Michael and I were on a two week trip between China and Japan. We had an amazing time in China and were pretty sure Japan would be more awesome!
We flew to Osaka from Shanghai as it was cheaper than other city combination. We found the plane ticket expensive at £175 each – whereas our return flight to London was around £550. It was already the cheapest one when we were canvassing for prices. Fortunately, it was a very comfortable flight with a meal served. The plane was only half-filled too!
We flew in to Kansai (KIX) Airport. I seriously don’t understand how for the life of me, I thought that meant flying in at Osaka Airport! I researched on how to get to the ryokan we’re staying at from there NOT Kansai. It meant an additional hour of travelling for us. No biggie. He wouldn’t stop teasing me for messing up the locations though. He kept saying at least it was in the same country! Pfft!!! hahaha (I’ll get even. ^_^)
Whenever we travel, we like trying out new things. Since we’re in the heart of Japanese culture, staying in a traditional Japanese accommodation was a must do for us! To my horror, most ryokan I checked were fully booked on the dates of our visit. I was ecstatic upon receiving a positive response from one that met our wants (a garden view and private toilet). Yoshimizu Inn was a lovely accommodation located at the top of Maruyama Park. Gion, the famed Geisha district, is just at the foot of the park. We’d pass by geishas/ maikos at night on our way back/to the ryokan. I couldn’t be happier with the location really!
Day 1 Kyoto
Even if I wanted to squeeze in as much as possible for every trip – the two of us just can’t be bothered to be rushed from one place to the other. Sticking to a detailed schedule is only a dream. He needs his sleep. I like to take
lots of pictures my time in a place I love. After getting some much needed sleep (and breakfast), we head out to enjoy sunny Kyoto! We walked around the park where our ryokan is located as well as saw the temples there. Then walked towards the direction of Kiyomizu-dera while stopping several times for snacks and drinks along the way.
We spent the afternoon in Fushimi Inari Taisha. The shrine was made more famous by the film Memoirs of a Geisha. It was pretty crowded at the base of the mountain but there were relatively less people as you go up the steps. I was quite keen on wearing a kimono while walking around Kyoto. That trek up the mountain made me thankful I did not get to do it. :D
For dinner, I made reservations with Gion Nanba. I was excited for us to try a multi-course traditional Japanese cuisine known as kaiseki. It was a pretty expensive meal at 75GBP each. But since we already flew (almost) halfway ’round the world for our love of Japanese food (and culture), might as well splurge for this instance
and budget on the others!. :)
Day 2 Arashiyama Day Trip
When we were planning for our trip, we allotted 3 days for Kyoto and 4 days for Tokyo. Eventhough that was the case, I was still keen to go to Nara plus I wanted to visit Osaka and not to forget of course a must trip to Arashiyama! He had to remind me
again and again that we will have no time for Kyoto at that rate. He said I should choose just one – Arashiyama IT IS! :D
First stop was the beautiful Tenryu-ji Zen Temple and its Sogenchi Garden. I enjoy visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites so that was a pretty cool plus! Yeah, almost all of Kyoto is a Heritage Site but that didn’t make me any less excited! I realise there are some people who scoff the at the thought of visiting Heritage Sites but they were made so for good reason and I, for one, am happy to see for myself why! Every person’s travelling style/ taste is different and that’s what makes this world interesting. We headed for the north gate exit of the temple which led us straight in the middle of the bamboo groves (pictured above).
I know I just said that kaiseki is expensive but I just couldn’t pass up another one – lunch this time around! – when it’s relatively cheap AND with amazing reviews! Our ryokan arranged for us to have lunch in Nishiki restaurant. It was impossible for me to do so since there was no English translation at their website. It was a more relaxed experience from the night before I guess that’s why we loved it even more
plus it was cheaper too!
A friend suggested- thanks Sucelle!- that we ride the romantic train of Sagano. Intrigued by the name of the ride, I read more about it. Also known as Sagano Scenic Railway, it is a 25 minute train ride from Torokko Saga Station to Torokko Kameoka Station (and vv). It runs along Hozugawa river. We enjoyed the view immensely!
Day 3 Bullet train-bound to Tokyo
Originally, I was planning for us to pass by Kawaguchiko to see Mt. Fuji enroute to Tokyo so as to prevent us from backtracking. After some research and having a plan in place, we had to abandon it due to force majeur – there was a typhoon that day. It literally started pouring rain after we got to the foot of Maruyama Park from our ryokan. We headed to Kyoto Station and bought our shinkansen (bullet train) tickets straight for Tokyo instead!
Arriving in Tokyo late that afternoon, we headed to our hotel. Got ready. Headed out. Our destination: Akihabara, a district in Tokyo that is famously known as electric town. Having just arrived from Kyoto where it was all temples and shrines, this place provided such a contrast and was the quintessential hi-tech Japan we had in mind. We spent the night in arcades and in a maid cafe that was pretty interesting. I can see that the bf was
very quite happy to be there! haha
Day 4 Tokyo
The game of baseball seem to be popular in only 2 country – the USA and Japan. Since we can’t get any bus to take us to Mt.Fuji this day, Mike announced that we can watch a match instead! He was hoping to squeeze it in and he got his chance! I wasn’t sold to the idea as I had my heart set to seeing Fuji on that particular day so was pretty bummed out about it. To get me
even partially interested, he said that the team playing is one of, if not the, most popular team in the country. Plus he said that the interior of the stadium is pretty awesome. Alright, I guess let’s give it a go then! After visiting Meiji Shrine of course. :D (I did enjoy watching the game – it was such a low scoring one though.)
Day 5 Sumo Wrestling
Peak tourist season in Japan is during cherry blossom season. Our trip was booked 2 weeks after it. </3 Why? Because
he we opted to time our trip while it’s sumo tournament. I figured, since he let me decide most of the trip, I can I think concede the “when” part of our trip. Sumo is the Japanese style of wrestling and is the national sport of Japan. Being a traditional sport, it is filled with religious rituals (eg the symbolic purification of ring with salt) and only men practice it professionally. We spent a whole day inside the Kokugikan Stadium. To not get bored, I got busy eating the various food sold inside plus I’d go outside every now and then to check out what’s happening outside the ring. Fan-girling the sumo wrestlers if you’ll ask the bf what I was doing. Sheesh! ^_^
After dinner, I suggested we go to Asakusa to see a few more sights before we call it a night. :)
Day 6 Daytrip to Mt. Fuji
The main reason I agreed to skip the cherry blossom season is because it’d be the Shibazakura season. Ahhh… Japan and its beautiful blooms! <3
Returning back to Shinjuku after our daytrip to Kawaguchiko, we decided to stay in the area and explore. This district is crazy fun. WE LOVE IT! From bargain shopping to robot restaurants and nonstop karaoke, we all gave them a go! It was such a fun night! This was also the night that Mike and I realised that we both love karaoke. :D
Day 7 Tokyo
For our last day in Japan, we wanted to take it easy, visit a few sites and go back to our favourites. We left our luggage in Tokyo Station then walked to the Imperial Palace. Upon seeing how huge the place is was enough to tire me out even before we got started. We did manage an hour of walking before we called it quits and ate lunch. I was almost falling asleep by then. I wasn’t so sure how we ended up in an Irish pub/ resto. I ordered a burger but was served a burger patty on top of some green salad and with rice on the side. I knew we should’ve just stuck with local food! ;) It was probably the downcast weather that was making me feel sluggish. Thankfully, the sun shone shortly afterwards,
well, at least it stopped raining. We headed back to Shibuya to while away the time before it was time for us to head back to the airport. The crossing really amazed us. Seeing huge crowd of people moving in an organized chaos while we’re just chillin’ – we liked it! Sang our hearts out in another karaoke session and then gorged on kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi. Mmmm. <3