Trip to Kansai, Japan: Kyoto

This is the final installment in our Kansai trip adventure! We visited Kyoto in the middle of the week for a half day before spending the last day and a half there. Unfortunately, we saw that a typhoon was headed straight to Kansai so the last day we couldn’t do anything but visit the underground shops by the station or the connected department store.

Things to Do

On our half day, however, we did go to Kiyumizudera. Be warned the temple closes at 6:00 so get there before, rent a kimono along the street close to the hill you walk up, and really enjoy the stroll through the streets. Here are some photos of the temple:
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Gion District
We also took a stroll through the Gion district. This is where the heart of the tradition in the area lies. Great souvenir shops and if you are lucky you will be able to catch a geisha or maiko walking around.
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Food

Since we were stuck inside for the most part, we did get a chance to eat some real Kyoto style food.

  1. Torisanwa (Oya ko donburi)
    Roughly translated as “Parent and child” donburi, this is chicken cooked in a light sauce and half cooked eggs. It is definitely worth the try and so delicious if you get a chance to try it.C360_2015-07-17-18-24-13-234This place was located in the basement level of the main station. You have to walk through the department store grocery stands.
  2. Katzukura (Kyoto Skygarden Donkatsu)
    Located near the top of the Sky Garden in Kyoto Station is another famous fried pork cutlet chain. This one is special because they give you sesame seeds in a mortar and pestle. You grind them up and then add one of the two sauces. Be warned, the one on the far less is a honey citron dressing…for the cabbage, not the pork cutlet.C360_2015-07-18-11-53-26-953It was good but we can find things cheaper and just as good at home in Korea. But if you’re on vacation and wanting to try it, here it is! Also, cabbage is bottomless. You can ask for more.
  3. Beef-katsu
    This one was…interesting. After the Kobe beef experience, DH’s brother saw this place online and wanted us to try it, so we did. This is beef tonkatsu except instead of pork it’s beef and instead of regular beef it was aged beef. At this place the rice and salad is endless, so you can fill up on it.

    C360_2015-07-17-12-47-50-233However, this was not my favorite thing to eat on this trip. The beef was so chewy, but like all things on vacation it is worth doing once just to say that you did.


Well! Thanks for visiting my blog and reading about our trip to Japan. We were very excited since it was our first trip abroad as a married couple. It was so nice and refreshing. A final reflection on this trip. Before you go, make a rough itinerary before you go and be flexible. It will really make the trip less stressful.

Have fun and happy travels!!

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Trip to Kansai, Japan: Kobe and Nara (Part 1 – Things to Do)

The second leg of our journey was spent on a couple of half day trips. From our home base of Osaka we went to Kobe and Nara. I am putting them together into one post because they aren’t quite as extensive trips as Osaka.

Kobe

Kobe is world renown for its beef, but it is also a cute city to visit for a casual day. It was a great reprieve from the busy schedule of the first two days we had in Japan. I will talk about the glory that is Kobe beef in a separate post, but here are the things we did in Kobe.

  1. Chinatown
    C360_2015-07-15-16-33-29-137Located in the center of the city, we visited Chinatown after eating lunch, which wasn’t necessary. There are so many places to eat here that it would make for a better snack-and-go place with dinner being dedicated to the beef. Since it is smaller than expected, we traversed the whole place within an hour and quickly moved on. Here is a map:
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    And some photos I snapped along the way:C360_2015-07-15-16-45-51-049
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  2. Starbucks House
    Moving on from Chinatown, we walked over to the Starbucks that is in an old Western-styled house. It was nice and a refreshing place to go with all the hot humidity.
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Nara

Nara was more my style which its rich history and cultural attractions. We spent the entire day here and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  1. Deer Park
    When you get off the station at Nara and surface from the subway it is no exaggeration to say one of the first things you will see are deer. They are EVERYWHERE. Inside the park, outside the park, in the temple, simply everywhere. The town itself looks so small, it made me wonder if there weren’t more deer than people in this town.
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    You can buy little biscuits to feed them, but these little guys do come with a word of warning or two. Apparently deer are vicious and should not be trusted despite their cute exterior.C360_2015-07-14-11-06-47-769
  2. Todaijidera (Todaiji Temple)
    Now we come to what I really enjoy: temples. As I mentioned in a previous post, Japan was a Shinto religious culture before Buddhism was introduced and instead of simply replacing them, the country merged elements together. So while”dera” refers to a Buddhist temple in Japanese, and “jinja” refers to a Shinto one, you will see elements of both on your way up to see Todaijidera.
    C360_2015-07-14-11-42-21-115 C360_2015-07-14-11-51-35-905 C360_2015-07-14-11-54-54-591 C360_2015-07-14-11-57-31-980 C360_2015-07-14-12-05-50-736Once inside the temple, you will see a pillar with a small hole in it. It is said that if you go through this hole then your wish will come true.
    C360_2015-07-14-12-07-32-458Depending on how you track to and fro the temple, you will come to quite a few other shrines and pagoda along the way:
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Trip to Kansai, Japan: Osaka (Part 1 – Things To Do)

We spent a majority of our vacation in Osaka and it was by far my favorite place out of all the places we saw. Here is a general outline of all the things we did while there. In my previous post about this trip, I mentioned the Osaka Amazing Pass. This pass dictated a lot of what we did but it included the major attractions for free so my advice is to try and plan using the passes.

Also, my husband speaks Japanese so he was able to search the Japanese equivalent to Yelp which provided us with some very yummy places to eat. So, without further ado, here is what we did in Osaka city!

Attractions

  1. Osaka Castle
    This was interesting and exhausting all in one. There were so many people so best be prepared for the crowds. The Amazing Pass includes free admittance to a side garden in addition to the castle itself which is a welcome reprieve from the crowds with amazing view of the castle itself like this one:
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    The main floors of the castle house a museum with a history of the castle itself as well as Osaka. Once you pass the gates you will see a long line…for the elevator to the top. You can go directly inside the castle and take the stairs roughly 9 floors up with breaks at each level to explore. We opted for this instead of the insanely long line straight to the top.
  2. Dotonbori
    Donotobori is most known for the iconic Glico man sign, but in truth there are so many interesting signs in this part of Osaka. Walking through it at night was very impressive and many of the restaurants had incredible signages that just draw your eyes up, up, up!
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    This is a place to go to eat and shop till your drop, but be prepared for a crowd, but rain or shine it’s worth coming here just to try all the amazing food. Part of the pass was the River Cruise. It was free so DH and I took it in the evening. Here is a link to the cruise included in the pass which includes directions.
    C360_2015-07-12-19-14-30-887Be careful because on one of the boats they use has a cover and if you aren’t one of the first to get on, you could be stuck under it. This makes for difficult photo taking and general annoyance. Honestly, it is wasn’t free we would have felt cheated out of our money for the quick 15-minute ride.
  3. Umeda Sky Building/Garden
    The Umeda Sky Garden was really fun, albeit very windy! To access the Sky Garden (which is also free with your Amazing Pass) go up to the second floor and you will see signs for the elevator taking you skyward to the sky garden. Don’t be tempted to keep walking up the escalators. Once there, flash your pass and head on up. The best time to go in the summer is around 6:30 to 7:00 p.m. so you will have a chance to see the Osaka skyline during the day, sunset, and night view. (We were running late that day so only got to see the latter):C360_2015-07-13-19-33-26-678 C360_2015-07-13-19-46-14-854
  4. Museum of Living
    This museum is included in the pass and lets you experience (in wonderful air conditioning) old styled Japanese homes were like at all economic classes as well as interesting history of homes developments. Here you can also try on kimonos and walk around, but…there is a wait, so GO EARLY if you don’t want to wait.C360_2015-07-13-12-06-09-611

5. Dogoyasuji
Do you like ceramics like I do? Are you a chef at heart and want to buy some things for your home kitchen? Then come here!!! I am particular to Korean ceramics, but the Japanese are renown for theirs and they are very nice. This is a place where local restaurants and tourist alike come to get their supplies. And just the same as any shopping district, the first place you see is usually going to be more expensive since they have to pay for that prime real estate. I recommend going in ALL the shops and comparing pieces and prices and then doubling back to actually buy.
C360_2015-07-12-18-06-45-857 C360_2015-07-12-18-01-05-782Be careful where you step. These shops are PACKED with breakables. This could be a very costly misstep so watch where your bags swing and your feet land.
C360_2015-07-12-18-01-18-1796. Housenji
This is a small Buddhist* shrine located in the middle of Osaka side streets. We actually happened upon it after leaving Doguyasuji. It is known for the statues that have had so much water thrown on them that moss now embosses these statues.
C360_2015-07-13-16-25-58-300 C360_2015-07-13-16-28-14-195*A note about many of Japan’s Buddhist shrines and temples. Before Buddhism made its way into Japan, the country was Shinto. As such, you will see most Buddhist places of worship infused with a Shinto flare. This is also important to note about temples. One tell-tale sign is the red bibs. You will not find red bibs on anything in Korea.

7. Owl Cafe
Korea is no stranger to animal cafes, but they mostly have ones like dog and cat cafes. If you aren’t familiar with what these are, no, you don’t eat the animals. You simply drink cafe drinks while playing with the animals. We didn’t go to this particular cafe for the drinks anyways. We went for the owls. Needless to say, I was extremely excited to pet and hold them. It costs 1,500 Yen per person, but for the experience I didn’t mind it. This price is for one hour and a drink is included. C360_2015-07-16-14-29-00-894 C360_2015-07-16-15-35-23-051 C360_2015-07-16-15-37-54-506This place was clean and the staff was so nice. It was my only animal cafe experience and probably my favorite. Would love to go again if Korea had something like this.