Last June, my family flew to Japan for a vacation. And with only four days to spare, we took on the challenge of visiting three of its most popular cities — Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo.
I figured that since it will probably take us a while before we went back to Japan, we might as well see as many places as possible.
Of course I later realized that while it was doable, it was terribly exhausting. Nevertheless, we accomplished our goal and went home with a luggage full of pasalubong and hearts filled with wonder. If you’re my Facebook friend, you can check out the video of our trip here.
I’m writing this in case any of you would be interested in taking on our mala-Amazing Race na itinerary, from visiting the temples in Kyoto to seeing the city skyline from Tokyo Bay.
In this post, I’ll share with you our itinerary for Day 1 in Kyoto. I’ll write about our Osaka and Tokyo day trips in the following posts.
Manila to Osaka
We arrived in Osaka early morning, leaving us quite tired at the start of Day 1. It was a conscious decision on our part though to take the red-eye flight since it was cheaper and it gave us enough time to explore the nearby city of Kyoto.
Since we arrived in Kansai really early, we paid for an hour-long stay at the KIX airport lounge at the 2nd floor of Terminal 1. It cost us around P200-300 each. It was inclusive of a small room with couches, outlets and a television set. You can also opt to get a sleeper cubicle. The entrance fee gave you access to the lounge’s free-flowing drinks and Manga library. They also have showers (additional charge) and a make-up room.
After freshening up at the lounge, we had breakfast and rode a bus to Osaka. We arrived at the JR Namba station, left our luggages in the train station’s lockers (300-700 yen or P145-P340 per day) and joined our tour group.
I got a really neat Kyoto Temples tour package from Klook. For around P2900 each, we were able to join a bus tour and see the “old Japan” through Kyoto’s many temples.
Our first stop was the Fushimi Inari-taisha, a Shinto shrine which is known for its orange torii gates. Since we visited in June, the shrine’s compound was just filled to the brim with people. It was impossible to get decent photos with the shrine’s Instagram-worthy torii gates. Nevertheless, it was quite an experience to visit our first temple and observe locals as they went about their business.
If your goal is to see as many sites, it is a good idea to join a tour group. However, if you want a leisurely pace, it might be better to tour on your own. I really wanted to see as many places so the tour was perfect for me. It was also convenient for my parents who did not want to commute and walk too much.
By lunch time, we reached the Buddhist temple of Kiyumizu-dera. Since I opted to take the transport only package (reviews on Klook said the food package was mostly noodles and tofu), I brought my family to a Soba restaurant called Yoshimura-Kiyomizuan, which can be found just a few blocks away from the temple entrance. The noodles and shrimp were fresh. I also loved the relaxing ambience of the place, especially since we sat by the window overlooking a water feature and some trees.
When we finally got to the temple complex, my parents were already tired so we just took photos from the outside. The trick is to find the right angle so you won’t have hundreds of tourists in your photos. Patience also helps.
On the walk back to our bus, we checked out some stores and bought souvenirs. I think it’s best to buy items that are from Kyoto only. Generic Japan souvenirs can be bought from Osaka for a cheaper price.
My favorite tourist spot in Kyoto is Kinkaku-ji or the Golden Pavilion, a Zen Buddhist temple surrounded by landscaped gardens.
It simply looks stunning under the sun. Unfortunately, we were not able to get a closer look. Despite the gardens being overrun by people, it was quite calming to walk and look around. It was here that we bought some good luck charms. Similar stores are also found in the other temples.
By the time we got to the last stop, the district of Arashiyama, my feet were hurting already and we have already consumed quite a lot of ice cream (I was so happy to see ice cream vending machines!).
We didn’t know the walk from the parking lot to the bamboo grove would be so far! Good thing there were a lot of other things to see on the way like the river and some pretty shops. So we marched on just so we could see the bamboo grove. Unfortunately, we didn’t really have the energy to explore further so we took photos by the entrance then headed back.
Tired and sleepy, we ended up dozing off in the bus.
All in all, it was a good experience. But if I was to do it again with my parents, I would allot two days for Kyoto or we would just pick two places to visit in a day. We just really did not have enough energy and sleep for a hectic schedule. I think the tour would be great for a group of friends though, who have had enough rest the day before. It’s definitely doable and will save you a lot of time and money.
In my next post, I’ll write about our Osaka leg of the trip.