Steph and I got into Osaka from Chuuk without incident. We got a wifi hotspot that connected to the phone networks. We stopped by the JR ticket counter and they got us tickets to Kyoto, which we then found the train for. It was the express train, but not the high speed train. We got in a little before we could check in, but the hotel held our bags and took them up to the room when the room was ready. We went out and got a tasty meal of Ramen, at one of the best places on trip advisor, that our tour guide the next day recommended. We looked around and decided to walk around the shopping district that night, and found that it was really just a tourist market, and not where the real Kyoto was.
Day 2 we got up early and had a tasty breakfast, and coffee. We then met up with our guide, who showed us how to get around the city, and how to pay for things, like the busses. It was very different from the way to pay for things in the US so this was a great thing for the first full day in Kyoto. We went up into the hills and saw some amazing little temples with Buddha statues. There were also tiny inns and buildings in traditional Japanese styles. The area was so picturesque even if most of the buildings were pretty new. They kept the old styles and made it feel like old Japan. We then walked through a former Imperial palace that was converted to a Zen temple. It is also one of the places that has one of the most attractive bamboo forests. There was a cute road with bamboo made fences on either side of the road going straight through the forest. We grabbed lunch after that at a cute place that had some cooled noodles with a dipping sauce, I don’t remember the name of them, but they were tasty. We went to the Golden Pagoda after that, and it was very pretty. Unfortunately it wasn’t the original, which was burned down by one of the monks in the 1950’s. He was a little out of his mind, and his mother and him both eventually committed suicide over the shame of burning down a 600+ old Kyoto landmark. We headed to a little shop Stephanie had looked up that specializes in Bento boxes. She got one there, and it happened to be in the touristy market we had been to the other day, and had even been within a block of that shop. We said goodbye to the guide, and went to the hotel for a bit before dinner. The guide had set up an amazing dinner for us at a Kaiseki place. This is much like a farm to table multi course restaurant that one would find in San Francisco, but with a very Japanese style.
On day 3 we met up with Jeremy after a nice breakfast. We went to the Imperial Palace which was amazing. They had so much open space, it was somewhat odd. They didn’t do furniture, just lots of sitting on the floor. We went to a few temples, like the Silver Pagoda (not actually silver, just made by the grandson of the guy who made the golden pavilion). It was much more zen, and had an amazing moss garden. We then took the Philosopher’s walk, which is a path that goes along a canal near many other temples. We made it between a third and halfway through the walk before deciding to find a bus to the Gion district. We walked around there and looked for some Geisha. We didn’t see any, but we did find the best shaved ice in Kyoto (the shop is actually very hidden, and I was amazed that we found it). We had a great time there, and went to the little restaurant street across the river afterwards. We then said our goodbyes to Jeremy, and went back to the hotel for a bit. We decided on shabu for dinner. The place we went to was very nice, but I have decided that I prefer American style shabu, with the sesame sauce, and much more spice in the broth. The food there was still pretty tasty.
Day 4 started with a quick coffee and breakfast, then we went to a temple to get some udon curry, which was a mix of udon noodles and Japanese curry. The food was great, and we walked up to the temple it was just outside. That temple was neat, but not that unique. The really amazing shrine was the next one we went to, Inari shrine. We walked up the road to the shrine, which was clogged with people and full of little shops selling touristy trinkets. The shrine itself was the side of a mountain, and made of a path covered by thousands of Shinto gates. these gates led up the entire mountain, and we only missed walking through one section of them. The walk took over 2 hours at a good pace, and the gates covered nearly the entire path. This is by far the most unique and amazing thing I’ve seen in Japan. We then went back toward the train station, and decided to stop by the kitty cafe we saw on the way in. The cats there were very nice, even if not loving like our kitties. We then took the train back to the city center.
Day 5 we slept in a lot, then headed to Osaka. Stephanie wanted to take the high speed train, and eventually we found out how to buy the tickets. The train was easily 3 times faster than the train we took to Kyoto. We then had to make our way through the Osaka subway to our hotel. We made it there, and the room was ready for us. I was sooooo tired from carrying the scuba gear, but we needed to go find one of the great restaurants that Stephanie had looked up, and it was very much worth it. We went to the main food district, and found some amazing okonomiaki, which is all sorts of tasty things fried together and covered in sauces. It was so delicious, and filling that I wasn’t sure I wanted to eat at dinner. We found a great place for dinner, despite being pretty full, which was a ramen place. The ramen place had you buy a ticket at the front, so that you could focus on the ramen, which you fill out a form to say exactly how you’d like it, and then you eat it in a cubicle that locks away all other interactions, so that the meal is only about the ramen. I can’t say if that really matters, but they did make the best ramen I’ve ever had, by a good bit. We then went to the aquarium, and saw a lot of great creatures and biomes. They had a huge tank, which the path through the aquarium wound around, with lots of side tanks to display other biomes, one of which was Monterrey. We got back to the hotel, then got some really nice sleep.
The next day we went through the Osaka Castle, and it was a great tour. This is the third building on the site, and made wholly as a replica of the second building. The inside of it is a museum telling about the history of Osaka, focussing on the castle. The viewing deck from the top was also very nice. I liked walking the grounds of the castle, and seeing the outside of it more than I did being in the museum.
We then grabbed lunch before grabbing our bags, and got a lunch of Japanese curry, which was delicious. We then had an uneventful flight back, and Stephanie’s parents were nice enough to pick us up from the airport, despite us getting in early.