I’ve been wanting to see Japanese temples and experience Japanese culture for the longest time. I’ve seen some in Tokyo but I really wanted to see Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara. Last week, I finally got to see these cities.
How to go:
Local airlines such as Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air and Air Asia have direct flights from Manila to Osaka (Kansai). I booked through PAL because I needed to use my Mabuhay Miles before it expires next year. My flight was a connecting flight and has a layover in Taipei. It was a two hour travel from Manila to Taipei, a 1 1/2 hour layover, and finally, a 4 hour flight to Osaka.
How to go to Kyoto from Kansai International Airport:
Head to the ticketing area and make sure to buy a ticket paired with an ICOCA for JR Haruka Limited Express. The travel time from the airport to Kyoto is roughly one hour.
ICOCA card is their version of Hongkong’s Octopus Card. You can reload this card and can be use for unlimited train rides, buses and even payments at convenience stores. Check this link for more information.
As much as I want to recommend a no itinerary trip coz you know it’s spontaneous and all that, I highly suggest that you research and plan everything out before going to Japan or mostly anymore to save you time and so you’ll be able to explore the country more.
If you want to save on your data, if you’ll be staying for at least one week in Japan or if you just wanna be online 24/7, it’s always better to rent a pocket wifi than buying a local sim card. Pocket wifi devices are available in the arrival hall of Kansai Airport. I read that you can rent it on the spot, but just to be sure, always book online. For this trip, we opted to rent Global Advanced Communications’ Premium Wifi for 1290JPY per day. You can choose from the following plans:
ECO Wifi 21MBPS
Standard Wifi 75MBPS
Premium Wifi 75MBPS with Wide Coverage
Super Premium Wifi 187.5 MBPS
What I like about the wifi in Japan is it’s ultra-fast. No fail, guys. You can download and stream videos without buffering. All plans can accommodate 5-10 devices at the same time. Anyway, we paid online and we just picked up the device in the post office located at the 2nd floor of the arrival hall.
When to go:
If you have read my older posts, you’ll know that I always prefer to go out of the country during spring and fall. But it was summer when I visited Osaka and Kyoto. Guys, it was SWEATfest. LOL. It was like I went to Boracay because of the heat.
There are pros and cons of visiting other countries during summer time and one of them is definitely a lighter luggage because no coats, no layering, no boots. I’m not saying that I don’t like it but I won’t suggest it.
Where to stay:
You can definitely stay at hostels, airbnbs and three-star hotels. For this trip (since my boyfriend and I were celebrating our anniversary), we decided to stay in Citadines ApartHotel in Kyoto for a night and Hilton Osaka for the rest of the trip.
I definitely recommend Citadines ApartHotel because it’s an apartment-hotel complete with kitchen equipment. It’s also affordable at P7200 per night. It is close to Gojo Station and is a 20-minute walk to Gion where you can spot geishas.
We stayed in Kyoto for 1 1/2 days then transferred to Osaka for the rest of the trip. We chose to stay at Hilton Osaka. Yup, the price was a little steep but 100% sure that you’ll be a pampered customer. Plus, the location is just across Osaka Station.
What to do:
If you’ll search PINTEREST, you’ll discover that 1 1/2 days isn’t enough to see Kyoto. Yes, it’s true because there are more to see aside from Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and Fushima Shrine. But if you’re time constraint, like us, 1 1/2 days would be sort of enough.
It’s an entertainment street surrounded by restaurants and izakayas cased in traditional Japanese houses. Geishas, entertaining guests, can be spotted roaming the streets of Gion. I researched some do’s and don’ts about geishas and I learned that you can’t take photos with them and photos of them in general. I just secretly snapped a photo of a geisha who passed us by.
It was a 20-minute walk from Citadines ApartHotel but we were exhausted from our flight so we opted to hail a cab to get to Gion. We had an authentic Japanese dinner at one of the restaurants here. Tsubi ordered a grill-your-own-chicken set meal while I ordered a duck set meal. We roamed the streets after dinner and went back to our hotel because we were tired, AF (excuse the expression).
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
We woke up early the next day to see the very touristy Bamboo Forest. It’s one of the must-sees in Kyoto and I couldn’t agree more. You’ll get a feeling of serenity and peace just by standing in the middle of the beautiful bamboos.
How to go: Alight at Saga Arashiyama JR Sagano Line
Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine
It’s definitely better to go here early in the morning where the shrines are still clear of tourists. We went here around 11am and I got frustrated because I couldn’t take photos without photo bombers. I know, I know, my fault. Haha. The famous vermilion torii gates welcomed us and it was a majestic thing to see. If you’re into hiking and long walks, you can trek until the end of the shrine to see the sacred Mount Inari.
How to go: It is a 10-15 minute walk from JR Inari Station.
I’m pretty sure you’ve also heard of this temple. It is also known as the Golden Pavilion. It was very beautiful in real life. According to japan-guide.com, Kinkakuji is a zen temple whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. It is built overlooking a large pond and the way it reflects on the water gives the temple more character.
There’s a tea garden at the end of the temple where they serve authentic green tea and a small piece of cake for 500JPY. Since it was summer, we chose to sit inside where there was a cooling fan. Their green tea was over-the-top delicious! It was 100% authentic and it was the best I’ve ever had. I didn’t really like the small cake but since it was paired with the tea, I ate it anyway.
How to go: We took a cab but you can also take the subway to Kitaoji Station (Karasuma Line).
After a tiring 1 1/2 days in Kyoto, it’s time to see what Osaka has to offer. We rode a rapid train going to Osaka which was just 30 minutes. We stopped at Osaka Station and made our way to Hilton Osaka.
We checked-in and rest for a while and made our way to the famous Dotonbori for dinner. It’s a long street filled with shops and restaurants. If you’re a foodie, you will definitely love this place because you can find different kinds of food everywhere! We strolled throughout the street and found Ichiran Ramen, yup, the famous ramen place. The line was exaggerating long, which was a good sign that that restaurant serves delicious meals. After dinner, we found ourselves walking again and looking for dessert. We bought one of the street desserts which was shaved ice filled with strawberry syrup. (Are you a foodie? Don’t worry, I’ll post all must-eat street food in Osaka on a separate post).
How to go: Alight at Namba Station
I never wanted to visit Universal Studio Osaka because I’ve been to Universal Studio Singapore and Los Angeles but since I was in Japan already, I might as well maximize my vacation and see it anyway. We went there 10 minutes before the opening time. According to my research, it’s always better to go there before people arrive and it’s surely a must to buy your USJ entrance ticket and express pass online. There were several plans you can choose from but since my boyfriend and I were not big fans of rides, I just bought the 4 rides express pass tickets via Klook.com. Special things about USJ were the Amazing Spider-Man 3D, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem 4D, Harry Potter World and Hello Kitty Park.
We took our time in the Minion Park because everything was super cute. We wanted to try the minion ice cream sandwich but chose to eat the shaved ice with Hawaiian syrup served in a cute minion bucket because 1. we were so thirsty 2. I needed ICE because the heat was just excruciating.
For lunch, we ate at a pizza place inside USJ. It was pretty yummy and filling but guys, it was so expensive. The serving was only good for one. If you want to save up, make sure to bring snacks with you.
How to go: Alight at Universal City Station. You’ll know that you’re in the right direction because a lot of kids will be inside the train with you.
One of the main highlights of Osaka is the famous Osaka Castle. According to japan-guide.com, it is owned by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and was the largest castle in his era.
It was a 15-20 minute walk from the station. The heat became unbearable as we walked but good thing, we brought an umbrella to protect us from the sun. The castle was huge and we chose to just roam around the castle itself.
How to go: Alight at Osakajokoen Station then walk for 15 minutes to reach the castle.
Umeda Sky Building
After an exciting day with the deer, we were actually supposed to go straight to Kobe for some Kobe beef but we were so tired so we just went straight to the hotel to rest. We went out to eat dinner and decided to check out the Umeda Sky Building. The skyscraper is 173 meters tall and has two towers connected by a floating garden. A super long escalator will bring you to the observatory deck. It’s similar to the Petronas towers in Malaysia but this one’s smaller and shorter. We got in for 1000JPY per head.
Travel Tip: I suggest you go at night because it just makes the view more romantic. Though, it’s somehow hard to take a photo because of the strong wind.
How to go: Alight at Umeda/Osaka Station, walk for 10-15 minutes and you’ll reach the sky building.
Nara Deer Park
Did you know that deer are considered to be messengers of the gods in Shinto? Japanese treats them well and these adorable deer can freely roam around this park. If you wanna feed them, there are stalls in the park selling deer crackers for only 150JPY. They were really cute and every deer looked like Bambi but once they see the food, they’ll semi-mob you. I got scared so I ended up feeding one deer only. LOL. Some deer know how to bow! How cute is that?
How to go: Take the rapid express and alight at Kintetsu Nara Station and you’ll reach the park in 5 minutes.
Todai-ji Temple (Big Buddha)
We walked for 20 minutes to get to Todai-ji Temple. This temple houses the big buddha and the world’s largest wooden building called Daiutsuden. This place is huge and if you really want to know more about this temple, one day isn’t enough. My boyfriend and I didn’t get to explore the whole area but at least we got to see famous bronzed buddha. The entrance fee is 500JPY.
How to go: Walk for 20 minutes until you reach the Nandaimon Gate.
I’ll be posting about Osaka and Kyoto street food on another post. Have you guys been to Japan? What’s your most memorable experience in Osaka, Kyoto or Nara? Comment down 🙂