Still the sacred capital of Japan, Kyoto was most certainly on the list - given how I didn’t manage to go the last time. And thanks to Lyn’s previous itinerary from when she last went, we had a rough idea of where we were going to.
But first, the Shinkansen!
I wanted my parents to experience travelling via the Shinkansen at least once. And while it was about a 15-minute train ride to Kyoto, it was nice to see the rest of the group get excited about ekiben (Bentos you eat on the train) and the speed of the train itself. Before we knew it, we were at our destination - Kyoto Station.
We took the Sanin Line from Kyoto Station to Saga-Arashiyama station later on. Our plan was initially to eat lunch first, then take our time along the main shopping street and places of interest.
No such luck later on.
The main street towards the Arashiyama Park and Bamboo Grove was decked with traditionally-built shops, surrounding the main temple with stops for snacks, crafts, and with various restaurants. We had to stop quite a few times because some members of our group kept getting distracted by various snacks, coupled with the Singaporean-Chinese need to bargain and question everything. (Yeesh)
Note: Please don’t bargain at a Japanese market - it’s rude and bad form. Also, Japanese shop owners are generally quite trustworthy so you don’t have to worry about them selling you “fake” or “inferior” goods.
We managed to get some amazingly delicious soba near the river at the end, followed by a relaxing stroll through the Arashiyama Park and Bamboo Grove. Like Nara, the Sakura were in bloom, which lent the place to some great photo opportunities.
Arashiyama Park was just across the river from where we had lunch - you could choose to have a stroll along the river, or skip stones at the rocky river banks. The Bamboo Grove on the other side of the main street - a place just as serene, but bearing a different kind of beauty.
Among the street stalls, rickshaw pullers, and yukata-clad people, it was a different kind of amazing to capture the image of the sunlight peeking through the lush green bamboo forest. The cemetary at the corner and the different shrines that dot the forest gave that level of zen you’d expect to get in this place.
That being said, we made our way back, knowing full well that we’d be too late for Nishiki Market, but not before we made a stop at Molette, a restaurant near Kyoto Station specializing in Omuraisu.
PLACES WE VISITED:
Places of Interest:
Arashiyama Park Nakanoshima Area
Saganakanoshimacho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Saganonomiyacho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
Japan, 〒616-8385 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Ukyō-ku, Sagatenryūji Susukinobabachō, 1 本家桜餅
Estimated cost per person: ¥~1,500
JR Kyoto Isetan, 11F
Estimated cost per person: ¥~1,500
Check out my other Japan trip posts with the hashtag - #Osakejiak18, or click here for the rest of my posts.
Note to self: Head to Nishiki Market the next time I head down. No excuses.
Our first trip to Kobe was motivated mainly by gluttony and eyes bigger than stomachs. My second trip to Kobe (and this group’s first) was motivated by the same desire to have Kobe Beef again.
That being said, I can tell you the TL;DR version of this post now - we were at Steakland and it was all worth it.
We split into two groups (Dad can’t eat beef), and the cousins and I got the dinner shift. What you see above was my dinner (just my share) with the cousins. The above-pictured meal consists of cubed Kobe beef, crispy fried garlic, sauteed vegetables (bean sprouts, xiao bai cai, mushrooms, zucchini), konniyaku, a croissant roll with the world's best butter (Hotel brand), and dipping sauces.
This was the non-Kobe beef lunch shift - where my cousins and I went to Coco Curry with my Dad. We were still full from a heavier breakfast so the four of us shared a salad, a corn soup, Croquette curry, and Vegetable Curry. Also, YES FINALLY - COCO ICHIBANYA IN JAPAN.
In between, I brought them all on a walk to the wharf. Being a pier city, I thought it would be great to take everyone to the seaside to have a look. So we took a walk to Kobe Meriken - near where the first American Embassy was in Kobe.
With the cool wind from the sea and the colourful flowers that dotted the place, it was no wonder so many locals flocked to this side of the city for a relaxing Sunday afternoon. The wharf is also the location of the 1995 Kobe Earthquake Memorial - a sombre reminder of the brutalities of nature and the hope of recovery after.
After a relaxing afternoon on the pier, we made our way back to the Kobe-Sannomiya station by way of the Motomachi Shopping Street.
It was not until I returned from this trip when I realized that Kobe was quite well-known for its desserts. That being said - here’s to more excuses... ahem, I mean... reasons for returning!
PLACES WE WENT TO:
Places of Interest:
Kobe Meriken Park (Also where the 1995 Kobe Earthquake Memorial is located)
2-2 Hatobacho, Chuo Ward
Steakland Kobe (near Kobe-Sannomiya Station)
Miyaba building 1-2F, 1-8-2, Kitanagasadori
Chuo-ku, Kobe-shi, Hyogo, 650-0012
Expected Prices: ¥1,600-2,000 (Lunch) ¥4,500-6000 (Dinner)
The last time we were here, a deer ate a good chunk of our map. This time, we were ready.
Emerging from the depths of Kintetsu-Nara station, we quickly obtained at least 3-4 maps for our rather large group (7 of us). That being said, the amazing people at the Tourist Information Centre circled a few places, smiled, and said, “We have cherry blossoms today!”
Sarah’s Luck had finally rubbed off. LOL.
After a quick run to the bathroom - off we went!
One of the great things about Nara was how you could see the transition from the city-area to the suburban and sacred spots. In a sense, this place embodies the attraction of Japan to many people - the balance of the bustling, efficient city, and its accessibility to the calmer, peaceful country-esque locations that speak “Japan”.
Like what happened before, we encountered the deer just a short walk from the station. Following trusty Google Maps and the main road, we found ourselves in front of the Himuro Jinja Shrine, with trees in full bloom and neighbouring shops selling grilled mochi and ice cream to add to the experience.
For a person who has not seen Cherry Blossoms in real life, I do get why it’s such a big deal - they bloom in various shades - pink, pale pink, red, white - but the flowers only stay open for a few days before fluttering to the ground. Needless to say, the place was packed with tourists and locals alike, so we made our way to Todaiji soon after taking the photos we wanted.
Standing tall and grand, the Todaiji Temple is a Buddhist Temple that survived two major fires (and countless incidents) since its construction in 752 AD. One of the incidents got so bad that craftspeople had to replace the Buddha head because it got too badly damaged. That’s why you could see the different shades between the Buddha’s body and head when you enter the temple.
Apart from its vast, zen aura, Todaiji Temple is peppered with various other Prayer Halls, each there for anyone to visit. But remember, keep to their rules - both out of respect for the people, and respect for the place:
That being said, we had a pleasant time at Todaiji. And the sweet potato (along with the other snacks) we had on the way back to the station helped too.
AND NOW - TO THE FOOD.
We were a big group (7 of us), so I thought Kameya was more up to our speed in terms of space and food. Check it out:
Mainly teppenyaki-cooked food from the area - Okonomiyaki, Yakisoba, Yakiudon, and the Yakisoba Rooru, which is Omelette-wrapped Yakisoba, and apparently our favourite. If you’re looking for a family-friendly place, or just a place to sit a group that’s larger than 4 people, where you can eat the local cuisine and hang out, I’d suggest Kameya.
BONUS: It’s just down the road from Nakatanidou Mochi - where we were fortunate enough to have front row seats to a fresh batch of mochi being made. You can catch a glimpse of the video I took on my Instagram here.
PLACES WE WENT TO:
Places of Interest:
406-1 Zoushi-cho, Nara-shi
Entrance Fee: ¥500 (Temple only)
樽井町７, Taruichō, Nara-shi, Nara-ken 630-8218
Estimated Prices: ¥1,000 to 1,500 per person
29 Hashimotocho, Nara 630-8217
Prices: ¥130 for 1 freshly-made Soybean-filled mochi
Note: There are also many street vendors from Nara station to Todaiji so do grab a few snacks along the way if you'd like. Just take note of the deer (Yes, they'll snatch your food away from you).
So that’s it for us in Nara! Check out the rest of my trip to Osaka and Kyoto over April under the tag #Osakejiak18. Or access all the posts for this trip here.
Getting off the plane and stepping out of the airport, we all took a deep breath to ward off the fatigue from almost half a day in the air. While everyone else looked around in excitement, I only exhaled under my breath, “TADAIMA!”
And while the travel blogs for this trip come up over this month, here’s a list of posts affiliated with this trip:
That being said, be prepared for loads of food. To follow these blogs and photos on my Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Blog, check out #osakejiak18.