After my time in Seoul, I flew to Osaka on a Wednesday morning. It was again a slight culture shock – there were a lot less English signs there, and well, it’s Japan, so there are more flashing neon things, haha. I went to my hostel then decided to go downtown to check out the downtown area, Dotonbori. At the subway station I definitely seemed lost because a Japanese guy approached me and helped me find my destination station. Funnily enough, he was also going to the same place and was just going to go for a walk… So we hung out for the rest of the night! Normally I would be wary of strangers approaching me, but other travelers in Korea told me how selfless and kind they felt Japanese were, so I went with it. I think he wanted to practice his English – he says he is studying to become an English teacher in Japan. He took me to an absolutely amazing sushi place – best sushi I’ve ever had. And the chefs were loud and friendly to everyone entering and exiting. Then we walked around the Dotonbori area and saw the famous Glico sign and the interesting shops nearby. It was slightly awkward because I was walking with my new local friend, but everywhere I looked I was wide eyed – Japan is the definition of overstimulation. Eventually I got used to it, but being with him in the first hours of my adjustment was funny.
After eating some dessert, he led me to the basement of a department store to a pastry shop that he works at sometimes. In a lot of Japanese department stores, the basement is basically like a mini grocery store – imagine a set up like the makeup counter area in the malls, but instead with food! Next, we walked up some stairs to this lit up area – not sure what it was or what it was called, but my friend said it was somewhere he came when he was quiet. It was lit very romantically, really – I didn’t feel romantically towards him but I could tell it would be a good place to take a date! Lots of pretty light designs, including a waterfall. The last thing we did after that was go to the top of Umeda Sky Building, which was just near my hostel. The building has fairly interesting architecture and the escalator feels like you’re in a spaceship. We walked on a suspended circle garden thing on top to see the views of Osaka lit up. After I thanked him for showing me around and we parted ways.
The next day I went to Osaka Castle Park. I took the Osaka loop line there, which reminded me both of the song and of the Chicago loop a bit! The Osaka Castle Park was absolutely beautiful, along with the weather. I wandered around for quite a while, then finally went inside the castle to view the exhibits and get another view of Osaka from the top – this time during the day time, so I could compare to the previous night’s view 🙂
After the castle, I took the train to Kyoto. Kyoto is a former imperial capital so it has a lot of history, and it also has a lot of tourists especially in autumn and spring for the leaves and cherry blossoms, respectively. When I got there I was tired but decided to go see something – so I went to Kiyomizu-Dera temple. They light up some of the temples in autumn at night to see the leaves – so it was very pretty! You could also see a view of Kyoto from afar. There is a shopping street nearby where I got to freak out over Totoro, too 🙂
The next day in Kyoto, I went to a couple of pretty temples – Kinkakuji, the golden temple, and Ryoanji Mai, which had a peaceful rock garden. Afterward I just chilled and walked around the many shopping streets nearby, and went to a temple (Yasaka).
My last full day in Kyoto was spectacular. My first two days were nice but a bit annoying in a way because I had to bus everywhere (I prefer train) and had no WiFi. Plus, there are tons and tons of tourists there to see the autumn leaves.Kyoto seems to be a big place for Japanese tourist,s and Chinese and Korean too. But anyway, this day I decided to go to Fushimi Inari shrine in the morning because it is one of the most popular/famous shrines. I didn’t do much research before so I wandered around a bit. I found a small trail going to a temple away from all the famous red arches, so I decided to follow that. It was nearly empty and so peaceful and beautiful, so I kept walking on the empty trail, curious. I walked through a bamboo forest and came upon small signs in English saying the top of Inari mountain was about 40 mins the opposite way I came. So, of course, I continued following them and ran across almost no one. What I did run across, however, were tons of the Inari shrines, some residences, and beautiful trees. I powered through some steps and got pretty gross, but it was all worth it to find the view! After reaching the top I found the alternate/normal way to climb up, through thousands and thousands of the arches. It was mindblowing how many of them are there.
After Inari, I went to the Arashiyama area. I walked through a beautiful bamboo forest and went to Tenryuji Temple, which had the most gorgeous leaves. I then just walked around the area and enjoyed the foliage and some views. The colors were amazing and I was still enjoying the cool weather 🙂 After this exploratory day full of so much beauty and my wonderful quiet hike, Kyoto was really redeemed for me and I understood all of the hype 😀 Next stop – Tokyo! Will post soon with more adventures.