Miyajima-guchi, Hiroshima, Japan
Bev & Eric weren’t feeling the best in the morning so solo day to Miyajima Island for me. Luckily the rain from the previous day was nowhere in sight and the day eventually was sunny and between 15-21°C.
About an hour from Hiroshima Station to the island. With the JR Pass, the ferry is included. The ferry is about 10mins. You also show your JR Pass or pay via IC card when you arrive to the island.
When you start to walk into the main area, you will see wild deer roaming around the island. There are many stalls, stands and restaurants all around. Hiroshima is known for oysters, conger eel & momiji manju (buckwheat rice cakes shaped like Japanese maple leaf with filling – it is the local specialty of the island of Itsukushima).
My first bite of the day was Grilled oysters (2) with yuzu miso glaze ¥400. I grabbed Momiji Manju from Miyatoyo-honten. I had an apple & a red bean with yuzu (my fave) ¥120 each.
Walked further in and ended up on Omotesando Arcade with more food and souvenir stalls. I grabbed a red bean and a Blueberry momiji manju ¥110 each from Tsuda-seifudo. I also grabbed a cool cucumber on a stick ¥300 which is very refreshing. Eat it near the stall and you can return/dispose of the skewer back to them.
Went to the 5 story Pagoda – built in 1407. Was going to go into the Itsukushima Shrine as it’s a UNESCO world heritage site but that line never ended.
Went to check out the Itsukushima Jinja Torii Gate aka the Floating Gate. At low tide, you can walk out on the bay as it drains out. It wasn’t fully low tide so you couldn’t walk right up to the gate but enough to get a reasonable photo nearby. You have the option to rent kayaks to go up to it though.
The next plan of attack was to take the Ropeway up to Mt Misen but I didn’t feel like doing it as it was a long line up and ¥1100 one way up. I opted to walk the trail up.
Before starting my hike up, I explored Daisho-in Temple. It’s at the base of Mt Misen and It’s extensive including many halls, statues & religious objects. There are even little Buddha’s with knitted caps.
I took the Daisho-in Course to get up to the top of Mt Misen. It is a 90min hike up. It was a little tough but mainly stairs. Sweating and panting real hard, made it to the top. You get a 360 view of the surroundings but the trees block the Itsukushima Torii gate. There is a platform on the Daisho-in Course that has a great view of the gate before actually getting to the top. I ended up taking the Momijidani Park Course down. This trail is apparently the shortest. I flew down.
No matter what way you decide to get up to Mt Misen (even Ropeway) you still have to hike up a bit so be prepared with good footwear.
Back down and the sun was still out so I went back to get better shots of Itsukushima Torii gate and the shrine. Since the bay was low tide, I walked up to the Itsukushima shrine and got some nice shots without actually going in.
Famished from the hike, I had lunch at Ruuju. I ordered the Kaki udon set – oyster with udon & conger eel on rice ¥1650.
I walked around a bit more before heading back to the city.
I guess hiking up and down a mountain on an island wasn’t enough in a day so I climbed a slightly smaller one in the city. I climbed up to Futabasan (Mt Futaba). You end up walking through Hiroshima Toshogu Shrine which just keeps going up but also features torii gates. Caught the beginning of the sunset over the city but left time to get down with some light.
Final stop was to McDonald’s to see what’s new on their menu. I got the Gohan Chicken tatsuta yuzu flavoured radish combo + 5 mcnuggets ¥810. I went into this building where there was a McDonald’s on the 11th floor across from Hiroshima Station but there is food on all floors. There’s a nice city view but I came down from the temple too late to catch it there.
Hiroshima – Osaka, Japan
Roughly 2 hours to get into Osaka from Hiroshima via Shinkansen.
Stored our bags in a coin locker at JR Namba and off we went.
First stop Namba Yasaka Jinja. Giant Shisa lion head at a temple. From there, we walked to Shinsekai – the old school shopping street that brings you back in time with views of Tsutenkaku Tower. We found a ¥100 drink machine and I got a melon soda. I bought Hokkaido melon bread ¥160 from Yamazaki Sun Royal.
After exploring Shinsekai area for a bit, we made our way up to the Umeda area for lunch. The Osaka Metro line is no joke – there are so many lines it goes up to W in the alphabet. Umeda station and area are incredibly intricate and even our GPS was malfunctioning. We were there but not there. Turns out the building we wanted to go into – Links Umeda is also called Yodabashi Umeda. Yodabashi is the store with overwhelming qualities but has everything you ever need in store such as camera gear, bags, toilets, tv etc.
We went to the 8th floor to have lunch at Shirokujichu おひつごはん四六時中 – donburi & ochazuke (dashi broth or soup poured onto your rice when you are half way done eating to make the meal 2-in-1). I got the Shiroku Ohitsugohan + cold Soba noodles ¥1880.
After lunch, my friend Kayo joined for the rest of the day. I met her in 2012 on my first trip to Japan with my friends Georgina & Shela. Since then, Kayo came to Toronto to visit in 2014, I visited again in 2017 and now again we got to meet up.
We made our way to Tenjinbashisuji Shotengai – the longest covered indoor shopping arcade street. We walked a bit more and it started to drizzle. Got back down to JR Namba and picked up our things to check in to our Airbnb.
As we were walking to the Airbnb, the rain started to come down.
The evenings event was Teamlab Botanical Garden at Nagai Park. After checking in, Eric & Bev tapped out from Teamlab as they were exhausted from the day.
Kayo & myself still went. It turned out to be a great time and the rain stopped the moment we left the Airbnb. We reserved the 7-8PM slot for the Teamlab Botanical Gardens ¥1600. Unlike Tokyo’s Teamlab exhibit, this is a nighttime open air museum that comes to life when the sun goes down. Nagai Botanical Gardens and it’s flora meld with the art installations and depending on the season, the interaction between nature and art changes. We ended up walking around for over 2 hours.
We made our way to Tennoji Station and had a Yakitori dinner at Gosakudon Tennoji-koenmae 海鮮居酒屋 吾作どん天王寺公園前店. We ordered skewers of chicken neck, chicken skin, tsukune (chicken meatball), Tamago roll, & a slightly seared bonito bashing.
Breakfast at Osaru Coffee. I got the salad & toast combo ¥700 + matcha latte ¥650.
It was our shopping day in Osaka. We walked over to Amerikamura アメリカ村 for Takoyaki at Kogaryu. We ordered the scallion & yuzu flavoured soy sauce ¥600.
We visited the Railway Forgotten Market 鉄道忘れ物市 (ground floor in building 9). This store has items that people have left behind on the JR that end up being put up for sale for cheap. Tons of towels, umbrellas, hats, chargers, headphones, mobile battery packs, fans, curling iron, jewellery, beauty products, glasses, wallets, toys and surprisingly really good to almost brand new condition clothing & shoes.
We ended up on Shinsaibashisuji Shotengai (covered shopping street). We spent a good chunk in Parco – a department store with many stores within the building attached to other malls such as Daimaru. Got some stuff at Hands. Bev & Eric got some bags from Anello & shoes from Spingle.
We briskly walked through Dotonbori as it was the beginning of Golden Week celebrations and the area was really busy. A quick glimpse of the Glico Man sign and found ourselves at Katsudon Hozenji-Yokocho 喝鈍 法善寺横町店 for a very late lunch. I got the Katsu curry bowl & beer ¥1300.
Walked down to Sennichimae Doguyasuji Shopping Street 千日前道具屋筋商店街. This is the shopping street where all the cooking aficionados go for proper cookware, knives & the rest of the kitchen needs. Specifically for Bev & Eric, they were looking for knives. They ended up buying 2 knives from Sakai Ichimonji Mitsuhide. Using the same techniques and methods used in manufacturing Japanese swords, it’s been used to create impressive knives of all sorts.
All shopped out, we returned to the Airbnb to rest.
For dinner, we went to this lovely Soba shop called 重蔵. I ordered the natto omelette ¥450 & shrimp tempura soba ¥1000. The owners were really sweet & there was a customer who spoke a bit of English who helped Bev & Eric ordered their meal.
Osaka – Kyoto, Japan
It was a 13 minute shinkansen ride from Osaka to Kyoto.
Perfect weather with a high of 23°C
We dropped off our stuff off at our Airbnb and back on the JR train we went to get over to Arashiyama. I have been to Arashiyama before and there are many places that are over run with tourists. This time around, I tried to make an itinerary with alternatives to the main tourist attractions.
Our top priority was to get a table at Otsuka Steak. A fond memory from my last visit in 2017 and it did not disappoint. They changed locations and now have a new and improved space to better accommodate the masses. They put out a sheet at 9AM and you write your name and how many people. At 11AM when they open, if they call your name and you aren’t there, you lose your spot. First come, first serve and they are only open until 230PM.
We put our names down and luckily we were 5th on the list. We walked around for a bit and grabbed a little snack of red bean/anko mochi ¥200 and custard pancake balls ¥600.
I got the 150g Chuck Flap steak ¥3960. It is lightly seared and kept rare on the inside. Served with 4 dipping options, a salad and rice, it was the perfect amount and you know you need to soak up the juices.
After that meal, we officially started out day. We walked to Saga Toriimoto St – a street with preserved homes turned into shops and galleries dating back to the Meiji period.
From there, we went to Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple 愛宕念仏寺 – ¥300. This temple features 1200 stone sculptures of Rakan, the Buddha’s disciples, all with different facial expressions and poses. Left with nature, moss and plants have grown around them.
Walked back down to Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple あだし野念仏寺 – ¥500. It has 8000 statues tightly placed together to remember the souls who died without relatives. The hidden bonus at this temple is Bamboo forest stairs at the back of the temple. As beautiful yet emptier than the infamous Arashiyama Bamboo grove that is 300 meters long and usually has hoards of tourists.
We hopped on the train back towards our Airbnb to check in but stopped off a train stop earlier to grab some dessert. We passed by Marché Noguchi and grabbed organic fruit & veggie smoothies. I got the Beet Apple & lemon ¥250.
We grabbed ice cream at Premarché Gelateria プレマルシェ・ジェラテリア. I got the ninja food (black rice, pine nut, black sesame, black currant & bamboo charcoal) & ume sorbet (plum) ¥700.
Checked into our Airbnb and it’s beautiful. It is called the Kinse Inn. It’s a 250 year old building that was once a ageya (Edo period brothel) where Geisha entertained at dinner parties then converted into a ryokan and reopened as a cafe/bar and Airbnb in 2012.
We finished the night big with conveyor belt sushi at Sushiro – Gojo Shichihommatsu スシロー 五条七本松店. We ordered a good variety of things including desserts. Yellow plates were ¥120, red were ¥180 & black plates were ¥360. Usually you could just pull any plate off the conveyor belt but since it was a busy dinner rush, it was easier to order on the tablet and it signalled you when your food approached. We had to look for the pink stand to grab our food. It ended up costing us ¥7570 for 3 people including 2 alcoholic drinks.
From our Airbnb, we walked under an hour to Kiyomizu-dera ¥400 making stops along the way. We finally made it there around 1120AM & it was jam packed. Luckily it’s been the only day of this trip that it was overwhelmingly crowded. Golden week is definitely in full effect in Kyoto.
The weather also was the hottest we’ve had in Japan reaching 24-25°C – hot heat but not humid.
Walked the Higashiyama District – the old cobblestone streets of Ichinenzaka, Ninenzaka & Sannenzaka. All very crowded. Along the way I grabbed a matcha craft cola from Ito Kyumon ¥490 & a Hojicha ice cream from Macchado ¥550.
Had lunch at Masaichi 一念坂 まさ壱. Kyoto style grilled fish set course – 2 kind grilled fish, buckwheat soba noodles, seasonal cooked rice, simmered local dish + 2 side dishes ¥2500.
Viewed Hokan-ji Pagoda & breezed through Yasaka Shrine. Walked towards the river, briskly walked through old gion & into the heavily crowded Nishiki Market. We braved the crowd for about 2 streets then gave up from there.
Bev & Eric split off to head home to get ready for their fancy dinner at Kikunoi Roan. I wandered a bit, walked a bit of Pontocho area & got miso dango skewer at Ohagi no Tanbaya ¥150.
Trying to get through the crowds, made my way over to the ever popular but also hidden Tsukemen restaurant – Wajoryomen Sugari 和醸良麺 すがり. Did I stand in line for 90mins?; yes I did. The entrance is through a tiny door. If you aren’t lining up outside, you are lining up in a hallway where you pay & make your order via a machine. From there, you hang out in the courtyard until there is a seat for you at the table. The place can only seat about 10-12. I got the Tsukemen w/pork +egg ¥1050.
There was a ticketing printing error happening which started conversations with the guy in front of me. I made a new friend named Adrian who also happens to be from Scarborough / Toronto. He’s a chef who was in Japan for part work, part leisure.