Part I: Amazing Japan – Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Mt Fuji & Tokyo 8D7N Dec 2019

Part I: Osaka, Nara, Dotonbori & Koyasan

Day 1

We arrived at KLIA at around 10.30 am by MAS for our red-eye flight to Hong Kong by Dragon Air (A330-300) at 00.20 am. So we had a long wait at the airport. The airport was full of pilgrims going to Mecca or Jeddah for their umrah.

Waiting for our flight to Hong Kong by Dragon Air

Day 2

We touched down at Kansai International Airport at 6.20 am local time by Cathay Pacific Airways from Hong Kong (A330). Immediately we walked to the exit gate and took the Nankai train from the airport to Namba Train Station. We bought the 3 day Kansai Thru Pass (RM 201).

Looking tired after the night flight. In the train to Namba Station, Osaka

In the train, we were lucky to meet a Japanese Samaritan. He was on his way to his office in Osaka. At Namba Station he led us to the exit gate and showed us the way to our Hotel Relief Namba which is about 900m from the train station. So everything went smoothly. As check-in time was at 3.00 pm, we left our luggage at the hotel lobby and took the Kintetsu Railway to Nara for our first itinerary in Japan. Yes, Nara deer park! In the train, we met two Taiwanese ladies and we became good friends. Apparently they had done a lot of homework and this made thing easier for us! From the train station at Nara, we walked about 15 minutes to the deer park. The deer here are very tame and all of them had their antlers removed for fear that they may attack people. They are free to roam around soliciting shika senbei, special crackers made for deer from the tourists which can be purchased from the vendors for ¥200.

Nara Mall just outside the Nara Train Station

At Nara deer park

Mom with two petite ladies from Taiwan

We then proceeded to Todaiji Temple(东大寺) which is one of Japan’s most famous and historically significant shrine as well as the landmark of Nara. It was constructed in 752. Approaching the Todaiji Temple is the Nandaimon Gate which is made of wood watched over by two fierce looking statues. We had takoyaki or octopus balls, Japanese best known street food for snack at the Park and ramen at the Nara Mall before taking the train back to Namba, Osaka.

Entrance to the Todaiji Temple(东大寺)

Inside Todaiji Temple’s compound

We then checked in the hotel and took a rest before taking a walk to Dotonbori, the most vibrant place in Osaka. Of course we didn’t miss to take a photo with the Glico Man, the iconic landmark of Dotonbori. For dinner, we had some authentic Japanese grilled salmon. We then walked around Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi-suji shopping street. Mum bought some face mask and other make-up stuffs from Daikako Pharmacy before walking back to our hotel. All together we walked a total of 14 km today!

Hotel Relief Osaka

Famous Dotonburi shopping mall

The famous takoyaki restaurant in Dotonburi

The icon of Dotonburi, the Glico Man

Day 3

We woke up a bit late as we were too tired the day before. We had some sandwiches bought from Family Mart downstairs for breakfast. We then walked to Namba Station to take the Nankai train to Hashimoto Station and then switched to another train to Gorukakubashi Station before taking the Nankai Koyasan  Cable car to Koyasan.

Taking the Nankai Train to Koyasan at Namba Train Station

Taking the cable car to Koyasan

On the way, the train passes through jungles, several small towns as well as plots of land cultivated with crops and persimmons. It was the persimmon season. So you could see persimmon trees bearing fruits everywhere. The journey took us about 2 hr 30 minutes. Koyasan is a World Heritage hill resort south of Osaka. From the Koyasan Station, there are buses to bring you to the various tourist spots round the hill resort. A one-day pass costs ¥840. However we didn’t buy the day pass due to some miss communication at the Nankai Rinka Bus office. From the Koyasan Guide Map, we noticed that from one tourist spot to another tourist spot, the maximum distance is 1.9 km. The rest are mostly less than 1 km. So it didn’t matter to us to take a walk. The only problem was the weather was very cold, near to 0oC! This hill resort must be a great retreat in summer. We stopped at the 6th station and began our walking trail. The three must-see recommended places are Okunoin, Kongobuji Temple and Danjo Garan Complex. So our first destination was Kongobuji Temple, which is the head-quarter of the Shingon Buddist sect. There are many old buildings inside the compound which covers over 165,000 sq. meters, many of which are old shrines. The Banryutei, one of the nation’s largest rock garden is also located inside the compound.

Kongobuji Temple

With the guide of the map, we proceeded to Danjo Garan Complex which houses the Konpon Daito pagoda which stands at 48m high in the centre. There are many other halls such as the Kondo and Miedo halls creating a solemn atmosphere. Finally we walked to Okunoin which is a 2 km path extending from Ichinobashi to Gobyo. The most astounding feature at this place are the over 200,000 gravestones of daimyo(feudal lords) found here. It was about to rain, so we decided to go back after buying some local delights as this place is very famous for its biscuit wafers and muaci before taking the bus back to the cable car station.

Danjo Garan Complex.

Konpon Daito pagoda

Buying the local delights from Koyasan

Koyasan Okunoin

This Okunoin stretches 1.9 km. We didn’t walk til the end

Koyasan is very quiet and peaceful. This crown jewel destination in Wakayama is seldom in the radar of the tourists as you can see there are not many people and cars on the road. You can’t find any modern high rise building at this hill resort. The people still live in their traditional houses. The air is very clean and fresh. As there’s no traffic jam, the bus always arrives earlier than the schedule. At the cable car station, there is an observation deck on the first floor. From here, you can get a breathtaking view of the village below the mountain. If you prefer a tranquil and relaxing holiday with strolling leisurely along the almost empty streets, this place is definitely a good option. Koyasan town really offers the best destination to relax, unwind and numerous rich cultural experiences a Japanese city could offer.

We finally arrived at Namba Station at around 5.00 pm. Again we walked to Dotonbori to try out the famous Ichiran Ramen. The restaurant is very small. However it is very crowded with people. Payment is through vending machines. Of course the ramen didn’t disappoint us. We even bought some instant dried ramen back. We then walked to Meidi-ya at Takashimaya to buy some fruits before going back to our hotel. We walked a total of 9.4km on this day.

Day 4

We woke up early in the morning as we were going to two places today. At 8.00 am, after a simple breakfast, we checked-out and walked to Swissotel Hotel at Namba Station to put our luggage at the hotel. We took the Midosuji subway to go to Hommachi Station and switched to Chuo line to Tanimachiyonchome Station. We then walked about 1.3 km to the Osaka Castle.

The moated Osaka Castle is a very popular destination for tourist visiting Osaka

Photography is not allowed inside Osaka Castle. So you can only take pictures outside the castle

When we reached the castle compound, it was not yet open. However there were a lot of Japanese students and tourists waiting outside. The moated castle was built in 1583. It was destroyed during the war and was rebuilt in 1620. Major repair works gave the castle new glamour in 1997. The modern castle tower has an elevator for easier accessibility. It also houses a museum about the castle’s history. We spent about 1½ hour at the castle before walking back to Tanimachiyonchome Station for our next itinerary, i.e. Minoor National Park.

We tried the maple leaf tempura on the way up the Minoor Park

Finally we reached the waterfall, the end destination of Minoor National Park

We never failed to try out the local ice cream whenever we go abroad

Actually initially this park was not in our itinerary. A friend who came back recently from Osaka showed us some pictures and I thought it was worth going to this park supposed to be the nearest National Park in Osaka. So we just slot in this destination after Osaka Castle as it is not far from here. From  Tanimachiyonchome Station, we took the Tanimachi line to Higashi-Umeda Station and then walked to Osaka-Umeda Station. From this station, we switched to Takarazuka Main line to Ishibashi Handai-mai Station and again switched to Hankyu-Mino Line to go to Minoo Station. After walking 2.9 km, we were rewarded with a small cascading waterfall. This water fall is not very spectacular but it is the end destination for most of the tourists who visit the Mino Park. We just want to enjoy some fresh air and be with the nature. On the way, there are many traders selling fried maple leaf tempura. We bought some to try and it’s very crispy. There’s also an insect museum. Guess there must be a lot of different species of insects found in this park. But I didn’t see any visitor going in. But on the way, you can see some photographers with long zoom lens taking pictures. Most of the tourists going to this park are Japanese with some from mainland China and Taiwan. The trail to the waterfall is all paved tar road. So it’s very easy to climb. It’s very suitable for jogging and those outdoor activity enthusiasts. At the waterfall, there are stalls selling drinks, food especially grilled fish. The weather was good on that day, perfect for an outdoor trekking!

You could see this type of grilled fish at the water fall. But we didn’t try!

At 3.30 pm, we checked-into Swissotel Hotel at Namba. We had Japanese curry at the Oretachi No Curry Ya Restaurant for dinner.  Here they really serve good Japanese curry whether with rice or ramen. The curry gravy is thick and creamy with toppings like beef or pork slice. This meat slice is really tender. The restaurant is really small which can accommodate around 10 people only at the counter. Order and payment is through vending machine.    

At night we chilled out at Tavola 36 cafeteria on the 36th floor of the hotel enjoying the night view of Osaka city.  

NIght view of Osaka from Swissotel, Osaka

View of Osaka City from our room at Swissotel, Osaka

We walked a total of 15 km on this day!

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About HP Lim

An experienced Form 5 chemistry teacher from Johor Bahru.