5 Awesome things to do when Visiting Osaka City in Japan

5 Awesome things to do when Visiting Osaka City in Japan

When visiting Osaka there is a range of things going on in the popular Japanese city to appease any traveller who has a variety of opinions when it comes to attractions they prefer to visit or activities they may choose to participate in.

Whether it’s historical, cultural or dazzling attractions, there is something for every tourist visiting Osaka and courtesy of a brilliant public transport system, you’ll be able to explore many parts of the vibrant city and get where you need to go.

On my recent trip to Osaka Japan, I had the pleasure of doing many awesome things, including an earthquake experience not to be forgotten, but it was undoubtedly an epic city to explore and with that, here are five places that you should consider going to when visiting Osaka Japan.

 

Going on an Incredible trip To Osaka? Check Hotel Rates on TripAdvisor.

 

 
Dotonbori Osaka

Visiting Osaka Japan.

 

Visiting Osaka? Here are Five Places to Consider in the Japanese City

 

 

Take a History Lesson at Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle needs to be a top priority when visiting Osaka, with its large presence noticeable from a distance and the education you’ll receive with a Japanese history lesson waiting to be discovered as your devour the facts and knowledge of Osaka Castle.

You walk through the gardens until you reach the moat that has the stunning view of Osaka Castle hovering high above.  You then cross over the bridge of the moat and make your up to the hilltop where the castle is located, at this time, many travellers are trying to grab the best vantage point for an awesome photo shoot.

To go inside the walls of Osaka Castle, there is a 600-yen entrance fee, which is worth the payment alone and view the fine structures of the castle that dates to its completion in 1583 by Imperial Regent of Japan, Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

It was in fact, demolished in 1868 when it surrendered to Imperial Loyalists, only to be rebuilt at the same location in 1995. Inside the walls, there are eight-levels of facts about Osaka castle that has to do with Toyotomi Hideyoshi and his family, the construction of the castle, other factual knowledge and real-life armour, clothing and weaponry used back in the day.

The highlight of Osaka Castle: The slow cruise in the waters surrounding the main castle is certainly the highlight. It’s on this very experience you can capture the greatest views and get a history lesson of the castle from the audio tour which is Japanese and English.

 

Related Article: Where To Stay In Osaka For First Time Visitors!

 

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Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle.

Wander through Chaotic Dotonbori

Dotonbori is the life of Osaka and you will visit this location on your trip to the city on numerous occasions. Everyone is dressed up nice and getting lost in the crowd of chaos that is full of tourists and locals who are flocking to the area for an awesome time out.

Dotonbori lights up with many advertising signage on display throughout the surrounding buildings, which is a common trait in Japanese cities. The sign that gets the biggest attention is the Glico Man Sign, which was built in 1935 and appears to be of a man on the run, with many people gathering at the forefront of the sign or on the nearby bridge of Dotonbori River, to capture the perfect selfie photo.

Other things to do in Dotonbori include going shopping in many retail outlets, enjoying the nightlife by clubbing or drinking a few beers at the bar and tasting many varieties of Japanese food, whether it is dining at a restaurant or snacking on the run from a street vendor. You’ll have a treat no matter what.

Highlights of Dotonbori: Enjoy a river walk along Dotonbori River and capture the vibrancy and sounds of the area from below at the river bank.

 

Gilco Osaka

Check out the Glico sign in Osaka Japan.

Umeda Sky Building

You’ll love visiting the unique designed high rise of Umeda Sky Building and not only capturing amazing city views but viewing one of the bizarre designed buildings in the world which is truly an architectural masterpiece.

The strange thing about this building is that it’s not even the tallest in Osaka, in fact, it sits at 19th overall. It’s the peculiar design that separates it from other buildings around the world and needs to be seen to be believed, you could almost pass it off as a Lego structure, at least that is my point of view.

The Rooftop Observatory is only on the 40th floor is one of the better Skydeck’s I have witnessed and has a more than fair admission price. Inside the Observatory area, you have stunning views of the city, you can sit down for a meal at the rooftop restaurant/bar, enjoy a coffee from the café and buy a little a replica of the Umeda Sky Building at the souvenir store.

The highlight of Umeda Sky Building: If you are afraid of heights, then the most vertical and longest escalator, could be a challenge for you. Although for an escalator, I will admit, it’s quite fascinating and daunting, but it’s the only way to the Observatory viewing area.

 

Umeda Sky Building

Umeda Sky Building.

Japanese Baseball at Kyocera Dome

Kyocera Dome is an indoor stadium in Osaka City and is the home of the Japanese Baseball side, Orix Buffaloes. The stadium has a capacity of fifty-five-thousand and the atmosphere lifts the roof off with loyal fans who are cheering their team in loud voice, whether their team is winning or not.

When I visited the stadium for the match between Orix and the Yokohama DeNa Baystars, it wasn’t exactly at capacity, but the fans still made great noise that echoed through the indoor dome, with many colours, music, cheering and balloons being thrown about. There was also plenty of Baseball action going on in the middle, which at times seemed to be the side attraction.

A day at the ball game is a good afternoon or evening out, depending on the starting time of the game. For sports fans, you’ll love the game of Japanese baseball and the thrills of seeing a batter hitting a home run, stealing a base at second, or the pitcher striking out the batsman. If sport is not you’re thing, it may not be your style, but you never know, a few hours of baseball entertainment may be your thing.

Highlights of Kyocera Dome: The Japanese Baseball season is during the summer months and Kyocera Dome is a welcome relief from the heat as you sit in the comfort of an Indoor Dome.

 

Kyocera Dome

Kyocera Dome

Osaka River Walks

Peaceful river walks in Osaka, all these attractions in the City and I’m recommending a River Walk. Sometimes it’s those things that are free in life which is most enjoyable, and Osaka has many rivers, therefore there are many walks along the river banks to enjoy that has great views of the of the city.

Main rivers in the city include the Yodo River which is the biggest of them all, The O River that leads to Osaka Castle and Dotonbori River which is certainly the liveliest of them all. The best part about walking along the river is finding a nice restaurant or a café to enjoy a coffee and take in the breathtaking sights that comes with visiting Osaka.

Highlight of River Walks: Along the O River in evening time, when the sun is coming down, is the time you can capture the best photos of the city with your camera and in time share them on your Instagram feed.

Related article: Check out the best things to do in Kyoto, on a budget!

 

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Osaka River

Awesome river views in Osaka.

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Osaka–Kyoto Diaries: Days 5-6 – An Adventure in Osaka

Osaka–Kyoto Diaries: Days 5-6 – An Adventure in Osaka

From one city to another, Kyoto onwards to Osaka, two different cities yet in their unique way both are vibrant destinations with a comprehensive history and beautiful tourist attractions to get excited about in Osaka Japan.  It was sad to Farwell Kyoto after four days exploring the region, but it was time to have an adventure in Osaka.

To recap the travel diaries of Japan so far, you can read Edition 1 and edition 2 by checking on the link. To review the Kyoto part of the trip for a moment, I visited many temples, shrines and breathtaking gardens that added much beauty to the region. Arashiyama was a pure delight and I can recommend it to any traveller to put it on their to-do list in Japan. In total during my time in Kyoto, I walked a crazy 88-kilometres in the short amount of time I was in Kyoto and it may seem a good stretch, but there is so much to see there.

Enough about Kyoto, it’s time to move on, reluctantly, and have an adventure in Osaka and check out the significant highlights days five to six of Osaka-Kyoto diaries, which I will admit from the top was a little laidback than the previous days’ edition in Japan.

Are you travelling to Osaka? Look for accommodation on TripAdvisor!

 

 
An adventure in Osaka

An adventure in Osaka.

 

Osaka – Kyoto Diaries: Days 5-6  – An Adventure in Osaka

 

 

On the train to Osaka from Kyoto

Travelling between Kyoto and Osaka isn’t any major ordeal with the trip taking around an hour in total by using either the JR Line or the multiple metro lines that run between the cities. For me, it was an easy trip along the Hankyu line and required a quick transfer that took me to the Kitahama station that was only 400-metres from my hotel in Osaka. A journey from Kyoto to Osaka can cost from around 600-yen, depending on the train company you travel, with all train lines accepting the ICOCA Card.

 

Staying at the Mitsui Garden Hotel in Osaka

The Mitsui brand hotels were again the choice of stay in Osaka as it were in Kyoto, this time the choice of accommodation is the Mitsui Garden Hotel in the Kitahama area of Osaka, with nearby attractions including Umeda and Osaka Castle.

It’s another boutique hotel that had the necessities for my solo adventure in Osaka, I stayed in a single room, with a private bathroom, local television and air-conditioning, it’s all I needed for the bare minimum that I would spend in a hotel room. In the common area of the hotel, there was the main reception area, with a lounge area where you could relax and help yourself to complimentary coffee or tea, I used it occasionally.

Want to try the Mitsui Osaka Hotel during your stay? Check out Booking.com for prices!

 

Mitsui Garden Hotel Osaka.

The Mitsui Garden Hotel in Osaka.

The Action Heats up in Dotonbori

When in Osaka, you will most certainly visit the busy streets of Dotonbori on several occasions, much like I did during my time in the city. Dotonbori is the tourist hub of Osaka, and it’s crowded with everyone making their way down to the area for a bite to eat with some fantastic street foods, especially the famous Takoyaki that is little balls of wheat filled with diced octopus, and it’s a treat.  

Along the Dotonbori River, the atmosphere continues to heat up with tourists keen to take photos of spectacular signage that rises up the buildings and turns it into an art show more than advertisement, especially the famous Gilco Sign that has been in that location since 1935 and has everyone including myself, attempting to get the perfect selfie. Gilco is a hit with the tourists.

For me, it was about taking in the crazy atmosphere of Dotonbori and wandering about and capturing the life of the city. It’s easy to understand why tourists love visiting Dotonbori with the ample shopping, a vibrant nightlife and restaurants located within the area, and it’s a 24-hour party in Osaka.

 

Gilco Osaka

Check out the Gilco sign in Osaka.

Watching the Aussies in the World Cup at the Coolabah Bar

World cup fever had certainly hit Japan with the World Cup in Russia about to commence. Being an Aussie, I was keen to find a suitable place to watch Australia’s opening match against France and what better place than an Aussie Bar in Dotonburi called, the Coolabah Sports Bar.

Appropriate name for a pub that had a few Aussies crammed into the bar to watch the football game that France were favourites to win, and while the French team got the chocolates in the end, the mighty Australiansgave the fancies a massive scare in a 2-1 loss, with the winning goal coming at the death.

The atmosphere at the Coolabah was through the roof during the spiteful clash, and afterwards, I shared a few drinks with a Frenchmen who had made his way in amongst the Aussie crowd and remaining friends long after the Japan trip concluded.

 

Coolabah Sports Bar Osaka

the Coolabah Sports Bar.

 

A brief Walkthrough Tempozan Area

On my way to the ball game on a Sunday after a big sleep in and a hangover thanks to the Coolabah Bar the previous nights, there was a little time to spare, so I thought I would take a wander over to the Tempozan area.

It’s an area that is great for families, and if I had travelled to Japan with my own family, I’m sure I would have spent a whole day here with all the family-fun attractions. Tempozan is the home of Lego Land, The Osaka Aquarium and the Tempozan Ferris Wheel and If all else fails, you can make your way over to the nearby park and look over the Aji River with the boats going by.

After a short time in Tempozan, it was time to head off to the ball game at Kyocera Dome.

 

the Tempozan Ferris Wheel

The Tempozan Ferris Wheel.

My First Experience at a Japanese Baseball Game at Kyocera Dome

I remember when I was in Seoul, South Korea one of my favourite experiences was at a Baseball game at Jamsil Stadium. It only made sense to go to a game in Osaka for Japanese baseball and that is exactly what I did.

Kyocera Dome is on the Western side of Osaka and a 10-minute train ride from the city centre. It was fascinating to watch a game at an indoor stadium that has a capacity of 55-thousand, and the stadium was about three-quarters full for a match between the home team Orix Buffaloes who were playing the Yokohama DeNa Baystars.

The noise in the stadium was loud depending on who was batting, with the away team fans making a fair amount of noise on their side of the stadium. I sat with the home team supporters, and they were undoubtedly the happier of the two fans as they ran out convincing 7-1 victors, it helps create a very happy atmosphere amongst the fans with plenty of singing, cheering and balloons getting thrown about the stadium.

A day at the ball game was a good afternoon out, and it was nice to keep off my feet for a few hours, before having a 40-minute hike after the game back to Dotonbori for another glimpse of the fantastic tourist strip.

It was days five and six in Japan, and my adventure in Osaka had undoubtedly had a soft yet thrilling start. Which leaves me to think, what is install for the last edition of Osaka-Kyoto Diaries? An earthquake perhaps!

 

Orix Buffaloes

The Buffaloes Pitcher lets it rip.

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Osaka-Kyoto Diaries: Days 3-4 – An Unforgettable Journey in Kyoto

Osaka-Kyoto Diaries: Days 3-4 – An Unforgettable Journey in Kyoto

When I made the decision that Japan was going to be the next country to visit, Kyoto became a priority. I had heard so much about the region, in ways of its temples, picturesque scenery and the beautiful streets of the city area, I knew the conclusion could only be one thing, an unforgettable journey in Kyoto.

Unforgettable for all the places that I visited in Kyoto and still there are so many attractions I didn’t have time to get to, in which I can only hope that I get back there soon enough. Unforgettable that was indeed the first city I visited on my first trip to Japan, and I was desperate that the journey in Kyoto was going to be a fitting experience.

With Kyoto concluding for this trip in Japan and Osaka looming next, it was vital that I got the most out the whole expansive region of Kyoto in days three and four of the trip. Indeed I did with the most exciting attractions in Arashiyama and Fushimi Inari Shrine, dining out with tasty Japanese food and checking out a few local markets with unique merchandise on sale.

It’s the second edition Osaka-Kyoto Diaries, and I can tell you from my perspective that it was an unforgettable journey in Kyoto that never stopped over this busy two-day period. Let’s check out the highlights of Kyoto.

 

Are you deading to Kyoto for an adventure to remember? Check for hotels on TripAdvisor!

 
unforgettable jounrey in Kyoto.

An unforgettable jounrey in Kyoto.

 

Main Highlights of Osaka – Kyoto Diaries: Days 3 – 4 – An Unforgettable journey in Kyoto

 

 

Being Mesmerised by Arashiyama

Arashiyama was the absolute highlight of my time in Kyoto; in fact, Japan, it’s simply breathtaking. From the moment I got off the light train at Arashiyama from the city area, natural beauty was all with mind-blowing tradition was around me. So much, in fact, I could have spent a few days in the field rather than a few hours, which was all the time I could afford with the limited time I had in Kyoto.

For Arashiyama, I would go through with you a few of the highlights of the few hours I spent in a lovely part of japan and helped bring about an unforgettable journey in Kyoto.

temples in Arashiyama

Many temples are in Arashiyama.

 

  • The Bamboo Forest Walk: The Bamboo Forest Walk is what most people think of when it comes to visiting Arashiyama. It’s a beautiful, yet crowded walk, with many Bamboo trees, lined up on either side of the path as an entrance into the forest. It’s a beautiful sight, there is no doubt about it, yet it is a tourist attraction that is packed with many tourist, and I wasn’t even there during the peak times of the year, which is Autumn or Spring.
    The Bamboo Forest Walk is free to enter, one of the few attractions in Arashiyama that is complimentary, and no matter the crowds that stroll through the Bamboo forest walk, it is an unforgettable walk.

 

bamboo forest walk

Look ahead to all the tall bamboos.

 

  • Tenryu-Ji Temple: The Tenryu-Ji Temple is my favourite temple in Arashiyama. It starts with a beautiful garden walk before arriving at the major temple, which is a pretty picture. Built in the year 1339 by the ruling leader Ashikaga Takauji, the main building itself overlooks a gorgeous lake with gardens around it and the mountains not too far away.
    Just a side note, I wandered into a few temples in Arashiyama, they were all quite lovely in their way and on top of that, there are many other temples in the area I couldn’t get to, most temples do come with an entrance fee from around 300 yen.
Tenru-Ji Temple.

The picturesque Tenru-Ji Temple.

 

  • Okochi Sanso Garden: The 1000-yen entrance fee can seem a little pricey but is more than worth the price alone inside this stunning garden layout that was designed by a Japanese actor who created a film set in the picturesque settings on his estate.
    Not only is it a garden walk with plenty of nice Japanese themed-buildings attached to the spacious attraction, but you also get a complimentary Green-tea cake and tea which is put on in the most splendid of locations with bamboo trees nearby. It’s a relaxing atmosphere and one of my favourite attractions in Arashiyama; I could only imagine being so much better during the cherry blossom season.

 

Okochi Sanso Garden

Okochi Sanso Garden.

 

  • Katsura River: The Katsura River, is extensive, it’s large, it’s picturesque and full of activity of tourist boats flowing through the water and showing the tourists the stunning surrounds of Arashiyama. It’s a great time to get your camera out to click away and even get in a selfie or two while taking a stroll along the banks of the river.
    The Katsura River is a perfect spot have a bite to eat for lunch at a riverside restaurant, to enjoy a bowl of ramen or other selections of Japanese food, with a cold glass beer, while also enjoying the sounds of the River which is in full view from where I had my bowl of Japanese noodle soup.

 

Katsura River

I am enjoying ramen on the Katsura River.

 

  • Arashiyama Monkey Park: It’s the survival of the fittest when you enter the gates of the Arashiyama Monkey Park, I say that because before you even have your first glimpse of a monkey, you need to hike up the hill for a 20-minutes and it will undoubtedly have you feeling the strain on your legs.
    In my own humble opinion, the Monkey Park was a tad overrated, while there are a few large and tamed monkeys at the peak of the hill once you have completed the hike, I found that I got distracted by the views of the city of Kyoto in the distance.

 

Arashiyama Monkey Park

Arashiyama Monkey Park.

 

  • Arashiyama back streets and town-centre walk: Wandering through Arashiyama is not only about the pleasant attractions or temples, having a quiet walk along the backroads is a must too to view the unique township. At this time, you can witness many Japanese style housing with a few selling unique souvenirs of fine art or jewellery or stop in for a tea, coffee or a bite to eat at a selection of cafés in the area.
    Arashiyama

    Take a wander down the back streets of Arashiyama.

     

 

The town centre in Arashiyama is packed with tourists, and while I didn’t spend a great deal of time on the streets, plenty is going on in terms of retail shopping and restaurants, it’s also the perfect time to treat yourself to the ever-popular green tea ice-cream. It’s delicious.

 

Enjoy a tour in Arashiyama with Klook and see all the great sights!

 

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Lose yourself at Fushimi Inari Shrine

Without question, I saw two of the major tourist attractions in Kyoto on the same day, in the latter part of the afternoon, I was making my way over to the other side of the city and visiting the spectacular Fushimi Inari Shrine. I’m sure most of you have seen pictures of this shrine in the past.

I had read only a little about the shrine when researching Kyoto, but I didn’t get into too much information on what was on offer at Fushimi Inari Shrine and nor did I expect it to turn into quite the hike. From getting off the train at Inari station, the festival begins on the street with a range of markets and food outlets, which for street food doesn’t come cheap at all, but the thousands of tourists are still getting their coins out for a taste of tasty Japanese cuisine.

The Shrine is, of course, a stunning feature with beautiful looking Japanese style buildings that have tourists gathering for the best possible photo shoot, good luck capturing a photo without a random stranger not getting in the way of the picture, especially during the heat of the day when people are everywhere.

Then you ascend further into the shrine to the area that makes Fushimi so accessible, I speak of the orange torii gates. You know the orange looking figures that rowed in many numbers, and you may have seen in the movie “Memoirs of a Geisha,” the orange gates represent the staple of all holy Shinto sites and Fushimi Inari Shrine has thousands of them on their grounds.

It’s at this point I meet an Armenian man, a solo traveller like me, and we go hiking through the 2.4km kilometre trek through the gates, past the grave sites and further up the hill to capture views of Kyoto city, this time on this opposite side of Arashiyama. We even managed to find ourselves lost at one point which made the trek a little longer and exhausting. With all the food I was eating and green tea ice-cream, it was good to lose a few extra calories.

 

Fushimi Inari Shrine

Fushimi Inari Shrine is famous for its Orange Torii Gates.

The Picturesque Kinkaku-Ji Temple

Day four in Kyoto started with another temple, why not, they’re everywhere in Kyoto, and that’s not a bad thing because they are breathtaking in their unique design.

The kinkaku-Ji Templeis the number one rated temple in Kyoto, at least according to TripAdvisor and when it comes to appearance, the Golden Temple that is tucked away behind large lake and with the mountains in the background, it certainly nothing short than spectacular. You won’t need to be a world-class photographer to take a good photo of the Kinkaku-Ji temple, because this temple that was originally built in 1397 will take care of the rest.

In terms of other attractions to do around Kinkaku-Ji, there isn’t a great deal more to do there than to gaze your eyes at a delightful golden structure, albeit worth it. If you’re anything like me you’ll be back on the bus number 12 within the hour and off to the next attraction, which wasn’t a temple in this case. 

 

Kinkaku-Ji temple.

Step into History at Nijo Castle

Castles in Japan!!! well, there are few in the country, and Nijo Castle in Central Kyoto is a must-see attraction.

Again, I had to be prepared to walk along the grounds of Nijo castle because there was plenty to see inside and outside the castle. Whether it’s the stunning design of the buildings, the moat surrounding the castle, the lookout towers situated on the corner of the castle, the beautifully landscaped gardens, and the fantastic artwork on the inside of the castle buildings, it’s not a wasted trip visiting the centuries-old Nijo Castle which does require an entrance fee of 600-yen.

For me, it’s another reason to fall in love with Kyoto, the Nijo Castle is filled with lots of history and it’s noticeable when you go inside the main walls of the castle. Inside, you’re mesmerised by the artwork of various types as you venture through different rooms, for example, the beautiful paintings of tigers used in the waiting room, used in the 1600s to intimidate the guests of usually Korean or Chinese origins. Photos were not allowed to be taken inside the main castle area.

Nijo Castle was undoubtedly in the top-five attractions I visited in Kyoto and getting there certainly helps when the castle is in a central location, I can certainly recommend it to other tourists who come to the area.

 

Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle.

Wander through the Spacious Grounds of the Imperial Palace

The last attraction I saw in Kyoto, albeit there is plenty more to see and four days in Kyoto is undoubtedly not enough. Anyway, the last stop in Kyoto for me was the Kyoto Imperial Palace. Another attraction with more tradition, more history and more splendid buildings which were reconstructed at these grounds in 1865

The Palace, which is free to enter and comes with complimentary guided tours in Japanese/English, is situated on the grounds of the Kyoto Imperial Park, it’ll take about an hour or two of your time to wander around the vast palace, views a few beautiful gardens and of course the buildings of the Imperial Palace. I certainly enjoyed another history lesson in Kyoto, which is one big history lesson.

 

It was a special four days in Kyoto, a city with such history, proud tradition and most of all beautiful scenery that will forever remain unforgettable in the memory bank. Sadly, it ends the Kyoto leg of my journey in Japan, a bit too premature for my liking because there was still so much I needed to see. Next up is Osaka and I can’t wait for the next edition of Osaka-Kyoto Diaries. 

 

Kyoto Imperial Palace.

Kyoto Imperial Palace.

 

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Osaka-Kyoto Diaries – Days 1-2 – Visiting Japan for the Very First Time

Osaka-Kyoto Diaries – Days 1-2 – Visiting Japan for the Very First Time

Visiting Japan has always been a lifelong ambition of mine and one that needed to be crossed off the bucket list long ago. I’m not sure what it is that has given me the tingles when it comes to this amazing country with proud tradition and culture, whether it has been watching a few movies based in Japan, admiring the beautiful pictures on a website or studying about ancient Japan in school. Whatever the fascination I have finally made it.

As soon as I stepped foot off the Singapore Airline aeroplane, I can add to ever increasing the list of countries that I have been to, when in June 2018, I had my first chance of visiting Japan for the very first time. I did take full advantage to make the trip, and even in these early days, with weary eyes from a long flight, I was not going to waste a minute.

As tempting as I was to see Tokyo, on this occasion I couldn’t fit the capital city on the itinerary. Instead, I had to settle for the former capital city in Kyoto and Osaka as the chosen destinations and explore as much as possible two vastly different cities on the Japanese island of Honshu in the Kansai Region.

Let’s get stuck into it, the first edition of Osaka – Kyoto Diaries, days one and two and it was straight to Kyoto, a region of great beauty and culture. I couldn’t have imagined a better location to kick off my debut trip to Japan in the next edition of travel diaries. 

 

Are you Travelling to Kyoto for a cultural experience? Check for hotels on TripAdvisor.

 

Visiting Japan

Visiting Japan and exploring Kyoto straight off the plane.

 

Highlights of Osaka-Kyoto Diaries – Days 1-2  – Visiting Japan for the very first time

 

 

Getting to Osaka and Onwards to Kyoto

I flew into Osaka’s Kansai International Airport flying Singapore Airlines for the first time and I must admit in the build-up to the flight, I was excited to be flying with a significant airline over the budget airlines I usually travel with, where on this occasion I didn’t have to worry about luggage, seats and in-flight meals.

The eagerly awaited flight lived up to Singapore Airlines proud standards and while it was a long journey travelling from Perth, Australia, to Singapore for a five-hour transit and followed by a six-hour overnight flight to Osaka, Japan, the long hours were worth it as I took my first steps in Japan.

I didn’t have time to check out Osaka, with my prepared itinerary, I headed straight to Kyoto by train, which in total, including any wait times, took around 90-minutes from the Kansai International Airport. The trip to Japan had well and truly begun.

Let’s get the adventure started. I’m excited.

 

visiting japan

On the train bypassing Osaka onwards to Kyoto.

 

Accommodation in Kyoto – Mitsui Garden Hotel Kyoto Shijo

I found this boutique accommodation through the Booking.com website with mostly positive reviews coming from the previous guests.

The Mitsui Garden Hotel Kyoto Shijo is a boutique hotel situated in a central location and is close by to a handful of attractions in Kyoto such as Nijo Castle and Nishiki Markets. Mitsui was the perfect stay for a solo traveller in a single room; it’s clean, affordable enough for a 3-star hotel in Japan and a comfortable bed with a warm shower. It’s all I needed for time in Kyoto and good night sleep. Let’s face it; I won’t spend too much time in my small room during the day.

 

Mitsui Garden Hotel Kyoto Shijo,

A miniature garden set up at the Mitsui Garden Hotel Kyoto Shijo.

 

It Begins at Nishiki Market

The Nishiki Market is the only major attraction I saw on my first evening in Kyoto, besides taking a stroll around parts of the city. Although I was eager to get out further in Kyoto, I am only human, and I needed a good night’s rest ahead of a busy few days. Spoiler alert, I walk many kilometres in the three days full days I spend in Kyoto.

Nishiki Market has a friendly upbeat vibe about it, in areas of the markets, many people are moving in all directions who are out in the unique street market and having a good time. Inside Nishiki Markets is a range of Japanese food of either grilled meats, sushi, crepes, ramen and plenty of other tasty eats with lots of green tea ice-cream in many locations.

As well as great food available at a reasonable price, Japan is not cheap; there are many Japanese style souvenirs shops that sell stylish chopsticks, Japanese style arts and many other goods that you may be tempted to take home with you for the memory of your holiday in Kyoto. For the first night in Kyoto, I was impressed with the atmosphere in a small part of Kyoto that I saw.

 

Nishiki Market

Great food in Nishiki Market.

The Delightful Heian Shrine

Up and out of bed early on day-two visiting Japan, on this day and in the next few days I had a lot of sightseeing to do and places to go in Kyoto.  The first whole day in Kyoto was on the eastern side of the city where many gorgeous temples and shrines awaited, as well as the mountains that overlooked the surrounding area; it’s all very picturesque.

A solid thirty-minute walk away from the hotel, maybe more, I started with the Heian Jingu Shrine, breathtaking can’t even begin to explain how gorgeous this shrine looked and getting there beautiful and early meant the crowds hadn’t gathered in too much. That’s the key to most attractions in Kyoto, get in soon if you can get out of bed early enough because the crowds do come.

The primary shrine area is a decorated Japanese building that is great in its texture and colour, was built a relatively short time ago, regarding history, in 1895. The Shrine had been built in dedication to the emperor’s who reined in Kyoto, and there are four main buildings which are separated and sit horizontally to each other, with white limestone type flooring outside the grounds of the shrine.

For me, the best part is the gardens around the back and sides, while entering the shrine is free of charge. The gardens have a small entrance fee of 600 yen, and it’s certainly worth the admission fee to view the stunning gardens and wander through beautifully landscaped gardens, lakes and well-designed Japanese structures that are worth the admission price alone.

 

the Heian Jingu Shrine

The Heian Jingu Shrine in Kyoto

Visiting the Yasaka Shrine

The crowds had indeed gone up a notch by the time I had reached The Yasaka Shrine, and it was undoubtedly a more buoyant atmosphere by the time I reached this particular shrine with many tourists, locals and quite a few Japanese women dressed very nicely and appropriately in the Geisha dress.

The Yasaka shrine, which is free to enter, is undoubtedly another fabulous Japanese building that is worth the time in Kyoto, it’s a shrine full of colour, unusual structures and plenty of Japanese culture on display. In my own opinion, it didn’t quite reach the heights of the Heian Shrine. However, it’s still worth the visit as is most attractions in Kyoto.

Also to note, in the same vicinity of the ofthe Yasaka Shrine, is the Maruyama Park and Chion-in Temple which will undoubtedly help occupy a few hours of your time for a pleasant stroll in the outdoors, before heading to the next attraction only a little down the road, and it is breathtaking.

 

The Yasaka Shrine.

The Picturesque Kodaiji Temple

More tradition, more history, I felt spoilt on day two in Japan with another fabulous historical attraction to feast my eyes on in Kyoto. This time I entered was the Kodai-Ji Temple. The temple is a mesmerising Japanese building with many different beautiful and unique structures; it’s blended in beautifully with the mountains in the backdrop and naturally very well landscaped gardens, the admission price is undoubtedly worth the fee for the picturesque temple and its surroundings.

Established in 1606, in memory of a man named Toyotomi Hideyoshi, there is a lot of history inside Kodai-Ji, and it’s a pleasure and privilege to be in the grounds of something so beautiful and ancient. I know I will treasure this place for a long time to come with many of my photos taken to be stored away for future memories.

Of all the temples that I have seen in Kyoto during my brief stay, Kodai-Ji was my favourite, make sure you put it on your list whenever visiting the region.

 

The Kodai-Ji Temple

The Kodai-Ji Temple.

The traditional Ninenzaka

Another busy tourist attraction and this time it’s in the form of a street market set-up that is buzzing with tourist, geishas and other locals that make moving down the street near on impossible.

Ninenzaka is a long stretch of road with many shops and food outlets that are surrounded by amazing Japanese style housing which in term leads to the next major tourist attraction in Kyoto, Kiyomizu-Dera.

 

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Ninenzaka Street.

Ninenzaka Street. 

 

The Stunning Kiyomizu-Dera

The crowds went to another level at Kiyomizu-Dera and a lot of that had to do with the school students who were out and about on a field trip and the students even enjoyed approaching me to be included in a photo or two. My humble self certainly felt like a celebrity for all but a minute, I was certainly flattered.

Kiyomizu-Dera temple which means “pure water” is said to be the most attended temple in Kyoto and judging by the crowds in presence, I would say that’s the truth. The most popular thing to do at Kiyomizu-Dera is to go to one of the three waterfalls and touch the special water. It’s believed to give you magical powers upon touching the pure water and waiting line suggest that the belief in that theory is strong.

The Kiyomizu-Dera temple is a popular choice for all visitors, the temple is situated in the mountains, with lovely designed infrastructures and an electric atmosphere that seemed to have been brought over from the streets of Ninenzaka. One thing to know when standing inside the Kiyomizu-Dera temple, that it was founded in the year 778, that was over 1200-years ago. To be in a country with such rich history is phenomenal.

 

Kiyomizu-Dera Temple

Kiyomizu-Dera Temple.

A Walk through Gion  

Gion is known as the motherland of Geishas, although on this occasion I saw no more or less in other attractions throughout the day in Kyoto. The Gion set-up is like Ninenzaka, which is another street style set up with plenty of souvenir shopping and Japanese food outlets.

A lot of these street markets generally do lead to a major attraction. So, follow the road of culture and Japanese style housing, and you’re bound to be on track to another fantastic attraction, case in point, Kennin-Ji Temple is next.

 

Gion

The streets of Gion.

 

Kenninji Temple

On day two it had come to this, two shrines, three temples and a couple of street markets. Kennin-Ji temple was probably the least profile of the temples I visited on day-two, but when you compare it to the Kiyomizu-Dera and the Kodai-Ji Temple, you could be judging it harshly.

I had no plans of stopping by, but walking the streets of Kyoto back to the hotel, I stumbled across it by accident and said, “why not,” what’s another temple to the list.

Kennin-Ji Temple certainly has a lot of history associated with it, being founded in 1202 and once again like most temples in the area, it’s a mixture of beautiful traditional buildings, mixed in with a short garden walk, that’s without the close by surrounding mountains as the temple is situated close to the city centre.  

It was an action-packed day one and in particular, day two in Kyoto and it only has me chomping at the bit for what’s install for days three and four before I head off to my next destination in Osaka. Until then, stay tuned for the next edition of travel diaries in Japan.

 

Kennin-Ji Temple

Outside the Kennin-Ji Temple.

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