Published: June 3rd 2008May 27th 2008
We flew from Beijing to Hong Kong to Osaka starting at 3.30am and settling into bed at midnight! Arriving in Osaka, we made our way by train and subway to our hostel for the night. It was a 'business hotel' Japanese style so the room was tiny and we were sleeping on Tatami mats with a bean bag pillow! I was suprised to learn that the communal bathrooms were really just that! The females and males have separate time slots and then have a big happy naked communal shower session! Call me a prude but I went unwashed that night!!! Chris got right in there!
The following day we checked out (having not seen any of Osaka) and we caught a train to Kyoto which is about 30 minutes away. The hostel here was great. We are back to dorm rooms due to the price but at least the showers are made for one! Kyoto was formally the Imperial Capital of Japan and is full of temples and shrines - 17 of which are Unesco World Heritage listed sites.
On our first day we stayed close to the hostel area and visited Nishi-Honganji temple and Higashi-Honganji temple. The first
temple was very ornate but unfortunately the second one was ungoing refurbishment so you could not see much! In the evening we went to an Okonomiyaki restaurant where you cook the food yourself on a griddle in the middle of the table!
On our second day we did a walking tour of South Higashiyama. The first stop was Kiyomizu-dera which is a temple complex on a hill overlooking the city. The walking tour took us through many alleys and narrow roads bustling with people and souvenir shops. We stopped for a green tea ice cream in Maruyama Park and then went to Chion Temple were we climbed many steps to reach the grounds. Then off to Heian Shrine before walking alongside the canal on Philosphers Path ending at Ginkaku-ji temple (Silver Pavillion). Unfortunately the pavillion was covered up as it was being restored but the grounds were really nice so we had a wander around. We were now in North Higashiyama and walked to Shimogama Shrine before getting a bus back to Ponto-cho area in search of Geishas!! Here we had Sushi from a conveyor belt!!
The following day we caught a train 30 minutes to Nara which
is a town with more heritage listed shrines and temples. For lunch we had a Nara speciallity called Kamameshi which is rice and meat cooked in an iron pot. The temples and shrines of Nara are scattered around a park which is full of deer who are chasing people for their food! The first temple we visited was Todai-ji which has the biggest wooden structure in the world which houses a massive Buddha statue! We then went to Nigatsu-do, Kasuga Taisha, Tamukeyama-Hachimangu and the Five storey Kofuku-ji Pagoda before catching the train back to Kyoto.
On our fourth day, we checked out of our hostel and went to stay at a traditional Ryokan (Japanese Inn). We spent the day trying to see the sites we had left to see (no mean feat!). The main one was Kinkaku-ji which is also called the Golden Pavillion Temple and houses a golden temple in beautiful surrounds. We spent the afternoon wandering the shops and then retired to our cozy Ryokan!
There are more photos below