Part II: Amazing Japan: Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Mt Fuji and Tokyo 8D7N Dec 2019

Part II: Kyoto, Gion, Tokyo and Mt Fuji

Day 5

After a sumptuous breakfast at the hotel, we checked-out and headed to the Namba Station to continue our journey to Kyoto. From Namba Station, we took the Metro Midosuji line to Umeda Station and then switched to JR line to Kyoto Station. It was about an hour journey. From Kyoto Station, we walked about 300m to our hotel Sotetsu Fresa Inn. Like other hotels, check-in time is 3.00 pm, so we left our luggage at the hotel and started our first itinerary at Kyoto i.e. Arashimaya bamboo forest.  From Kyoto Station, we took the JR line to Sago Arashimaya Station and walked to Togetsukyo Bridge (渡月橋). On the way to this bridge, there are many traditional Japanese buildings which house eating stalls, souvenir shops and snack outlets. There are also shops renting out Japanese kimono dress. So you get to see a lot of tourists wearing the kimonos.

At the Togetsukyo Bridge

The wooden bridge spans the Katsura River in front of Arashimaya Mountain. The scenery is not so spectacular in winter as most of the flowers and leaves have withered. It must be very beautiful during spring or autumn when the cherry blossoms. According to Dr Google, there are a lot of koi fish living in the river. But we didn’t notice any during our visit! Then we proceeded to Tenryu-ji Temple (天龙寺). This temple is one of the most important temple in Kyoto’s Arashimaya District. The temple was built in 1339 by the ruling shogun Ashikaga Takauji. It was ranked first among the city’s five great zen temples. The garden surrounding it also has very beautiful landscaping.  We walked around the compound before proceeding to our main highlight that is Arashimaya bamboo grove.

Entrance to the Tenryu-ji Temple

Tenryu-ji Temple

This is Kyoto’s top sights for tourists. It is one of the most beautiful and most serene places in Kyoto. The tall green bamboo trunk which sways gently stretches towards the sky giving you a feeling of tranquility. The atmosphere is so calm and tranquil. Know what? It is a natural forest. For most tourists, they might think that it is man-grown grove. At this grove, there are many man- pulled carts allowing those tourists who prefer to enjoy the scenery comfortably sitting on the cart. There‘s even the Sagano Romantic train to take you to various parts of Saga-Arashimaya area of western Kyoto including the bamboo forest!

The Sagano Romantic train

Arashimaya bamboo forest

Then we took the JR train to Inari Station for our next itinerary, the Fushimi Inari Taisha. We started our walking tour from the shrine which sits at the base of the Mt Inari by walking through the thousands of vermillion torri gates which straddle a network of trails behind its main building. In fact the vermillion torri gate is the icon of Japan. On the way, there are many fox statues across the shrine grounds. We climbed up to Mt Inari which is 233m above sea level. It was just another 15 minute walk before reaching the peak, but we abandoned it as it was getting dark and there were not many visitors going up. So we decided to descend and walk back to Keihan Inari Station. It’s a good walk with fresh air and some beautiful scenery along the way.  On the way to the Keihan Inari Station, there are many hawkers selling various type of local food. We tried the grilled Wagyu beef before boarding the train to Gion-Shijo Station.

Entrance to the Fushimi Inari Taisha

Mid-way to Mt Inari

View of Kyoto near the peak of Mt Inari

Wagyu skewed beef

The historical town Gion is a famous and traditional entertainment district. The streets are lined with quaint wooden machiya merchant houses which house a variety of restaurants, ochaya (teahouse in Japanese) bars and souvenir shops. This Gion town is also one of the most vibrant towns in Kyoto infamous for its geisha activities. In fact many tourists visit Gion with the hope to catch a glimpse of the geiko or maiko on their way to or from an ochaya in the evening. You need to have luck in order to meet one of them. Alas, we were unlucky that day and we gave up and decided to walk back to the train station to return to our hotel. That day we walked a total of 15km.

Gion town at night

Day 6

After having an authentic Japanese buffet breakfast (¥1220 per pax) at the hotel, we set out again. We headed to the city bus terminal to take the city bus to our next destination, i.e. Kiyomizu-Dera temple (清水寺). We bought the one-day city bus pass at Keihan Hotel lobby for ¥600. In Kyoto, any station you disembark costs  ¥230 regardless the distance you travel. We got off at Gojo-zaka bus stop and then walked up the steep and busy road to the temple. Along the road, there are many restaurants and shops selling Japanese delights such as muachi. This temple is one of the most celebrated temples in Japan. There were already a lot of tourists up there. It was founded in 780. It is also a Unesco World Heritage Sites.  The main hall is a wooden stage about 13 m above the hillside below which affords visitors to have a nice view of cherry and maple trees below. It will be much more beautiful during spring or autumn. You also can get a glimpse of Kyoto city in the distance. The main hall which was built without using nails houses a small statue of the eleven faced and thousand arms Kannon. The Jishu Shrine is just behind the main hall. This is a shrine dedicated to the deity of love and match making. This is where youngsters come to seek for luck to find true love! Many tourists also come here to get spiritually refreshed and energized. The Otowa waterfall is located at the base of the Main Hall. Visitors often use cups attached to long poles to drink the water from this water fall. The water is said to be beneficial to good health and bring good luck!

Kiyomizu-Dera temple

It will be more beautiful in spring or autumn

At Nineizaka(二年板)

Then we took a bus to Gion again to visit the Yasaki Shrine.

Yasaki Shrine, Gion

This shrine is not very big.  It was built 1350 years ago. This shrine is famous for its hundreds of lanterns that get lit in the evening and is more popular during summer when they celebrated the Gion Matsuri. It was quite quiet during winter. So we didn’t stay long. At the shrine, we had chicken skewers and cheese rolls for lunch. Then we headed back to Kyoto bus Station to take another bus to Kinkakuji Temple (金阁寺) or better known as the Golden Pagoda.

Kinkakuji Temple unique entrance ticket

Japan is full of temples and shrines. But this one looks a bit unique. The top two floors are completely covered with gold leaves. It is a Zen temple. Here you can take some mirror image of the temple as it was built on a pond. Visitors are not allowed to enter the golden pagoda. The temple’s garden is not very big. There are few other spots of interest including the Anmintaku Pond which is said to never dry up with some statues in it. Visitors often throw coins to seek for good luck and fortune.  The Kinkakuji temple is a popular destination for tourists to take pictures. Many visitors come here to seek for good health and prosperity. It is also listed as an Unesco World Heritage. Entrance fee is ¥400.

The Golden Pagoda

On the way back to Kyoto bus terminal, we bypassed the Nijo Castle. We didn’t get down as we were quite tired already. We arrived at the hotel at around 5.00 pm to have a good rest. No more itinerary after this. We walked a total of 9 km for the day.

Day 7

 We woke up early in the morning after a simple self-prepared breakfast. We checked out and headed to the Kyoto Train Station to board the Shinkansen Super Express Train (bullet train) to Tokyo. We bought the Nozomi train which is the fastest Shinkansen train and costs ¥14170 (RM 538) for reserved seat. It took us 2 h 20 m to reach Tokyo. On the way, we passed by beautiful country side of Kyoto. It stops at few cities including, Shinagawa, Shin-Yokohama and Nagoya. It travels at a speed around 285 km/hr. The most spectacular view will be the Mt Fuji. From Kyoto to Tokyo, you must sit on the left side of the train to get a good view of the snow-capped mountain. In the train, they sell snacks and drinks. The only set back is that the train doesn’t display the speed while travelling unlike the Eurostar which shows the speed when it is moving.    

At the Shinkansen train station Kyoto

The super fast Shinkansen bullet train

The Majestic Mt Fuji viewed from the train

Shinjuku Train Station Tokyo is one of the busiest train station in the world!

From the Tokyo Station, we took another train to Shinjuku Station and walked to our hotel at Ibis  Shinjuku. After checking in, we walked to Keio Plaza Hotel to familiarize with the route to this hotel as we would be joining a local tour to Mt Fuji for a day tour from this hotel. (RM 546 per pax) Then we walked to Shinjuku Bus Terminal to check for bus schedule to Haneda International Airport for our return flight to Kuala Lumpur. On the way back to hotel, we did some shopping at Uniqlo and also Odakyu departmental store. Dinner was at a Japanese restaurant near to our hotel.

 Day 8

We woke up early at 6.00 am as we would be going to our final destination in Japan that is Mt Fuji for a day tour.

For this trip to Mt Fuji, we booked a local tour in order to save time and at the same time visit Hakone for a price of ¥14000 per pax inclusive of a buffet lunch. It will be ¥17000 if you opt for return by Shinkansen train.

At 8.25 am, we boarded the tour bus at Keio Plaza Hotel, Shinjuku. The tour guide Mr Yabe-san was there to greet us. On the way, we passed by the longest roller coaster in the world.

The longest roller coaster in the world

After about 2 hour ride, we finally arrived at the 5th station of Mt Fuji which is situated at 2300 m above sea level. Mt Fuji itself is 3776 m above sea level. We were lucky. The weather was extremely fine though we still could see some snow on the ground. The moment we alighted the bus, there was a man distributing discount vouchers to all the passengers from the bus. Immediately we were ushered into the souvenir shop opposite the road. As the weather was cold, all of us went in without hesitation. We were told that we had 30 minutes at this station. After about 10 minutes in the shop, I went out as I did not have any intention to buy any souvenir. The moment I stepped out of the shop, I was amazed to find the majestic Mt Fuji  on our left! If we were to continue shopping, we would have missed the view of the spectacular and breath-taking view of Mt Fuji. We had only around 15 minutes to take pictures. Actually we should have been informed about Mt Fuji when we alighted the bus.

At the 5th station Mt Fuji

Souvenir shop at 5th station Mt Fuji

Super fine weather at Mt Fuji

Then we continued our journey to Ninja Restaurant to have our lunch. It was a Japanese buffet ‘halal’ lunch to cater for the Muslims. It was not a sumptuous meal but I would say there’s no complaint about the food. The only thing I would like to comment was the soup was too salty and no fruit was served.

Ninja Restaurant

The surrounding of Ninja Restaurant

After lunch, we headed to Lake Ashi for a cruise around Lake Ashi which is a lake formed from the volcanic eruption nearly 3000 years ago. We were supposed to get a superb view of Mt Fuji on board the cruise. But the weather was not good as it was foggy. After cruising for about 15 minutes, we arrived at the Komagatake Ropeway station to take the cableway up to the peak of Mt Komagatake. It was just a 7 minute ride. We were free to move around at the peak for an hour. We walked to the spiritual Hakone Shrine Motosumiya at the mountain top. But it was closed to public on that day. At the mountain top, you can get a beautiful view of the lake, but that day was very foggy. Visibility was bad, so we couldn’t enjoy the panoramic view of Lake Ashi.

Lake Ashi Ferry terminal

View of Lake Ashi from the Mt Komagatake

The Torri gate at Mt Komagatake

Finally we headed to Odawara Train Station where some guests opted for the Shinkansen train to get back to Tokyo. The rest of us were given 20 minutes to explore around the Station while Mr Yabe brought them to take the train. Know what? There were 3 guests who ‘abandoned’ the bus and didn’t turn up at the stipulated time.

Mr Yabe was very patient and went round looking for them and even called up the office to try to contact them but in vain. In the end, after about 20 minute waiting, we left without them. I guessed they must have boarded the Shinkansen train to go back to Tokyo. Out trip ended in Shinjuku Station. Then we walked back to our hotel.

Day 9

We woke up at 5.30 am. It was time to bid goodbye to Tokyo. We walked to the Shinjuku Express Bus Terminal to board the Airport shuttle to Haneda International Airport for our flight to Hong Kong en-route to Kuala Lumpur.

The airport Expreess shuttle bus

Waiting for our flight back to KL via Hong Kong

It was sunset upon reaching KL

It was an amazing and unforgettable trip to Japan! Hope to come back some other time!

Sayonara!

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About HP Lim

An experienced Form 5 chemistry teacher from Johor Bahru.