Exploring Kyoto + Osaka, the DIY Way (Day 1)

The first 2 days of our trip was spent in Kyoto, and in those 2 days we have to commute all the way from Osaka because of the ‘slight’ change I had to make with our AirBnB booking.   As mentioned in my previous post, the original plan was to stay overnight in Kyoto (so from the airport we would have traveled directly to Kyoto) and  then move to Osaka on the eve of our second day in Kyoto.

Looking back now, I would say that making Osaka as our ‘home base’ was not a bad option at all.  For one, the one-way trip from Osaka to Kyoto took just a little over 30 minutes, which is still a tad faster than my uber ride from my work place (in Pasay) to home (in Makati).

Secondly, we were spared the hassle of traveling with our stuff from Kyoto to Osaka.  The main station building at Kyoto was so big, so confusing (haha!) and with so many people moving around I’m sure having lost tourists like us with luggage in tow would only slow down and irk the locals =P

The nakakalokang Kyoto Station (photo from kyotostation.com)
The nakakalokang Kyoto Station (photo from kyotostation.com)

And so, on our first 2 days in Osaka, we had to wake up at 4.50 a.m. (that’s 3.50 a.m. Manila time) and prepare to leave the hostel before 6 a.m. for our 1.0-train ride (including all the walking) to our Kyoto destinations.

Our itinerary for the 1st day in Kyoto was drawn like this:

  • Morning until noon:  Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Ninenzaka Alley
  • Early afternoon: Kodai-ji Temple
  • Late afternoon: Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine

Going to Kiyomizu-dera Temple was easy by train.  But to save energy on some walking, I suggested to AJ that we take the bus from the last station stop going to the temple.  We bought the 1-day bus pass at a convenience store that we passed by in Kyoto (priced at 250-yen per head) for use going around Kyoto.   (Note: Buying the 1-day bus pass will save you some yen because a single bus trip in Kyoto is priced at 230-yen.)

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Excited k’me for our first ride bus in Kyoto, and in Japan!

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However, one thing we didn’t know about buses in Kyoto is that the bus numbers are not unique.  And with Google Map na nagloloko pa, we didn’t know that we should also check the direction that the bus is going to.

So what happened here was that we ended up riding the correct bus number but it went to the opposite direction.  The bus driver who can’t speak English could not tell us what to do exactly, so he just instructed us to get down on the next stop, and cross the street.   Then we had to figure out what’s next, haha!

We managed to get to the right bus rin after that (buti na lang unlimited bus ride k’me with our 1-day pass!) and followed a group of tourists who we reckoned was on their way to Kiyomizu-dera Temple too because yun lang naman ang malapit na temple sa area.

Must-see for me itong temple na ito because aside from being a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is known for not having a single nail used in the entire structure.

The temple complex includes several other shrines and beautiful pathways adored with trees and autumn foliage.  It’s so beautiful!  I’m so happy to finally experience autumn in Japan!

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We bought entrance tickets to the Kiyomizu-dera main temple (priced at 400-yen per head).  This was the entrance to the main hall.

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I was so looking forward to seeing this marvelous sight of the temple surrounded by autumn trees:

ctto (Wikipedia)
Ctto (Wikipedia)

But the temple was under repair pala (huhu!) so this is what we saw instead:

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No complaints, though.   The tickets afforded us this beautiful view of Kyoto from the temple, and an autumn landscape (with cherry and maple trees) that I still dream about up to now.

Important note for Kyoto visitors:  Kiyomizudera’s main hall is covered up from February 2017 to March 2020 for the renovation of its roof. Visitors will be able to enter the main hall during the renovations (source).

I was able to see reddish, pinkish, orange-y and even yellow leaves in this area.  Ang ganda, ganda, ganda lang talaga.

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We continued walking through the pathways (unmindful of the time), and passed by this pond where there’s a long line of tourists queuing for the water to drink.  I would later learn that the water here came from Otowa Waterfall, which is believed to have wish-granting powers.

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Moving on, we went to our next stop for the day which is Ninenzaka Alley. It is just a walking distance from Kiyomizu-dera Temple.

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A must-visit place at Ninenzaka: Starbucks! Hehehe!

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I wasn’t able to take pictures of the store inside but there’s this area there with tatami mats and low wooden tables, giving one the experience of sipping their Starbucks coffee at the comforts of a traditional Japanese home.  Would’ve been a nice experience for us but that store was crowded that day; we just settled on the available seats we could find (the one by the circular window that you see in the picture above).

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Big-sized scones at Starbucks – my favorite.  I wish we have this in Manila too!  Super sarap the one with berries.

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We continued our walk at Ninenzaka Alley after our coffee break at Starbucks, where we had a great time looking at the small shops, snapping tourists walking in full kimono get-up, checking out cafes and trying out interesting food we found along the way!

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We don’t know what exactly this one is but it says that it has Octopus meat with green onions.  Si AJ lang kumain nito hehe!

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Cinnamon-flavored cream puff with creamy custart filling.  Yummy!
Cinnamon-flavored cream puff with creamy custart filling. Yummy!

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We also spotted a cute Ghibli shop at Ninenzaka, and beside it is a Hello Kitty Cafe!  Too bad we just had a heavy merienda at Starbucks.

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Next, we went to find the Kodai-ji Temple.  But just as soon as we reached the entrance to the temple compound, we decided last minute not to proceed anymore because we saw that mostly old people ang bumibili ng entrance tickets (mga practising Buddhists talaga) and also, we don’t want to be late for our next and last stop of the day: the Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine.

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Heart-shaped Ema wooden plaques found outside the Kodai-ji Temple.

But on our way to the station (going to Inari Station), we passed by Yasaka Shrine (or Gion Shrine).  This one’s not in our itinerary but we made a stop here na rin because we saw lots of tourists going in there, too.  

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Pretty lola in her kimono having her picture taken beside a ‘yellow’ tree.

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After spending a few minutes taking pictures and people watching, it was time to go and catch the train going to Fushimi-Inari.  It wasn’t a difficult commute though, but the train ride alone took 20 minutes already.

First thing we saw from the Inari Station: a snack station for Inari-Sushi!

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Masarap sya!  The one on the right has lotus roots and rice as filling, while the one on the left (topped with small leaf) was filled with rice, beef meat and ginger.

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At this point, we realized that we haven’t had proper lunch yet so the sight of these food stalls outside the shrine was a feast to our eyes!  Yun lang, ang daming tao!

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We looked around and found lots of interesting food and snacks:

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Big Mochi Balls grilled before serving.
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Rice balls wrapped in bacon strips.
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Takoyaki!
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Beef BBQ

We had our late lunch here of Takoyaki, Beef BBQ and Fresh Oranges as juice.  Mahalia lang the food because all are priced at 500-yen each.

The Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine is truly a tourists’ favorite, judging from the thick crowd that we saw even though it was a weekday and late afternoon already.  I had anticipated this though, but have no qualms about it because as I have seen from our trip to Tokyo last year, the tourists in Japan are disciplined also.

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The map of Fushimi Inari.  Kung hindi lang super malamig (as in napasok ang lamig sa pants namin), we would’ve have trekked that trail leading up to the mountain with the torii path as our guide.

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My souvenir pic at the famous torii path of Fushimi Inari:

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Trivia: Each of the torii at Fushimi Inari Taisha has been donated by a Japanese business or company.

Aside from the orange torii gates forming the pathways, Fushimi Inari is adorned with fox sculptures and shrines, like this one holding a rice granary in its mouth.  Foxes are considered messengers of the god (Inari).

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The Ema plaques at Fushimi Inari are also in the shape of fox head.

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Kyoto itinerary for the day: All checked!

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The train ride back to Osaka was hassle-free, and we stopped at Umeda to look for this famous Udon place for our dinner: Umeda Hagakure.  You will find inside it inside the Osaka Ekimae Daisan building.

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It’s a hole-in-the-wall resto serving perhaps the best Udon meal in Osaka!

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The owner (at left below) makes his own Udon noodles. The restaurant offers a limited menu of hot and cold Udon  dishes at very, very reasonable prices.

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What I had:  Udon noodles dipped in a special sauce of light soy sauce, sesame seeds, finely grated daikon (long white radish) and chopped green onions.  Superb!

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For AJ:  Udon noodles with soup and tempura.

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Must-try:  Deep fried boiled egg and fish cakes.  So good!

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What a fun and activity-filled day at Kyoto on our 1st touring day!  And we weren’t dead tired here as compared to our lakad in Tokyo last year.  Maybe because Kyoto is mostly about nature walks and enjoying the outdoors, relaxing (and meditating) at temple gardens and enjoying the colorful autumn scenery surrounding you.  Mas relaxed ang mood ng mga tourists dito.  Yun nga lang, before we knew it, night time has settled in and we need to commute back to Osaka already (our home base for this trip).

Watch out for the next installment of my travel journal, where we tasted the most expensive soft-serve ice cream in Japan!  =)

Up next: Exploring Kyoto + Osaka, the DIY Way (Day 2)

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