Journey to Kyoto Nara and Osaka

August 20, 2006

After 3 days of vacation, I finally back. Went to Kyoto, Nara and Osaka and it was lot of fun. Mostly I used the sightseeing bus to go from place to place. Being in a totally strange cities, I thought that it was best to use the sightseeing bus. And I really glad that I did that. Let see, by using the sightseeing bus, we don’t have to worry about transportation, no worry about planning where to go, no worries for entrance tickets, plus we have the guide that explain the historic backgrounds and all… although I never really bother the guide.

I kept running here and there taking photo shots upon shots without really following or listening to what the guide has to say. Let’s just say I adore beauty more than history. And I did produce some awesome shots.  Click here to find the pictures that I took in my journey.

Onwards to Kyoto

It was rather a cloudy day in Kyoto when I got there by Shinkansen. Took me about one and a half hour from Hiroshima. Passing through the gates I soon found out that Kyoto Station and Isetan Department Store were actually connected. Not really interested in doing shopping, I hurriedly go out and took some pictures of the station (from shinkansen the building is pretty cool. Like a black stronghold). Just in front of the station I soon found the ticket booth for the sightseeing bus. Easy, I exchanged my coupon that I got from the travel agency with the ticket. Still having some time to spent I realized its already noon and I havent got anything to eat since yesterday. So I went back to department store and went to the top floor (where the restaurants are). Upon reaching the top floor I started to feel uneasy after seeng columns of people queueing from restaurant to restaurant. Upon reaching the end of the floor, I realized that I will never be able to get lunch here. I hurriedly go back down and just bought some donuts. I hurriedly went back to the departure lot and found out that it’s already begin boarding (nice timing!). I hurriedly handed my ticket and shoved my ticket portion somewhere. Then the bus started. we went along the Kyoto roads passing some interesting spots and lots of Temples in Kyoto. However it’s okay because our destination is.. Kinkakuji “Golden Pavilion”.  What really something to note on Kyoto is that it is heavily traffic especially the 15-kokudouro. Anyway,.. so we arrived at the golden pavilion and then the guide told us something like to take out our portion of the ticket… which I can’t remember where I placed it. So I hurriedly went back to the bus and search and search again for the ticket to no avail. Dang! Oh well, since I cant see it I just sat there and eat my donuts while thinking what am I suppose to do next. The driver told me from this on afterwards I will not need the ticket so I dont have to worry so much. (But I really want to see the golden pavilion!! >_<).  Anyway I’m halfway eating my donuts when I realized my bag have a side pocket on the outerside. Can it be…. I slipped my hand in and then voila! the ticket somehow popped into existence. Feeling half of joy and half of embarassement I ran to the driver. But then he said, there’s no time, please give it for now and from the distance I can see the guide already coming towards the bus. Oh well,.. so I gave up that time and planned on going there the next day.

The next spot is Kiyomizudera. It’s very large complex on top of the hill. Supported by pillar of woods it offers great views to the surrounding forests and the distance Kyoto. Another interesting spots are the Musubi-Jinja (Musubi means to tie. In this context it means to tie a piece of paper on tree branches so that their wishes can come true). This jinja is very famous along couples whom prays for their relationships. There is also a waterfall down bellow that is said can give you long life. One mouthful equals 10 years, and 2 mouthful equals 20 years. But you mustn’t take the third one because it will dispel the previous ones. After seeing Kiyomizudera backtracking the road to Kiyomizudera reveals a street named sannenzaka and ninenzaka. On sides of this street lots of souvenir shops and restaurants can be found. Very good place to buy something for someone. At the end of this street comes the Koudaiji Temple. Koudaiji Temple can be seen as a very peaceful place to take a rest. Beautiful gardens with trees and lakes. It’s very comforting. Just beside Koudaiji temple there is actually another temple, It was already after 5 at that time (dang! I should’ve visited that one first) and it was already closed, but I can see a gigantic statue of a goddess I think. Thus ends the tour for the day.

It was already pretty late so I hurried  went to my Hotel and checked in. I asked some directions to the hotel clerks for place of interests in Kyoto at night. Like shopping streets, restaurants and places where youngsters usually came. They gave me a map that has Central Shopping Street written on it. It is around the Shijo street just between Kawaranachi subway station and Karawamachi subway street. If we go down and up the river from Kawaramachi Subway Station there are also restaurants on sides of the river. But I guess it might be pretty expensive. Looking at the streets behind Central Shopping Street reveals more places and Arcades that have restaurants and shops. On one of the alley I stopped on front of a restaurant. I think it was named “Waku-Waku”. The reason that I stopped is that because the set menu is cheap. Karbi-Set: contains a karbi beef bowl plus chicken fillet karaage and miso soup. Plus tofu, Salad, ono-tamago and Dessert for only 798 yen. Isn’t that cheap. The portion itself is great. Bottom line, I was sattisfied. And that ends my first day in Kyoto.

The next day, I woke up early and took the bus to Kinkakuji to get my revenge. I took a bus to Kinkakouji around 9 and arrived there around 10 I think. Yes,. it was a long journey. But not because of the distance, more like because of the traffic and the winding route the bus took. Upon entered the site we are immedietly presented with the Kinkakuji. At last! I immedietly took dozens of photographs here and there. There aren’t much thing to see other than the Golden Pavilion there so I immedietly went back. I didn’t realize that it’s already 10 and went back to the Hotel in the nick of time from checkout deadline. Done with everything leads me to my next destination, Nara..

In Nara..

I took the train from Kyoto station down the Nara line to Nara station. Fortunately there is one right there, a speed liner that goes directly to Nara and only stopped occasionally on medium and large stations. It took me about an hour to get to Nara by that train and along the way beautiful sceneries of mountains, forests and rice fields can be seen. I, of course,… slept most of the journey (Please forgive my inability to stay awake on moving vehicles). Looking at other passengers aboard the train I noticed that there are lots of foreigners going the same route to Nara. So, I guess people will eventually come to Nara. Arriving at Nara station, you’ll notice that it actually is not a big station. A bit old and insophisticated (meaning no escalators or elevators folks! But there are only few stairs anyway). Upon reaching the front of the stations we can see immedietly the ticket booth for the sightseeing tour. Remarkably, the people who worked at the booth are english fluent. So you can ask for suggestions and advice without any worries. They will introduce you with various kind of route you can take, but since I already decided the route (well actually the travel agent lady decided it for me. :P), I just exchange my coupon with the sightseeing ticket. The bus will depart at 2 o’clock. Since I still got a little less than 2 hours of time, I strolled around Nara. Nara is not very big. For the shopping, souvenir and restaurants, I think there are only about 2 places. One is just in front of the station, sanjoudoori. I have some pictures taken in sanjoudoori. I took some lunch there and continued my stroll around Nara again under the heat from the sun (somehow it was sunny at that time). Just before two I went back to the station and joined with the sightseeing group. The bus took us to Nara’s main road. And at that point I saw a spot that looks like an arcade. That’s the second spot for shopping, I think. It is a bit to the north and east of Nara station. The bus runs inside the Nara Park. This park actually a very very large area with lots of tourists sites. Deers are here and there, you can even play with them if you want. Just don’t wave money on front of their face or they’d immedietly take a bite on it and you end up losing money.

We went straight to our first stop the Daitouji. On setting foot on the ground, again we are greeted by a bunch of Deers. Isn’t that lovely? If you exchange the deers for girls you can almost think you are in a cabarret. Large temple, large doors and more statues. Yup, more on those beauties. I can’t really wrote anything about that here, go and take a look of the pics yourself. Anyway, the next stop was more less the same. But the last spot is actually something of special interests.

 The guide took as to a nearby hill and introduce it as one of the three best viewing spot for night scenery in all Japan. Unfortunately it was around 5 at that time and the sky not even dark yet. But she said you could come or join the night-sightseeing tour if you want to see it. On the far background we can see the mountains and the city of Nara. I bet it would’ve been very beautiful when it night time. A couple of couples also were there and seemed disturbed by our presence. (sorry, didn’t meant to interrupt your romantic talks). The tour on Nara ends there and I was returned to the Nara station. There, I take the train again to my next destination, Osaka

…Finally, Osaka!

Didn’t I mentioned that Kyoto have heavy-traffics? Osaka is also have very heavy-traffics.. only this time it’s not only the cars but human traffic. On entering Osaka’s border my train slowly were swarmed by people. And as I got out from the station there were people, humanoids, everywhere… and I mean EVERYWHERE. Have you ever seen ants nest? If you replaced the ants with people, that’s Osaka. Another thing that I have to mention upfront here. For me, Osaka is the most dirtiest city that I have seen in whole Japan. But don’t get it wrong. It’s the diritiest in Japan’s standard, you should see my home city then you’d think that Osaka is not ‘so dirty’. Went straight to my hotel and put down some of my baggage there and then went straight out again craving for food. I went to the Osaka station (people like to say it as ‘umeda’ eventhough it is written ‘osaka station’. but the subway stations read ‘umeda’. maybe before the station were named Umeda and then later changed to Osaka station.) and going to the south from there amongst the swarms of people. Strolling not far from the stations I soon found out large department stores and arcades and restaurants here and there. It was crazy. Different from Kyoto, Nara and Hiroshima I don’t think that Osaka have a concentrated street or region, I think the whole city is a giant shopping mall although from what I can see it is more concentrated on the south part of the Osaka station. My suggestion if you ever going to go Osaka, find a friend who lives in Osaka. You could easily get lost in that concrete jungle. I soon gave up my quest and get back to my Hotel.

The next day, I checked out very early around 8.30 in the morning because the sightseeing tour begins at 9 (why is the early schedule? I dont even noticed it until I got in Osaka. Should’ve checked with the travel agency lady more carefully. But it was fine). There’s nothing much interesting in the journey. Well one thing that is interesting might be that the contrasts of having temples between concrete buidlings. Arrived at Osaka castle, we have to take a long walk from the parking lot to the castle itself. There’s a bus that modeled after toy trains that runs from the parking lot to the Osaka castle gates but you have to pay for it.  Osaka castle is really a big castle, with two rings of moats and large gardens. Inside the osaka castle lots of displays and history videos are played. Great learning experience if you ever cared about the history on the first unification of Japan.

The next stop is not of any particular interests, the last one is Osaka tower. You can see Osaka and how big it is from this tower. Quite a lot of people going up so the elevator will be very crowded. You have to form lines just to go up to the top of the tower. Fortunately, being in a sightseeing group does have it merits. One is that we got priority line and immediate access to the elevator. I didn’t really spent much time here and went back down. I met the guide in front of the Osaka tower etnrance and asked her for suggestions for place of interests in Osaka. She told me of a place named Doutonbori (I think). She said to take the 100 yen loop bus and stop at Ebisubashi. It is not far from that bus stiop. So I left the tour there (It’s the last stop anyway) and went to the place that she introduced. After some trial and error I finalyl found out the place that she told me. It is a street arcade with shops, entertainment, restaurants all around the sides of the streets. It’s landmarked by crab restaurants on both ends of the street. You could easily recognize it by looking the big crab that both restaurants have on their sign board. Thus ends my travel in Osaka.

Back Home..

In all, I think I had quite a good holiday vacations. It was very entertaining and fun. And I really hope in doing this kind of thing again summer next year. Maybe I can go with someone net year. 😉

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