Check out my Amazon page for gear that I personally use and products similar to those I pack on my travels (many of which are listed below).
As a photographer, my priorities for travelling always have been photography first. This time around, unlike my Peru – Machu Picchu trek, my walzflex 120mm film camera made an appearance once again.
For 14 days of travel through Japan, I decided against a rolling hard case luggage. I have since replaced my Kata Camera bag with a new bag from PRVKE as my personal camera bag and my trusty Yellow North Face Basecamp Duffel as my main luggage, My philosophy when travelling is purchase only as much as you can carry back.
Japan Packing List
Wearing onto Plane
1 pair of tights (Underarmour are my choice of preference)
We took a cab to Kyoto station to meet Cassie at Kyoto Station. Such a large station with multiple JR offices to book tickets but we eventually found Cassie. We got there in time to reserve seats for the shinkansen bullet train to Osaka. It literally took 14 minutes for us to get to Osaka from Kyoto. Local JR would take about 30-60 minutes – so insane. It was so fast that the ekiben that I purchased I had to inhale and almost didn’t finish in time to get off the train. We arrived in Osaka rather early to meet our Airbnb host at 1130AM so we put our bags in the lockers and went shopping at Tokyu Hands. Turns out our 20 minute limit turned into an hour. I purchased about 114,000y but what sucks is that at the tax free counter, i only got 633y back because my purchased items didn’t qualify for a tax exemption. By this point of seeing Osaka, everyone had talked ourselves out from leaving for Nagoya the following day to leave a little bit more time in Osaka.
We left Tokyu Hands and walked through Shinsaibashi street to America-mura where we would meet our Airbnb host Yuta and be staying. Cute apartment in a nice building with a coffee shop at the bottom. Yuta let us check in early and leave our stuff but the apartment still needed cleaning. He recommended a place to eat in Shinsaibashi called Daruma(1-6-4 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka). Daruma is a kakushikatsu which basically means everything is fried. There was also a train the food would come on after ordering on the ipad/computer and a person would come around and place it on the heated plate for us. There is a sauce we can use to dip our skewers in but only dip once.
If you haven’t joined and booked with Airbnb yet, follow the link and get credits for your first booking. www.airbnb.ca/c/ruu
I had to meet my friend Kayo at a Namba station but my maps brought me to the JR Namba line instead of the local trains so Kayo met me on a corner while my friends were in Loft. Loft is a design store and a dangerous store in terms of wanting to purchase everything there. After Loft, we went to the Daiso store which is also filled with things we don’t need but fun to look at.
When we came out of the Daiso store, Kayo pulled out these little brown bags from her bag – she got us gifts! We opened it up to reveal that she gave us personalized (she personalized it herself) key chains with our names on it from her workplace – Business Leather Factory. So sweet of her! We told her we wanted to see her store so she took us to the Namba station branch of the store as she works at Umeda Station location. Cassie bought a wallet and Mike & Manwai purchased passport cases and Kayo was so sweet to give us 5% friends & family discount + tax free savings. I would’ve bought a new wallet but I am very particular about the things I want from a wallet. On our way to the store, we were eyeing Mister Donut and she stepped out and bought a box for us – she is way too sweet!
We walked from there through Shinsaibashi street to the Glico man sign and we went a little further down the river to find so benches to enjoy the donuts. Along the way, we also stopped and grabbed ourselves Croissant Taiyaki – croiyaki? 1000y for 5. There was azuki red bean, custard and sweet potato filling – the sweet potato was delicious! We hung out on under the bridge and on ate then walked back to our area of America-mura – it is very hip and so many colourful characters especially in clothing style. Very much American influence on clothing style but more so the 90’s wears and hip hop influence. Since they were cleaning the apartment when we dropped off our bags, we went back to the apartment to hang for a bit and saw the sunset from the balcony. There was a giant bowling pin just outside our building and we decided to go bowling at Shinsaibashi Sun Bowl 心斎橋サンボウル. It was 950y/pp for shoe rental and 1 game. Kayo put our names in kanji and off we went. My first bowl was a strike! Kayo was pretty precise in her bowling. In the end, Manwai, Kayo and myself were part of the strike club while Cassie and Mike were in the spare club. We even bowled with the bowling pin costumes at one point. I won!
After bowling, we returned to Shinsaibashi to see the Glico Man sign at night then went to Aburiya Dotonborimidosuji あぶりや 道頓堀御堂筋店 for Yakiniku – all you can eat 4380y with option for all you can drink for 980y. We ate so well in the 2 hour time limit plus we all get 1 dessert included. We of course treated Kayo. It was such a good night. We did stop and get takoyaki beside the large Don Quijote near the Glico man sign while we waited for our reservation for Aburiya.
Woke up early to meet the gang at a train station to head to Arashiyama for the day. Cassie had been recommended this coffee place called %Arabica Kyoto % アラビカ京都 嵐山(Japan, 〒616-8385 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Ukyō-ku, Sagatenryūji Susukinobabachō, 右京区嵯峨天龍寺芒ノ馬場町3ｰ47) (Opens at 8AM). It was started by Kenneth Shoji and he bought a coffee farm in Hawaii and started a green bean trading company and became the sole-exporter of a Japanese roasting machine and became the distributor of one of the best espresso machines in the world. He then partnered up with a latte art champion, Junichi Yamaguchi and talented architect Masaki Kato to open % Arabica. I don’t drink coffee but aesthetically, I approved. My friends did line up and get coffee and they said it was really good. The actual Arashiyama location is really tiny and doesn’t really have seating inside (there is a booth you can rent per 30 minutes) but there are benches outside and you can sit by the river.
Once everyone had their morning coffee, we walked over to the Bamboo Forest. Along the way we kept seeing these vintage cars taking over the streets and whizzing by us as we darted to the bamboo forest. Apparently it was the annual Rally Nippon where classic cars are showcased on a 700-mile route or something similar to it as they took over the streets of Arashiyama and there was media coverage. They drove through the bamboo forest while we were there and to be honest, it ruined it for me. I have never been to this bamboo forest and yes it is more dense the further you go in but its also only 100m long. With such a small area but these vintage cars coming though, the exhaust from these cars smother you and at one point I started to cough and almost gag. The photos I’ve seen of the bamboo forest make it appear much larger than it is and we found it very difficult even though we went somewhat early to have a clear shot.
At this point, Karen & Chi decided they wanted to go into the villa garden while the rest of us (Cassie, Mike, Manwai & myself) opted to skip the garden and the temple to head to the Iwatayama Monkey Park. On our way to the park, we passed the small train station that had the kimono forest and took some photos. It is literally poles with real kimono fabrics in them that create a tunnel like the bamboo one but I think it would’ve been nicer to see at night as they do get illuminated. Back on our ways to Iwatayama Park – the park is 550y and it is a uphill climb to even get there. Be prepared. It is about 20 minutes uphill and yes there are benches along the way to rest. Once you arrive to the top, there are just monkeys everywhere. Take your photos but don’t get too close and I guess don’t look them in the eye as the signs keep telling us. There is a room you can enter and pay 100y for a bag of fruits you can then feed the monkeys . Yes you are in the cage while they are hanging from the wired windows of the human cage feeding them. There are park rangers around that the monkeys seem to respond to so everything is safe. We even saw a mother monkey who just gave birth 2 days earlier with her baby holding so tight to its mother. We spent a good while here and another perk – the view of the city was beautiful.
We hiked back down (another route back down but it does reconnect to the trail we started at the beginning) and walked back into town to meet Karen & Chi for lunch. Karen had chose a place called Otsuka STEAK おおつか(Japan, 〒616-8376 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Ukyō-ku, Sagatenryūji Setogawachō, ２０−１０). We arrived into this dead end of a suburban street to find a covered car park just filled with people and stools and a stand with a waiting list. We immediately put our name down and took a seat. A minute later, it started to pour. We commenced our sitting and waiting for a good hour and half playing would you rather and looking at the menu deciding what we wanted. This place is very popular and closes at 2PM or whenever they sell out.
When we finally got in, There are 3 large tables that are lowered where your feet hang in a lower area and of course seating at the bar. Each table can hold about 6 people. I ordered the 4A Waygu Beef (4200y) and it was delicious but didn’t compare to the hida steak we had a few days before. Still butter though.
Since it was raining, we went to see the owls (680y) and we got to pet them. Unlike the other location in Tokyo, we were unable to carry them. They were cute but I felt bad because they sleep during the day and one owl in particular in my photos looked incredibly sad. You pet them using only the bad of your hand and only on their head and backs. There was one that got nippy but hey, i would too if I have random people touching me.
We took the JR to Kyoto station and that is where our night ended. Kyoto station is so large in size and the main area reminded us of Eatons Centre in Toronto but on a different scale. We were looking at the dessert floor in CUBE for so long with its free samples and we all got enticed to purchase snacks and gifts. So good but so deadly. We ended up in Aeon mall and shopped some more. It got late and by 9PM we were looking for somewhere to have dinner. We ended up eating at the station – Sushi no Musasahi(Japan, 〒600-8214 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Shimogyō-ku, Higashishiokoji Takakuracho, 8−3 京都駅八条口構内アスティロード) – (JR Kyoto 8-jo south entrance) conveyor belt sushi – 146y a plate – I ate 11 plates – 1550y – the conveyor belt sushi in Shimokitazawa was still better and you could also order off a iPad. No Musashi would just make certain things and when we asked about unary they said eventually it will make it onto the belt (but they never made more of the unagi). We tried the melon shake at McDonalds – worst thing I consumed this whole trip – don’t do it. We got turned around in the station and ended up walking in the rain the same route we took when we arrived in Kyoto hoping to catch the bus home but we couldn’t figure out where the bus stop was so we hopped in a cab to take us the rest of the way.
We started off our morning rather early getting ourselves to Fushimi Inari for 745AM. Fushimi Inari is free admission and is open 24/7 technically (restaurants on top of the mountain have set times). Just a reminder that Fushimi Inari is built on a mountain so wear proper shoes to climb those stairs especially if you are planning on going the entire route. The sun was out and strong already at this point but Fusihimi Inari was still rather empty. We met with Chi, Cassie & Karen here before ascending. Yes Fushimi Inari is where Memoirs of a Geisha were filmed but the main tori gates in which that magical scene was filmed is actually only a small portion of this massive temple and it only lasts about 100m and there are 2 of them (for entrance and one for exit). I guess since I’ve been there before, these tunnels didn’t phase me but everyone and I mean everyone took their time here waiting for the tunnel of tori gates to be empty and just orange in hopes there would be a gleam of light cutting through. I waited patiently as my crew took their photos before continuing our ascend.
At one point, there is a fork in the road where if you turn left, you are exiting and it is a path that leads you back to the main area or if you go right, you will be rewarded with your first view overlooking the city below us. If you continue going up, you will move onto your second view (this is slightly nicer as there is 1 tori gate and also there are benches to rest while looking at the view. Depending on time of day, there will be open restaurants and refreshments available). At this point, by the time I reached this lookout point, I was waiting diligently for Mike & ManWai who I thought were right behind me but about 30 minutes later, Karen, Chi & Cassie made it up the stairs. Luckily I waited so long because I would’ve continued my hike of the entire trail (another 40 minutes or so) and when they finally made it to that lookout point, they said they were going to see the last lookout point before heading turning back and heading back down.
They needed a moment so I decided to head up to the last lookout point #7 (the stairs to the left). It is a cluster of shrines covered in mini wooden tori gates and fox statues but once you make it to the back of this cluster, there is an open trail that takes you to where I guess a giant sign use to be and you have a the clearest of views of Kyoto’s skyline. The walk back down was quite refreshing as you still see shrines along the way but you are on the outer fringe of the temple and see a bit of the neighbourhood surrounding the temple. We met back up at the giant Tori gate then made our way through the food stalls – the pork skewers (500y) were the best. As we continued to walk back to the train station, the group stopped off and got tofu ice cream with unique flavours like ramune or yuzu (lemon).
We took the train to Gion-Shijo Station where I grabbed a Cremia ice cream cone (500y). Glenn had talked about this ice cream and how good it was. It was very creamy and delicious and the cone was great as well. We then made our way back to the surface and walked over to Nishiki Market which unlike the other fish markets, was a narrow covered street that continued a few blocks but more of a mix of places with ready to eat food as oppose to a fresh fish market with all the product sitting out and then cut up right in front of you to eat fresh. We all ended up in a store called Sugi that served no added sugar – liquid honey and fruit drink. They had samples and thats what pulled us in the first place but all of them tasted so delicious we all left with something. I grabbed myself a small packet of yuzu drink (540y). 5 cups water to 1 tube. We walked around the market for a bit before splitting off and walking the Gion district before our late lunch in the area with Mike’s Uncle and Aunt.
We met up with Mike’s uncle Cyrius and aunt Chizuka for lunch at a restaurant that was hidden in a small alley which led us to Gion Hanasaki 祇園 京料理 花咲(Japan, 〒605-0074 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Higashiyama Ward, 祇園町南側５７０−１７) which is located in an old traditional Kyoto home. It was absolutely an amazing meal to have experienced. Our hostesses brought us up to a private room where they served us a few courses that were elegantly displayed and before each meal, they would stop and tell us what the meal was made of. They used the freshest of ingredients and each piece was perfectly in place and just some many wonderful flavours non which overpowered the other so you can enjoy every bit of it. We even ate sushi that looked like it was actual fish but it was all actually vegetables that were placed perfectly to look like fish. We tried but auntie Chizuka paid the bill for lunch.
After lunch, we walked a bit of the Gion district before making our way down to the riverside where we strolled along the river. We even saw a capybara in the water and saw a man throwing bread in the air where falcons were swooping in to eat. After waling by the river for a bit, we saw a restaurant/cafe where the giant windows just opened wo the river and we decided to investigate what establishment this was. It is called Efish エフィッシュ(Japan, 〒600-8029 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Shimogyō-ku, Nishihashizumechō, 京都府京都市下京区木屋町通五条下ル西橋詰町798-1) and we decides to have a seat by the open window overlooking the river for coffee and snacks. I got the blood orange smoothie. They also have a small section where you can purchase housewife and also their they had seating areas with large comfy couches.
After the snacks, we called it a night with Mike’s uncle and aunt and went back to our Airbnb to relax a bit before venturing out for some fast food dinner. We walked around looking at what options were still open and nearby and settled on this one fast food place called Nakau なか卯 河原町五条店(Japan, 〒600-8020 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Shimogyō-ku, Mikagedōmaechō, 河原町通五条上ル御影堂前町843清水ビル1F) where you use a machine to order. I ordered the Beef bowl combo (690y) and you get a ticket that you present to the person who gets your order ready. There was also a bunch of vending machines outside that were 100y and a few surprise for 80y. I picked a orange juice for 100y and let Manwai pick a 80y and it turned out to the be the same drink but in can form.
Off to Kyoto via JR Rail today but first breakfast (included in our fee). We went to our breakfast – Japanese style breakfast which was served buffet style. Very tasty and of course local ingredients for the most part. It was also day 2 of the festival however we were heading out to Kyoto that morning – luckily for us, it looked like it was a little cloudy and might rain the second day. Karen & Chi had left earlier than us (since we couldn’t get seats in the earlier train) so Glenn, John, Manwai, Mike and myself took a train leaving an hour and half later. It stopped in Nagoya before transferring to Kyoto where John and Glenn went towards Yokohama and eventually back up to Tokyo while we went to Kyoto.
We stayed at an Airbnb near Kiyomizu Station and since it was an absolutely gorgeous day of 20C+, we decided to walk 30 minutes from Kyoto station to our place. The Airbnb host had given me photo step by step instructions on how to get into the building however in his original photo, the circles 1 mailbox but we didn’t find the key in there but luckily I noticed that the mailbox beside it was also his and the keys were in there. This airbnb looked bigger in the Airbnb photos but realistically, it was a studio apartment and was a tight fit but we managed.
We put down our things and walked over to through the Higashiyama Ward to realized we hadn’t eaten yet (it was 2PM) so we stopped off for some cold soba noodles at Kisanjina 胡麻豆腐と和カフェ きさんじな before making our way to Hokan-ji Pagoda. I had read that Hokan-ji Pagoda was a rarity in that we could actually climb it but that it closed at a certain time so we rushed through the Higashiyama Ward area really quickly to get there but alas, my information was wrong and there was no indication we could actually access it as everything was blocked off from entering.
We continued walking alongside Kōdai-ji temple and stopped for some matcha ice cream from Gion Tsujiri. I got the matcha green tea drink with matcha ice cream (520y) to top off. We continued north and ventured through one smaller temple before making it to Maruyama Park which then connects to Yasaka Shrine. The view of the city looking out from the mains gates of the Yasaka Shrine is one of my favourites from my last trip and unfortunately it was too crowded and cloudy to serve it justice to my 2012 shots that captured that old Kyoto feel.
According to the KitKat Chocolatory website, the Kyoto Daimaru location exists so we made it there in good time and almost got lost in this food heaven of the Daimaru to find out it doesn’t exist (we asked a lady and she crossed her arms signalling an X). We then walked back to the main area by Yasaka Shrine to have dinner with Karen & Chi as Cassie was getting in later that evening. Along the way back, from the Gion – old Kyoto district street, a pile of people with lanterns paraded through the streets as they were I guess doing a procession to Yasaka Shrine.
Karen had chosen this on restaurant called Izuju(Japan, 〒605-0073 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Higashiyama Ward, 祇園町北側２９２) which was known for their traditional Kyoto style sushi. This consisted of no soy sauce, no wasabi and all the ingredients were cooked – it felt similar to eating korean rolls. Fun fact – Karen doesn’t eat raw fish so this the only time she could fully enjoy sushi. We ordered as a group for sharing and it all came out on this massive plate. Deluxe hako sushi (omelette, shrimp, sea bream, tori gai & roasted fish), awafu roll, saba sushi & sasamaki. We tried to venture through Yasaka Shrine and Maruyama Park as Karen & Chi hadn’t checked it out yet but then the rain started to pour and we were not quite ready for the rain. We hid under a shelter watching people who were sitting in the park eating (little stalls had these well lit areas with small tables and seating areas to eat) try to finish their food quickly and find shelter with their beers in hand while the staff quickly covered and took the furniture to covered areas. There was a giant group of men who were drinking who had a giant tarp that they quickly turned into a shelter for themselves and continued their festivities. We on the other hand, took a cab back ho and called it a night with one more episode of terrace House (only 4 episodes were released in our timeframe in Japan but 4 more than what was released back home).
If you haven’t joined and booked with Airbnb yet, follow the link and get credits for your first booking. www.airbnb.ca/c/ruu
This was my second time travelling to Japan. My previous visit was short but sweet staying in Osaka with a day trip to Nara & Kyoto for less than a week. Japan is definitely one of those countries that can and need to be explore multiple times. I travelled to Japan with Mike, Manwai, Cassie, Glenn, John, Karen & Chi with guest appearances along the way. The flight deals were too good to miss out on especially during Hanami (cherry blossom festival). We found our deal on www.nextdeparture.ca for $730CAD roundtrip to Tokyo (1 stopover in Chicago each way). Originally, it was just myself plus Mike & Manwai that booked together. As the next few weeks past and a few meals Mike & Manwai had with friends, our group became 8. During the trip, I mainly travelled with Mike & Manwai. Total of 14 days.
We booked many of our accommodations with Airbnb. If you haven’t joined and booked with Airbnb yet, follow the link and get credits for your first booking. www.airbnb.ca/c/ruu
Included in this Itinerary, I have included some helpful information to know in advance before you go.
–www.hyperdia.com – This is awesome for figuring out your bus and JR routes but you need to know what stations you are leaving from and arriving to.
-Google Maps works well too. If Google Maps does not load/poor connection, enter the directions into the internet browser.
-100y = $1USD roughly.
-The Japanese use cash over credit for majority of their day to day living and it isn’t unusual to break a 10,000y bill on something small.
-The 2000y bill is actually quite rare in Japan as its been phased out and was started in Okinawa for unknown reasons. When exchanging money outside of Japan, you may receive 2000y bills which a few Japanese collect HOWEVER, not all the machines take 2000y bills.
-For many Japanese, they may or may not accept it at their work establishments but some will keep as a keepsake similar to Canada’s old $2 bill that is now replaced with the toonie.
-You can pay for some meals in coins alone as the largest valued coin is 500y which is roughly $5USD.
-For 14 days, I took out just over $100CAD a day. $1502.45CAD – 123000Yen
Book in Advanced
–Studio Ghibli Museum tickets can only be purchased 1 month in advanced and sells out quickly. The 10th at 10AM Japan time of every month. Much cheaper to purchase from site than through a tour group (service charges are killer). The actual ticket is only 1000y
-JR Pass must be purchased outside out Japan. Maximum 90 days before your trip. JTB Canada is where I purchased mine. For 14 days of travel, my JR Pass was $539CAD
–Sumo Wrestling Tournaments are held 6 times a year. If you have the chance to go see it, tickets will go on sale a month in advanced so be aware they are highly sought after and sell out fast. Another option if you are going during non tournament months is to go visit a Sumo Wrestling Beya (practice) at multiple locations and watch their early morning practice.
-I highly recommend bringing a portable battery pack to keep your phone charge especially if you are using your phone for directions.
-JR Pass holders need to go through the manned gate to get through at each station.
-You need to make reservations on certain trains but if you don’t, there are a few carts where it is first come first serve or you can sit but if the person with the reserved seats shows up, you give them the seats. The reserved seats also swivel to have 2 facing one another if preferred.
-With the JR Pass, if you miss you train, you can easily get the next one without any penalty fees.
-If you plan on reserving seats for trains for peak times, go earlier to reserve them.
-If taking the bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka/Kyoto etc – request mountainside view to see Mt Fuji!
-Make sure to purchase ekibens before your ride (bullet train specific meals that differ per region and have have seasonal regional speciality foods – all cold)
-Eating is not permitted on trains besides Shinkansen
-JR Pass does not cover all train lines – only JR lines (minus Nozomi/Mizuho/Hayabusa (Shinkansen)) and a Suica or a Pasmo card (similar to Octopus card of Hong Kong or Toronto’s Presto) are indeed very useful and refillable
–Pasmo & Suica cards can also be used to pay for other things such as drink machines and whatnot.
-Pasmo can be used in Tokyo, Osaka & Kyoto (from my experience)
-There are women’s only carts depending on time of day
-Trains end around midnight-1AM. There are taxi queues.
-The Japanese are large in numbers but when walking, they don’t necessarily have a sense of urgency and the pace to my standard is slow
-The Japanese do stay in shape by the amount of stairs they need to climb each day while commuting. The train stations are floors upon floors with limited elevators and some floors have escalators while many are just stairs upon stairs.
-You stand on the left side and pass on the right on the escalators. (Although in Osaka, they did opposite)
-Walking is the same – Walk on the left side
Weather (From what I experience this April trip)
-It is normal for Japanese people to stay covered up even it is hot outside as they care about their skin getting dark (similar to Hong Kong) They are more conservative in terms of covering cleavage but will wear short shorts. I wore a tank top because it was hot but got looks.
-April – light jacket/trench coats (Japanese fashion trend) and umbrellas are key.
-Tokyo is humid. April – average temp – high of 20, low of 6 – chances of showers high but muggy.
-Kanazawa – chilly and windy but otherwise warm during the day, can see breathe in the evening
-Takayama – Hot during the day – really hot as in we got slightly burnt but once the sun goes down, cold and chilly.
-Kyoto – Hot! (average 21-26C during the day) but cools down at night.
-Osaka – Just right! Not too hot, not too cold; bearable to walk around in a t-shirt majority of the day.
-Carry your passport around for many places you go shopping you can get tax free!
-Outlets are the Western 2 prong style instead of the american 3 prong
-There are a lot of people but they tend to move slower than the average if compared to Toronto foot traffic.
-You don’t tip in Japan – the only time you tip are in fancy high end restaurants or when you see fit.
-There are designated areas for people to smoke but the smoke still billows the streets and still litters the streets
-Smoking is not allowed while you are walking
-Smoking is allowed in certain food establishments
-There are rarely any garbage cans on the streets of Japan – 1 reason – you mainly goto establishments to eat or eat at home. 2 – in the past, terrorist attacks with packages left in garbage bins now detour garbage bins
-non combustibles and combustible garbage separation
-some wear masks but others don’t and when they sneeze or cough, they just let it out so be aware of that. Coming for Canada, where its customary to sneer into your elbow or cover your mouth, this might put you off a bit like it did me.
-Sailor moon make up by Beaute Creer – You can pick this up at Its Demo stores.
-In some cities like Takayama at night, they have flashing red lights outside of an establishment to signal that they are still open as other stores or restaurants close early.
Now onto my actual Itinerary. My itinerary got very extensive and ambitious with things and places I wanted to see and goto. Everyone else built their own itineraries but we made sure at certain aspects, we would all meet up in a different city for certain events such as the Takayama festival in Takayama and Temple running in Kyoto. In the span of 2 weeks, my goal was to make it through all these cities (Tokyo, Yokohama, Enoshima, Kawasaki, Kanazawa, Takayama, Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya) but of course not all goes to according to plans and we cut out some areas to explore other areas more. This was the itinerary that actually happened. There will always be another time to visit Japan once again to get more accomplished and more land covered.
Some places and things I originally had on my itinerary for the surrounding area but wasn’t able to accomplish were the following:
-Baseball – much different than Western Baseball – Hanshin Tigers VS anybody – the atmosphere is completely something to take in
-Enoshima – fujisawa – cute city – view of Mt Fuji in painting
-Ramen museum (yokohama)
-Cup Noodle Museum (yokohama)
-Kawasaki Warehouse – arcade games
-Tokyu Plaza – escalator & rooftop
-Akihabara Gachapon Kaikan – Tōkyō, Chiyoda, Sotokanda 3-15-5 Gee Store Akiba – 11AM-7PM
-Nagoya Dome – Purchase tickets – ticket booth near gate 1 – 10AM-5th inning
We met with Kayo at 10AM at Kyobashi station for a day trip to Kyoto.
From Kyobashi station, we took the Keihan train line (about 30 minutes) to Inari station where our main destination started – Fushimi Inari shrine. This was also Kayo’s first time to Fushimi Inari too so we didn’t really know what to expect. Kayo was a trooper for walking in wedges. We didn’t know before coming that Fushimi Inari is actually a temple built on a mountain. This temple made a huge appearance in the movie Memoirs of a Geisha with the orange tori gates. The main tori gates that appear in the film aren’t too long and are actually 2 paths that end before opening up into another set of gates that take you up the mountain. I decided to wear pants that day and although it was hot, it was a good decision – my eyebrow, chest and feet got attacked by bugs. When you finally make it to the top of the mountain, the sight is gorgeous as you can see the skyline of Kyoto from above before heading back down. Kyoto is also known for it’s mochi unfortunately we didn’t buy any however we did sample the triangle mochi dessert. Kayo also treated us to taiyaki (waffles made in fish shapes filled with red bean or other fillings) as well as takoyaki (squid balls).
After that long journey through Fushimi Inari, we journeyed on by train to Gion-Shinjo station to venture Yasaka Jinja Shrine, another temple with multiple temples inside. But first, we had ramen for lunch at a small local ramen shop. We all order the standard and added gyoza dumplings. The broth was a little different from what I’ve had – more soy sauce-y/ salty but nonetheless it tasted really good. The noodles were perfect but I feel like the best I’ve ever had still is hands down Daikokuya in Little Tokyo in LA. Our walk to the ramen place was really nice because the area had old buildings mixed with new but still so quaint.
We walked over to Yasaka-Jinja Shrine towards Maruyama Park. It was a cute park with a large settlement of ravens. Made our way to Sorin-ji temple and wanted to go see the big head temple but it was closed. We walked over to Chion-In temple but by the time we reached it, the temple was closed. NOTE: temples close early in Kyoto (5PM or slightly earlier).
Since temples were closing, we walked back to the station walked through an old street with old houses which had been turned into restaurants. We took the train back to Kyobashi and decided to have dinner in the area. The restaurant we went to for dinner we ordered from a machine that was all in Japanese. This restaurant required us to goto the second floor and order through the machine with no pictures which would in return give you a ticket stub after you paid. Luckily we had Kayo with us to read and translate for us. We treated Kayo to pizza, Shela and Georgie opted for curry rice and I got the omurice (rice in an omelet) with ketchup.
We got back to the hostel and Kyohei handed each of us 1 free drink ticket – it was Friday already. It was international party drinking night. Georgie grabbed herself a Peachtree and orange, Shela grabbed the plum wine and I grabbed the cassis and orange. Sebastian who was making drinks for us, volunteers at the hostel lives about a 5 minute bike ride away. He is originally from Portland, OR but has since been living in Japan for 8 years – He even has a Japanese drivers license. He was telling us his apartment costs roughly $900CAD. As we introduced ourselves to Sebastian, we met another guy named Daniel who is from Alberta who is part aboriginal. He’s been in Japan for about a week and a half so far and leaves tomorrow for Tokyo. His birthday was at the end of September so he celebrated in Roppungi in Tokyo as he turned 28. We also met a few Germans, Brits and also a group of people from Thailand – 2 girls named Patch and Pam and a group of 6 guys who were all medical students who only get 10 days off from school.
Did you know that you are never suppose to pour your own drink in Japan. If someone sees that your cup is empty, you are to pour for them and vice versa. Also, if you give someone your business card, you are to put it into your dress shirt pocket and not into your wallet (which you sit on) because you are sitting on their business.