Kyoto, Japan – Aside from visiting Tokyo (http://bjjbug.net/2016/10/12/travel-tokyo-japan/), I spent a week exploring the Kansai region of Japan. Otherwise known as West Japan, the major cities include Kyoto and Osaka. As a one-day trip, I was also able to also spend sometime in Nara, the city famous for their wild bowing deer.
- If you are traveling from Tokyo, catch the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo Station. You can come early to the station to reserve a seat or take your chances and try to find a seat on the unreserved cart. The line that I usually take is the Hikari which is free if you hold a JR Pass.
- A lot of the tourist attactions such as the shrines and temples are spread out within the city. You can pick up an all-day bus pass outside of Kyoto Station and check for routes that stop at each location.
- You’ll be doing a lot of walking when touring Kyoto so be sure to bring comfortable walking shoes.
- Kyoto Station is connected to a huge shopping plaza known as “The Cube”. Be sure to check out the multi-story in and outdoor areas where you can find shops, restaurants, and a garden at the top. There are also concerts and shows on the weekends outside by the large staircase area.
- Watch out for bikes when you’re walking throughout the city. Many people in Kyoto use bikes as a method of transportation. If you want to rent one out yourself, there are several shops around town.
- Get up early to avoid the crowds. Many of these tourist spots get crowded with tour groups so avoid crowds by getting up early.
- Many restaurants close early. Try to eat before 9pm since there are not that many places that are open for late-night eating. Convenience stores such as Lawson though are always open.
Places to Visit as a Tourist
Kyoto is a huge city so there’s so much you can do depending on what you want to see and do. Below are just a few of the areas and hotspots that I would highly recommend where you can easily spend hours or even a whole day at each:
- Kinkaku-ji – The famous golden palace of Kyoto.
- Fushimi Inari-taisha – Known for the thousand tori gates. As you enter there are several shrines and pagodas along the way.
- Ginkaku-ji – Zen temple located by the eastern mountains of Kyoto.
- Arashiyama – Famous bamboo forest of Kyoto and money mountain where you can hike up to the top to get a view of the whole city. Watch out for wild monkeys though as you hike up. At the top, there is a cage where you can feed them.
- Kyoto Imperial Palace – The former ruling palace of the Emperor of Japan.
- Sanjusangen-do – Temple known for the 1001 statues of Kannon located on the eastern side of Kyoto.
- Kiyomizu-dera – Probably the most famous temple in Kyoto. Many people venture here to drink from one of the three streams of water that is said to grant your wish. Great view of the surrounding mountains and forests.
- Kurama Onsen – Small hot spring in Kurama that includes both an indoor and outdoor bath where you can relax and stargaze at the same time. Pricing here is really reasonable.
There are so many more suggestions but if you’re looking for specific recommendations such as restaurants, shops, or sights please shoot me an email (http://bjjbug.net/contact-us/).
One hour from Kyoto is the city of Osaka. Osaka is a port city that is known for it’s food and architecture. The famous Dotonbori street has hundreds of food options you can choose from and is great for pictures due to all the lights and advertisements on every single building. Tourists from all over and even Japanese from other cities love to come to Osaka as a weekend getaway. Be sure to try Okonomiyaki as this is the orignal city of the dish.
Points of Interest:
- Osaka Castle
- Osaka Aquarium
- Universial Studios
- Tsutenkau Observation Tower
- Umeda Sky Building Garden Oberservatory
- Temozan Ferris Wheel
- Shitenno-ji Temple
Also one hour from Kyoto, you can find yourself in the city of Nara. Often seen on travel guides, this city is known for it’s famous park and temple that is home to hundreds of wild deer. These deer live among the locals at peace and have been there for hundreds of years. Carts can be found throughout the area where you can buy deer crackers to feed them. Give these deer a nod and they’ll bow back to you. Remember to bring a bag of some sort to store the deer crackers otherwise you’ll find yourself surrounding by a dozen deer that will be nibbling at your clothes. Closer to the station, you can find several shops and restaurants including fast food joints that are typically found in other countries such as McDonald’s and Burger King.
Points of Interest:
- Todai-ji Temple
- Nara Park
- Shopping Alley by Nara Station
Food in the Kansai region is similar yet different from what you can find in Japan. The same selection exists but there is a different flavor specific to the region. Some recommendations include:
- Green Tea Soba
- Yubari Melon Ice Cream
- Okonamiyaki from Osaka
- Various food booths are the shrines and temples
- Grilled Crab Sticks
- Chicken Karaage
- Baked Cheese Tarts
- Kaiseki Ryori (Tea Ceremony or Ryokan)
- Kobe Beef
- Wagyu Beef
- Izakaya-style foods
Photos from the Kansai Region of Japan:
Kyoto is probably my favorite city in Japan. You get to experience both the modern aspects and historical side of the country. The city is not as crowded and the lifestyle is much more at ease. You can also easily access other cities such as Osaka and Nara using their train systems. The hiking trails and hot springs are also amazing since you can see cherry blossoms in full bloom during the spring and autumn leaves covering the mountains in the fall. Definitely will revisit.
Kyoto, Japan – November 2016
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