We set off on our trip to the mainland of the rising sun on Tuesday night. We took the budget airline - Peach from Okinawa to Osaka for a quick 2 hour flight.
We had to take a bus from the airport to downtown Osaka which took about an hour. We arrived at our hotel around 12am and headed to bed. But not before checking out our room which ended up being at a 'love hotel' - Fine Ju Garden. It included a Jacuzzi bath tub with a tv, massage chair, massager, and lingerie/condom vending machine. Bed also had a little electronics station that controlled music and lighting for the room. In the bathroom it had a weird little display with gnomes... not quite sure what it was for but entertaining I guess :) Room was nice and big compared to Japanese standards.
The next morning, we got up and took the train from Osaka over to Kobe for some Kobe beef. #wheninrome... Had some issues trying to figure out the subway/train system ticketing - all of it was in Japanese. Luckily some strangers and one of the ticket counter guys helped us out! #japanesearesohelpfulandfriendly Most train stations in Japan have storage lockers of all sizes that you can rent for the day, so we stored our luggage and found a little spot right next to the train station called "Steak Land". We got to eat a nice lunch set cooked teppanyaki style including beef, fried garlic, veggies, salad, soup, and coffee all for only about $30 each which is cheap when dealing with 150g of kobe beef and teppanyaki. #kobecowsspoiled #kobebeefmeltsinyourmouth And maybe we had a little wine with lunch - to help bring out the flavors of course. #itsfiveoclocksomewhere After our amazing lunch, we got back on the train to head over to Kyoto.
After our hour train ride to Kyoto, we checked into our hotel and then set off exploring for the rest of our day. Fun fact about Japanese trains, every one waits in a nicely formed line to board vs. a whole crowd trying to get into the train at once. #niceandorganizedandpolite We took the train over to the central Kyoto station (our hotel was one stop down) to see the station and Kyoto tower. We then walked over to Higashi Hongan-ji temple. This was rebuilt in 1895 after a series of fires but is now the headquarters of the Otani branch of Jodo Shin-shu (a form of Buddhism). The main hall, Goei-do is one of the world's largest structures standing 38m high, 76m long, and 58m wide. Every temple you go into in Japan, they provide a plastic bag for you to take your shoes off since you're not allowed to wear your shoes in the temple. You then recycle or give back the bag once you're done.
After this temple, we walked over to Nishi Hongan-ji, another temple nearby. This place had 5 buildings containing amazing architecture and detail. This temple was built in 1591 and was the original headquarters for Jodo Shin-shu (True Pure Land) school. But in 1602 they feared it was gaining too much power so they broke off a faction of the school and built the Higashi Hongan-ji (the previous temple we went to). The Jodo Shin-shu has over 10,000 temples and 12 million followers worldwide.
We then decided to take a long walk to dinner. On the way, we decided to grab a quick beer to help breakup the walk #smartdecisions #muchmoreenjoyable We stopped in at an English pub I had read about called "Man in the Moon". They apparently have 4 different locations in town. We then had ramen at a place in the city called Ippudo that came recommended in our guide book. It did not disappoint! Got some ramen that is apparently modeled more after Southern Japan cuisine and a side of gyoza (dumplings, like potstickers).
After dinner, we took a stroll over to Nishiki Market that had lots of different stalls and vendors, and a cat bar on our way out! Then we headed over to the famous traditional night life district of Ponto-cho. This is one of Kyoto's 5 different geisha districts. It's a very narrow alley with traditional wooden buildings and hanging lanterns. Pretty cool atmosphere walking down it.
We then headed over to a bar I had read about on multiple sites called Yoramu, named after the Israli sake expert who runs the place. It's super small - only sits 8 people - but this guy knows his sake! He created sake flights for us based on our taste preferences, and we learned a lot! Who knew there was so much flavor in sake?! He also taught us the proper way to taste sake: hold it on the tip of your tongue (front of your mouth) for about 30 seconds or so, then swallow letting the sake go down the whole length and sides of your mouth. #Illnevertastesakethesameagain #likewinetasting? We had about 3 different flights. The first, he compared to 'white wine' since the sake was cold and fresher (aged only a year or less). This we learned was the first peak in the sake's life. The flavors were citrusy, and flowerly. We then did a 'red wine' flight. These sakes were aged 3 years, 7 years, and 16 years. Apparently sake has peaks and lows. It has a peak where it tastes good in the beginning, then goes bad, and then has another peak in its life where it tastes good and the flavors have evolved. #whoknew?! These sakes were all in their second peak of life. All sakes age at different rates with different flavor profiles. The 16 year old sake we tasted almost tasted like carmel and chocolate, with a hint of whiskey (smokey flavor). mmmmm I recommended this spot for anyone who wants to taste and learn more about sake while in Kyoto. A very casual, fun, intimate atmosphere.
While we were there, we also met this girl traveling alone after a business trip to the Philippines. She grew up in the bay area (Antioch), worked in Walnut Creek, and went to school in San Diego! #ithinkwerelivingparallellives So cool and random to meet someone across the world with such similarities. She was about our age but now working and living in DC. #smallworld
We ended our night grabbing a night cap at the Man in the Moon bar next to Kyoto station since this had been recommended by our bartender earlier (he said it got busier). It was packed and we got to sit at a table with another American and his buddy from Tokyo that were visiting. They both worked together in San Jose, CA and worked in the same type of industry Nate was in. Reminded me of my dad, because that was probably him on his many trips to Tokyo for work - going out with his fellow Japanese coworker and paintin the town :) We were meeting all types of interesting people tonight! Headed back to the hotel after a long day #walked10milestoday #burnedoffalcohol Stay tuned for more deets on the rest of our adventure!
Follow in our Footsteps:
Hotel Fine Garden Juso (Adults only - Osaka)
1 Chome-6-9 Shinkitano, Yodogawa Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 532-0025
〒650-0021 Hyogo Prefecture, Kobe, Chuo Ward, Kitanagasadori, 1−8−2, 宮追ビル
Hotel Brighton City (Kyoto Yamashina)
23 Anshusajikicho, Yamashina Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 607-8012
Higashi Hongan-ji Temple
〒600-8505 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Shimogyo Ward, 烏丸通七条上る
Hours: 5:50am-5:30pm (Mar-Oct), 6:20am-4:30pm (Nov-Feb)
Nishi Hongan-ji Temple
Hanayacho-sagaru, Horikawa-dori, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, 600-8501
Hours: 5:30am-5:30pm (Mar,Apr,Sept,Oct), 5:30am-5pm (Nov-Feb), 5:30am-6pm (May-Aug)
Man in the Moon (Karasuma St)
Idzutsuinabadocho Bldg 1F 713, Inabadoucho Takatsujisagaru, Karasuma-dori Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, 〒600-8415
Hours: 11:30am-4am (Fri,Sat), 11:30am-2am (Sun-Thurs)
653-1 Bantoya-cho, Higashinotoin, Nishikikoji higashi iru, Nakagyo-ku
〒604-8054 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, 富小路通四条上る西大文字町609番地
Hours: 9:30am-5:30pm (plus after hours market)
Ponto-cho (neighborhood) - lots of little restaurants, bars, and izakayas
〒604-8016 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, 中京区下樵木町１９６−１
Yoramu (Sake Bar)
〒604-0831 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, 中京区二条通東洞院東入ル松屋町３５−１
Hours: 6pm-12am (Closed Sun-Tues)
Man in the Moon (Kyoto Station)
Kyoto Station Kintetsu-meitengai Miyakomichi 31-1, Kamadonnocho, Higashi-shiokoji, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, 〒600-8215
Hours: 11:30am-4am (Fri,Sat), 11:30am-2am (Sun-Thurs)
〒600-8216 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Shimogyo Ward, 烏丸通七条下ル東塩小路町721-1
Price: 770 yen
Megan Bond - AUTHOR
Just a girl raised in California and loved exploring Southeast Asia with my husband! We're back in the States but still exploring the world as much as we can!