shape, but it was also a hike composed of thousands of stairs. Definitely exhausting, but worth the view over Kyoto and the experience.
After our hike we hopped on a train and headed for Osaka. The two cities are really close together, so it took only about an hour on the train to central Osaka. Once we arrived, we went in search of food. Jonathan knew of a really good ramen shop that does tomato sauce based ramen, so we decided on that for lunch. Let me tell you, it was one of the best bowls of ramen I have had in Japan. I seriously love the fresh ramen here. It does not even compare to the instant ramen back home. This ramen was so unique because of the tomato sauce, so it felt like a Japanese/Italian fusion, and it was super delicious.
Upon finishing that heavenly ramen, we headed for Osaka Castle. This castle is one of the most famous castles in Japan, and it definitely did not disappoint. The interior of the castle was unfortunately closed because of the virus, but we could still admire the castle from the park around it. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, so we thoroughly enjoyed meandering around the castle. Check out my photos:
Our next destination was to the bustling downtown area of Osaka. We stopped by a nice big Pokemon store and relaxed in a cafe, where we then met up with our friends Julie and Se-Gil, who were staying in Osaka. We then went off to explore around the Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori shopping districts. This area is a pretty cool place to go in Osaka if you like shopping. A lot of shops are built into these covered “arcade” style shopping streets, so while you are technically outside, you are covered by arched ceilings over the street. We stopped in at a building that had a pinball arcade, which was pretty nifty. They had pinball machines from so many movies, both modern and classic, such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, the Avengers, and more.
After all our exploring, it was time for some food, so we headed for the restaurant we had a reservation at. On the way we stopped at the famous “Running Man” sign and took some photos. After getting a bit misplaced, we arrived at the restaurant, which was a tabenomihodai place, which means all you can eat and drink. These places can be a bit pricy, but you can eat as much as you want and drink as many alcoholic drinks as you want. The food comes in smaller amounts and is basically a smorgasbord of appetizer like foods that everyone shares, and the drinks are a bit weaker, but it can still be a good deal. It’s the perfect places to enjoy lots of food and drinks, and to generally have a good time socializing. This restaurant was a bit disappointing though, because they had weird restrictions for order, like only allowing us to order a certain number of dishes at a time and charging us extra if we didn’t finish all the food. They also raised the price of our meal from what the menu said, so we were a bit miffed, but didn’t feel like arguing it. I definitely wouldn’t go to that place again, as it was the worst service I have ever received in Japan honestly. However, we still had fun stuffing our faces and drinking, so it was still a good night.
Once we finished our meal, it was back to Kyoto for us. It had been a very long and exhausting day, but lots of fun. I think my Fitbit registered almost 30,000 steps, which is crazy. As soon as we got back to our Airbnb we headed straight to bed so that we could be rested for another day of exploring Kyoto, which will be featured in my last post about our trip. I will try to be quicker about writing about that, but with all this corona virus craziness, I haven’t felt much like writing. Plus, my days are a bit busier with school going back into full swing here. Stay tuned dear readers!
P.S. If y’all have any feedback on my blogs, or any suggestions for something you would like for me to write about, please drop a comment! 🙂