Very excited to finally share the photos from the second half of my trip to Japan! If you missed my post on Tokyo, click here to get caught up. From Tokyo, we took the bullet train to Kyoto. It was a very easy trip and the bullet trains themselves are very quiet, clean and even offer excellent snack carts. It is however very expensive (about $250 roundtrip) so one thing we said we would have done differently is fly into one airport, take the train to the other city, and then fly out of that city to avoid the expense of a round trip Shinkansen ticket. There are two parts of Kyoto, the ‘old side’ with all original/traditional storefronts and buildings, and a newer side where more locals seem to live. The old part of Kyoto is great for gift shopping and getting a feel for how Japan was back in the day and how other cities, like Tokyo, would look had it not been bombed. We did find it preferable to stay on the newer side of town though because there was much better access to transportation and convenience stores as well as a better variety of restaurants. It is also drastically less expensive. My favorite place we visited in Kyoto was the Sanjusangen-do temple. There are no photos allowed inside but above and below are pictures of the grounds. If you are going to Kyoto you must go here. Inside the temple is a giant statue of Kannon, a buddhist goddess. The 28 guardian deities stand in front of her and she is and surrounded by 1,000 smaller Kannons. It is truly breathtaking, the few photos you can find online do not do it justice, I was glad I didn’t look at any before visiting. On one of our first nights in Kyoto, a bit achy at this point in our travels, Katie and I went Hiyoshido Massage in the old part of town. It was such an awesome experience, we both didn’t want to leave when it was over. It is not a Western style message, they give you pajamas to wear and actively stretch your body as well as message it. Surrounded by a mote and impressive gilded doors (above), pictured above on the right is Nijō Castle (below). Side note, the dogs of Japan are amazing! We saw so many in adorable outfits, sitting in chairs at restaurants enjoying meals with their families, and riding in bike baskets. They were all so happy and loved, it was fun to see them wherever we went. Matcha and vanilla swirl soft serve and a selfie in the subway station. Tenryū-ji temple (pictured below) is another must visit spot in Kyoto. It’s sprawling outdoor-indoor spaces are connected by woven-mat covered passages winding around beautiful groves. The area surrounding the temple (pictured above) is so serene and beautiful to walk around. Also walking distance from Tenryū-ji temple are the Arashiyama bamboo groves so hitting these two sites is a wonderful way to spend the day. While there, be sure to have lunch at Shouraian restaurant (reservation required). Shoraian is tucked away on a hill behind the bamboo groves. You hike all the way through the groves and then through a bit of the forest to reach the tiny eatery. It consists of two private dining areas and one small shared one. Katie and I were lucky enough to dine in one of the private rooms (photo above on the right). It was the most unique and special dining experience I’ve ever had. And the food was delicious. On the left, the view of the Katsura River from our dining room. On the right, the first of our 8 course meal. I wish I would have taken more photos of the food and captured our little room better but I was too busy enjoying everything and living in the moment which is probably how it should be anyway 🙂 Desert! And a photo of the view on the hike to the restaurant.
OSAKAWe did a day trip via the subway from Kyoto to Osaka, it’s an easy 45 minute trip. The incredible mote surrounding Osaka Castle (above), and the castle itself (below). Live music on the castle grounds. Detail of a watch tower on the mote and Osaka school children riding the subway. Even the manhole covers in Japan are beautiful. A great shopping spot in Osaka is Biotop. It boasts a cute cafe on the ground floor, two levels of exceptional shopping and a rooftop restaurant, Cubierta, serving very delicious pizza. Another fun activity we did in Osaka was visit the National Bunraku Theatre. Bunraku is traditional puppet storytelling that has been practiced since 1684. You sit in the theater and watch the story unfold on a stage in front of you while two actors sit to the side and voice the puppets, very theatrically. I recommend checking it out but would advise to only go to a segment of the show as they can last all day. Headsets are provided that translate to English.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the second part of my Japan post, it has been fun putting it together and reliving the trip. Visit my Instagram story highlights for additional photos and videos from Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka.
PHOTOS Gina Marie Barbaro