KANSAI - OSAKA, KYOTO, NARA
this part of the trip will be very much cultural, historical and religious since kyoto is the where the old capital of japan used to be. the first capital was in nara. so there'll be lots of shrines, lots of temples and prob lots of oldish restaurants/shops.DAY 1
- The Cube: a place that sells stuff that's good for souvenirs. 2nd floor is clothing and basement and 1st storey sells 土产 like wagashi etc. can go to shop and spend leftover cash if departing for airport from kyoto station and have not enough souvenirs.
- we could plan this for the first day when we reach kyoto and have admin stuff to do like checking in etc. for kyoto there are 3 hostels that i found that have quite good reviews: bak pak hostel (they have both kyoto and gion hostels), they also have night buses which is good for travelling between cities. it's near to sight seeing attractions such as heian jingu and yasaka jinja. backpackers hostel K's house kyoto: walking distance (10mins) from kyoto station which i think is better since we don't want to travel too far with luggage. the reception opens earlier too (8am) so we can leave luggage there before we check in. nearby amenities include convenience store, supermarket(10mins). j-hoppers kyoto: also near the kyoto station, walking distance (7min) but it looks a little run down. the osaka one looks better.
- if we're lucky, we might see maiko on the streets. there's this street, 白川南通, which supposedly is where many tourists go to try their luck.
- yasaka-jinja: also known as gion shrine. built to ward of disasters and epidemic. doesnt seem to have admission fee. =)
- gion tsujiri: sells green tea and related food like cha-soba (683yen for what seems like a set in the picture), kushi dango with mochi set (1155yen) etc. they also sell things like cakes, ice cream and the tea itself. upstairs, there's also another tea specialty shop.
- かさ源：specialty shop that sells paper umbrellas.
- food: 丹波屋 that sells 庶民 food like daifuku, and dango. 泉天門 that sells gyoza only (460yen for 10).
- heian jingu: not in gion but if i read maps well enough, it should be nearby. probably 20-30mins walk away(about 1+km). it has the largest torii gate in japan. admission to temple is free but there are fees for the gardens. i bought 2 of the nicest omamori (御守) there one in the shape of a momo and another very delicate lantern-like one. i dont know if they changed. it is actually also near to kiyomizu, because gion is near to kiyomizu lah.
- kiyomizudera: one of the most visited temples in kyoto and a unesco site. from here you can overlook kyoto and see kyoto tower if the weather is good. drink holy water and pray. the hilly road leading to the temple has many many traditional shops that sell wagashi, souvenirs and there's also a 1005yen shop. there's a tea place inside the temple 六花亭 that sells wagashi and matcha.
- jishu-jinja: beside kiyomizu and ppl come here to pray for relationships and love etc. of coz also can pray for other stuff lah.
- 七味家：the first shop that created the 七味 powder (you know the one that yoshinoya provides). they also sell other condiments like yuzu, pepper and japanese pepper.
- food: あみ亭 (matcha softie and matcha choux 250yen each), when i went there last time we had udon and ebi furai don which was quite good, but i dont know the pricing.
- famous for matcha products. so i think its probably just buying and looking at tea stuff.
- nakamura tokichi: the best known green tea cafe in uji famous for its parfait.
- 伊籐久右衛门: wholesale for uji-cha so prices are cheaper. also sells food like matcha daifuku (1260yen for 12), chocolate (1050yen per box i think), cheesecake, cakes, purin (1050yen for 4), and cha-soba (1050yen).
- 泉園: sells tea (surprise surprise!)
- fushimi inari jinja (大社): most famous shinto shrine. dedicated to inari (yeah the same inari-zushi inari) the god/goddess of rice, and foxes are thought to be the messengers so there are a lot of fox statues in the area. there's a 4km long torii tunnel along the mountain path up to the temple. they say it takes about 2 hours up. (i really really wanna go see the torii tunnel. puh-lease~)
- kofukuji: admission free for temple grounds, 500yen for treasury hall and 300 for another hall. unesco whc. the pagoda is equivalent to 17 storeys. (15 mins frm JR nara station)
- todaiji: admission 500yen. unesco world heritage center (世界遗产）buddhist temple and the largest wooden building in the world. one of the most touristy temples that i went to the other time i was in japan. they have MANY MANY stalls selling MANY MANY THINGS. it's situated in nara koen (20 mins walk from JR nara station) and there'll be deers *greeting* you at the pathway leading towards the entrance. i think deer feed is on sale outside and i also remember seeing stalls selling roasted sweet potatoes. but that was spring lah.
- nakatanidou: sells fresh wagashi and biscuits.
- kasuga taisha: free admission to temple, fee for 2 of the halls. legend has it that one of the 4 gods, Takenomikazuchi-no-mikoto, once landed atop Mt. Mikasayama riding a deer, at the current address of the taisha. famous for stone and hanging lanterns and the nara deer still roam since the taisha is also within the nara koen. nara deer are wild and protected animals and those here are more shy and not that boisterous.
- tonkatsu: a restaurant that sells erm, tonkatsu (980yen). they also have ebi furai.
- 湖月： a famous shop in nara that sells wagashi and known for its 16cm dorayaki (735yen).
- naramachi: old neighbourhood with olden style houses and shops. they have cafes and places that sell wagashi.
- ohatsu tenjin: original name: tsuyu tenjinsha popular site for suicidal lovers in the genroku era, you know the romeos and juliets. a drama, sonezaki shinju, was written based on the stories where the heroine's name was ohatsu (therefore now it's known as ohatsu tenjin). i think there's a gyoza shop beside this that sells both okonomiyaki (800yen) and gyoza(550yen and up).
- osaka tenmangu: where students pray for their exams! free admission. but it seems a bit far, like in btw osaka castle and umeda. will reconsider.
- yodobashi: umeda's largest electronics store. there's a comme ca store that's 7 storeys worth of everything (clothes, zakka (杂货), toys etc. including jump shop, which sk and yt should be very interested in) there's also a sweets museum on the 7th storey which well, sells desserts like yami yogurt(370yen), matcha ice cream, ... on the 8th storey, there's a dimsum buffet place; weekday lunch 80mins for 1598yen, dinner 120mins 2097yen.
- naniwa gyoza stadium (naniwa = old name for osaka): collection of japan's gyoza shops from okinawa, kyoto, nara, etc. i think admission is 350yen. the guide book's picture of the teppan gyoza (8 for 480yen) looks damn nice!
- umeda sky building: admission 700yen. there's an observatory in the sky garden (floating garden observatory) which is open air. in winter, there'll be a christmas tree of 28m in height. the sunset picture in the guidebook looks very nice too!
- hankyu umeda station: there's a kinokuniya which i think at least a couple of us would be quite interested in! =)
- diamor osaka: underground shopping centre with 4 streets of different themes. (casual, fashionable, variety)
- junkudo(south of osaka station): books, foreign + japanese
- hostels i found in osaka: j-hoppers osaka
- dotonbori: dotonbori is the epitome of the kuidaore (食い倒れ) city of osaka which means roughly "to eat till you drop" or "bankruptcy due to spending too much on food". there's a shop, kuidaore, that sells katsudon, but it's shutting down in july.
- tsuruhashi fugetsu: budget eatery with good okonomiyaki, yakisoba and a view overlooking umeda.
- hozenji yokocho: narrow alleyway with stone pavements that hides a small myo (庙), hozenji, that's famous for it's moss covered buddhist statue. there's a red bean soup place, meoto senzai(夫妻善哉) that was popularised with a book.
- kinokuniya(hankyu umeda station)
- shitenno-ji: admission 300yen; museum another 200yen. one of the oldest buddhist temples in japan, though most of the building is a concrete reconstruction. two statues (门神) look like the monsters from kakurenbo.
- sumiyoshi taisha (大社）: head of all sumiyoshi shrines (~2000 in japan). it's perfect example of japanese styled buildings without chinese buddhist influence. free admission!
- 100 yen plaza: there's no specific intro on this in the books but if we find it we probably could go buy stuff! its like 5-storey daiso.
- tsutaya + starbucks: 24h shop that sells things from mags, books to cds etc.
- 赤鬼： takoyaki that's supposedly very good. 360yen for 6. there's another one beside that's 330yen for 6 which has a 30yr history.
DAY 9 (we could scrape this day if it becomes too long or too expensive)
- shopping and food area. shinsaibashi is the largest shopping street in osaka.
- ryugu tei: all you can eat kaiten sushi (conveyor belt). adult female: 1200yen (i think it's 890yen for weekday lunches). no time limit.
- america-mura: second hand shops, gift and souvenirs. okonomiyaki (800yen), and takoyaki (11 for 300yen) recommendations. there's a small park inside that is said to be a good resting point. can buy the takoyaki and sit there to eat while watching the osakans.
- daimaru: i'm not sure if you guys wanna go. but apparently there's like food heaven in the food department in the basement. haha and they introduced a tonkatsu sandwich. sounds so interesting! there's also bakeries, etc. near daimaru there's a bookshop, athens, which is 6 storeys and the 5th is a like art gallery too.
- uniqlo: if you read cy's blog. he spent a lot there. hehe. stocks casual wear. opp uniqlo is a udon restaurant and the cheapest is like 105yen per bowl.
- admission to the actual castle is 600yen. free for the surroundings and castle park. the main tower is the museum and there's an osaka castle observatory. not as beautiful as himeiji castle, but still an osaka icon, so we could probably not go into the museum/actual castle and just take photos from the outside?
- osaka-jo koen: admission free. there's different gardens inside the park and it really is quite big, so we could prob walk around to see and maybe maybe see ume in the ume garden. another attraction inside the park is hokoku jinja. if interested, we could go to the osaka museum of history.
- 天満宫: osaka tenmangu worships the god of knowledge and studies so people come to pray for their studies here.
- wagashi "shopping centre": sells weird sweets and tidbits. good for buying souvenirs.
- apparently a lot of cheap stuff in the area like 75yen nigiri-zushi, 100yen okonomiyaki like thingum, 60yen koroke and 100yen sushi.
- guidebook says its better to start after lunch because the shops will start to slash their prices for the end of the day.