Date of Travel: 04/02/2012
Time really does fly when you are having the time of your life. Before we knew it, the last day of the first leg of our trip had arrived. There was still plenty to see and do in Kyoto, so we checked out of our accommodation early and left our luggage at the hostel. We picked up some breakfast from a convenience store, took a bus from Kyoto Station to Kinkakuji temple, and had our breakfast at a small rest area along the approach to the entrance. Kinkakuji, along with Ginkakuji and Kiyomizudera, are among the most well known temples in Japan. It always brought back special memories for me, as it was the first temple I had ever visited in Japan when I went with my school group back in 2003.
The main building of interest is the golden pavilion, which sits on one end of a large lake. The lake itself was surrounded by many bonsai, and had a number of Koi, ducks and cranes swimming around. The whole scene felt peaceful and natural. It also helped that we were there relatively early, so there was not too much of a crowd. Apart from the building however, the rest of the temple ground was pretty average compared to Ginkakuji.
After leaving the Kinkakuji complex, we walked west along the road towards Ryoanji. While Ryoanji is well known for its rock garden, the size of the temple grounds was quite large. There was a small lake, with a small shrine area located on a tiny island on it. Ryoanji itself featured a beautiful tatami hall, with a veranda for visitors to rest and enjoy the rock garden. Interestingly, the rock garden featured about 15 rocks, all of which cannot be seen at the same time if the viewer remained stationary. Brownie and J.C. weren’t too impressed though, so we did not stay there very long.
Our next stop was Nijo Castle, but we could not figure out our preferred method to get there. One option was to use trams, but we found that this was a bit too pricey, and would not have been much faster than walking. As such, we ended up walking from Ryoanji all the way to Nijo Castle, which was about 5 km and took about an hour. We did stop at Yoshinoya along the way for lunch, which was pretty good for its price. When we finally arrived at Nijo Castle, it turns out that we were at the wrong end, as the entrance was to the east. After walking around the big block to the entrance, my back was killing me as I had been carrying around a heavier backpack than usual (since we had already packed everything). Luckily there were coin lockers available where I was able to dump my backpack. Nijo Castle itself is not as grand as other castles around Japan (e.g. Himeji, Matsuyama, and others). However, the openness of the compound, and the ability for visitors to actually wander around the interior (unlike the Imperial Palace) still made this worthwhile. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photos of the interior.
As with many other similar attractions, Nijo Castle featured a nice lake and foliage. We were also able to climb the castle walls to have an overhead look of the compound. Personally I appreciated the castle grounds more than I did with the actual castle building itself. It was hard to believe that just over the castle walls were busy streets, again highlighting the uniqueness of Japanese cities.
On our way back to our accommodation, we decided to walk along Nishiki Market, which is known for selling plenty of food that is uncommon to see outside of Japan. Unlike many of the other areas we visited, this place was jammed pack with people. It was hard to maneuver around the narrow lanes, but then again, this was one of those places which should be enjoyed slowly. It gave us a good chance to take our time to see the unique food available. At the end of the alley (which stretched 5 blocks) was a tiny but busy shrine, and a western restaurant with one of the most impressive food displays I had seen thus far on this trip. I also bought a pair of boots here in anticipation for the second leg of our trip.
We headed back to the hostel to pick up our luggage. While there, we decided to eat at a café attached to the hostel. The food was cheap and was pretty good. The waiter was also very friendly, and was happy to practice English with us. A band was also setting up for the night gig, but unfortunately we had to leave in order to check-in at our next hotel before check-in time closes. We dragged our luggage back to Kyoto station, and took a train to Osaka. Once at Osaka, we transferred to another train which took us north to Itami airport. On one of the train trips we took along the way, there was only one other person on the train apart from us three. It was the most eerie train trip I had taken, as it felt like a ghost train. We checked in at Osaka Air Terminal Hotel, and spent the rest of the night channel surfing and resting up for our morning flight the next morning. It did feel slightly depressing that the first leg of our trip was over, but with so much left in our trip, there was still plenty to look forward to!
Bus from Kyoto Station to Kinkakuji – 220 yen
Train trip from Kyoto Station to Osaka Airport Terminal – 960 yen [Kyoto to Osaka, walk to Umeda Station for train to Hotarugaike, transfer for train to Osaka Airport Terminal]
Osaka Airterminal Hotel – 4,800 yen
Breakfast from convenience store near hostel – 230 yen [Teriyaki burger and strawberry bread]
Lunch at Yoshinoya Enmachi – 590 yen [Gyudon set]
Takoyaki at Nishiki Market – 180 yen
Dinner at Cafe at K’s House Kyoto – 870 yen [Karaage and Yakisoba]
Souvenir from ryoanji – 250 yen [Postcards]
Souvenir from Nijo Castle – 350 yen [Yatsuhashi Toy]
Warm boots for Hokkaido leg of trip from ABC Mart @ Nishiki – 12,780 yen
TOTAL (cost for whole trip in brackets)
22,730 yen (190,435 yen total)
Total Cost of Kansai Leg excluding Airfares
66,935 yen (11,156 yen per day on average)