As sad as this may be, I am actually talking about a trip that I took at the end of February. The original plan for this post was for it to be several different posts because I went to so many places but now that over a month has passed I am getting a little worried. So even though they are going to be posted separately, I am going to write them all now! I PROMISE that from this semester I will blog a lot better. I am gradually becoming more focused on presenting what I have been doing so I think that it will become possible soon ^-^! As well, with the start of the semester coming I have already experienced a few things that I would like to blog so I need to hurry up and get back into a pattern of doing things so that I can show what I am doing and maybe change the style in which I write these blog entries.
For those that don’t know, the Kansai area of Japan is the Western part of the main island of Japan and I was there from February 21st to February 25th. I think I have linked this before but I traveled to Kansai area from Tokyo to Osaka and back by night bus. While they are not so comfortable if you get the cheapest one, it is pretty cheap and convenient to do your traveling at nighttime when you would otherwise be sleeping. I think my total travel costs were only around 7,000 yen (~$70CAD if the exchange rate was perfect). The website is completely in English and they are really used to having foreign travelers so it is really easy! So here is the website link for anyone intersested: http://willerexpress.com/en/
The Kansai region is made up of several regions so I actually booked my accommodation in Osaka for the four nights that I was there. I stayed at a place called Hotel Taiyo and I found it just by looking on the internet. For the five days and four nights that I was there it only cost around 8,000 yen (~$80CAD) and had no curfew as well as free hot showers! If I had wanted to they also had a public Japanese bath at certain times that I could have used for free. Not only that but I had a private room with a mini-fridge and a TV with one channel. I also found the location to be pretty good. In front of the hotel was a subway entrance/exit and within five minutes walking distance there was also a JR Station. This made it really easy to get to Osaka Station which functioned as my hub for getting to the other cities that I visited! The only downside was that actually the hostel is in a pretty poor and rundown part of Osaka so walking at night was a little strange. However because the subway was right in front of the hostel entrance it was fine even though the subway cost a bit more than using JR! I booked on another site but you can also book from their website and there are English signs and staff so here is the link for those interested: http://www.hotel-taiyo.com/en/index_e.html
Actually other than accommodation I basically didn’t plan this trip at all. I knew I would meet friends in the evening and I had all days but one free to myself! So when I got off the bus early in the morning on the 21st I decided that I would go to Kyoto for my first day. I packed my suitcase into a coin locker for the day and got on the train. It wasn’t even 8AM yet! Great! In Kyoto you can actually get a bus/subway day pass so that you have unlimited use of the bus! It’s great for sightseeing albeit a bit crowded, especially at the end of the day trying to get back to Kyoto Station. You can actually buy these passes at an information booth that they have near the bus stop of Kyoto Station and I highly highly recommend them – it’s so cheap and there is information about them in the centre in English. You can get one or two day passes. I got a one day pass originally but actually came back to Kyoto on the 22nd as well so I had to buy another but it was so convenient.
I got to see quite a few temples and shrines while in Kyoto and also climbed two mountains when I was there – one on purpose and one kind of by mistake. I’m more interested in shrines than temples so I only paid to go to one temple but I think I chose a very beautiful one! The Golden Pavilion is a golden temple that is actually really famous. I was lucky when I went because there weren’t a lot of people there. I could take pretty pictures without waiting in line a lot. I’m really glad that I decided to pay to come to this temple out of all of them. Although the Silver Pavilion also would have been a nice place to visit. I walked through a shrine on the way back from the Golden Pavilion before getting on a bus to make my way to Fushimi Inari Shrine, aka my number one want to go to spot in Kyoto. This shrine is also a really famous place to go for foreign and domestic tourists. It’s well known for the torii gates (the red things in the picture below) that you can follow all the way to the top of the mountain and is really common in beauty shots of Kyoto! It wasn’t a tall mountain at all, but the whole way up you are walking through these gates and seeing little fox statues the whole way. There are also spaces where you could buy delicious snacks and drinks. Then at the top you are rewarded with a view of the city before climbing down! Absolutely stunning.
The evening of my first day in Kyoto I got together with a big group of students that studied at SMU! I forgot to get pictures from them so I don’t have any pictures but we ate really delicious food from Osaka. It was all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink so it was really fun. The food we had is called kushi-katsu. It’s basically food that you coat in crumbs and deep fry. You could also make your own ramen and other things while you were there! It was honestly so cool. If you go to Osaka you should definitely eat it.
Day two in Kyoto actually happened because I met up with the guy that I met on the plane to Japan! He lives in Osaka teaching English and it was one of his days off so we walked around Kyoto together for the day. He totally let me decide everything so it was really awesome. I forgot to go to Gion the first day so it was a good chance to go! When we were there we found a park that had some temples and stuff. I kind of wanted to go in even though you had to pay because it wasn’t crowded and was on the edge of the mountain but Adrian didn’t want to…so instead we climbed a scary dirt path up the side of the mountain. Guess what we found? A giant parking lot, a gated building, sitting area, and two cats. I don’t have good pictures but it was another nice view of Kyoto (blame the lack of good pictures on the fact that it was so overcast when I was in Kyoto…). Afterward we climbed down we went to the old district where you can eat traditional sweets and buy traditional and tacky souvenirs. The reason I wanted to go there is actually because Sosuke recommended me to eat matcha (a type of green powder) flavoured ice cream from Kyoto! It’s different from the kind you can get basically everywhere because the powder is actually mixed in by hand instead of in advance by a machine – way better! Then he showed me to a really great temple that is free and at the edge of this small streeted traditional area. I could see Kyoto from far away (again) and also take pictures with plum blossoms and the temple. It was so pretty!