22 Aug Japan: April 2017
Hello, second blog post! I did not really plan on writing today, but after customizing my WordPress template and realizing how this whole thing comes off empty… I thought to myself that maybe it’s about time to write again. Also because I’m on my break and that I can’t sit still doing nothing???
As if. Haha.
Then I remembered this trip. It’s been what, four months ago? So long, I know. I was also quite hesitant if I should still write about this since I’ll be coming here again in four days time, but I really had the best experiences during this trip, and I guess that thought alone is worth sharing.
So last April, I went to Japan with no other than my sister. We went Osaka-Kyoto-Tokyo. The big three.
General impression: They have the BEST food. (It’s not called the kitchen city for no reason!!) However, being the second largest metropolitan in Japan next to Tokyo, I think it lacks vibrance.
Do you know the first things that come out of Google when you search “places to visit in Osaka”? After I’ve seen all those (and I tell you, they’re not much), I honestly had nowhere else to go in Osaka. Initially, I thought maybe it’s just the internet, and that I should trust the locals more; but when I got there, I did not see much more than what I expected.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s NOT a bad place. I still found it beautiful, but you know, not really captivating.
For our first day, we landed at Kansai International Airport, and rode the Rapi:t train to get to the city. It’s the COOLEST train I’ve ever rode. I love the retro-futuristic design and how it looks like Darth Vader if he was train. Haha.
We got off at Namba station, looked for our Airbnb home, and rested for a bit. We stayed near the America-mura street. It’s a subculture district filled with local cafes, concept stores, galleries, and more. It has a very lively atmosphere. Apparently, it has been the youth culture center of Osaka since the 1970’s.
After settling our luggage and having our mini rest, we then visited the Osaka Castle. It’s really beautiful. My sister and I went at the museum inside and learned more about the how the city was built. The intrinsic details of the building is so much more beautiful up close.
We had our dinner at Dotonbori. It was a whole stretch of restaurants. It’s also very near our Airbnb so we were here every night. I was eating takoyaki every night. Lol.
For our second day, we went on a day trip to Kyoto.
General impression: This place… Geez. I wish I could stay longer.
Our first stop here was the Kinkaku-ji. Going here first was a very good decision because this place is a sight to behold. The temple is covered in real gold that when the sun shines against it, it’s strikingly beautiful. One thing that added up to the beauty was that it was a windy spring day, so sakura were dramatically falling all over the place.
It was also here where I had the best matcha ice cream ever. It was SO. GOOD. I swear. I had it sprinkled with gold powder because well, #extra. Haha.
Our next stop in Kyoto was the Nijo Castle. I think this is my personal favorite because this is where I really felt the old Japanese culture. From the moment I got off from the bus, to entering the gates, up until I exited the castle, it really felt like being taken back to the Edo period.
The main attraction of the Nijo Castle is the Ninomaru Palace. It served as the home and office of the former shogun. Inside, you’d see beautifully designed walls and sliding door panels, and floors covered with tatami mats. Also, as you walk through the palace, you’d notice that every step makes a bird chirping sound. Apparently, it was really designed that way so that the people in the palace would know whenever there’s a presence of an intruder. Impressive.
After this, my sister and I headed to Okamoto to have our kimonos rented. It was initially her plan to rent a kimono and walk around Kyoto in it, but when we got to the rental place, I just decided that I’ll want to have it as well. There was a very huge selection of kimonos so choosing every piece was so much fun. We also had our hair done. So yes, complete traditional experience. Here are our photos.
This is probably the most tourist-y thing I’ve ever done. No ragrets. Hahaha.
Our last stops in Kyoto were the Kiyomizu-dera and Gion. We actually still had so much on our itinerary, but because this was only a day trip, we weren’t able to visit the other places on our list, so that only means that I should come here again next time.
We got to Gion past 6PM already. It’s a geisha district, but unfortunately, we weren’t able to see one. We just went around the place before we headed back to Osaka.
For our third day, we visited the Universal Studios Japan.
General impression: Meh.
I had high expectations on USJ since everyone was raving about this, also because I was looking forward on enjoying the rides. First thing that surprised me was how much it costs. You have to pay the initial park fee of 7,600 yen (with tax), and since we opted to have an express pass, we paid 7,100 yen on top of that. We had priority entrance on 3 rides. However, I don’t think I got the value for money that I deserve for certain reasons.
When we got to the park at around 11am, food stalls were closed. Seriously, aren’t you supposed to be open by the time people enter?
Food was EXTREMELY expensive. We paid almost 1,500 pesos each for a burger meal. To think it’s just a little bigger than a regular Yum Burger, but we had no other choice so we half-heartedly got this anyway.
They were playing white girl music all throughout. Dude, shouldn’t a theme park stick to its THEME? Why are you blasting The Chainsmokers? Hahaha not hating but really, people go here because they want to be one with the inner child in them. Unfortunately, I did not feel it.
The rides were great. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a must-see for every Potterhead out there. My sister and I still had fun despite all the things I’ve mentioned above. We just actually expected more.
Or maybe Disney sets the standard high. *wink*
Our last leg for this trip was Tokyo. I looove love this city. As they say, it’s like your first date. You know how exactly how it looks and you already know what to expect, but it will always find a way to surprise you. That exactly how Tokyo is for me everytime.
We spent three days here. For our first day, we went around Shinjuku and Shibuya.
We did some shopping, ate at Shake Shack, and basically just walked around.
Since we are going to be staying here only for a short time, I decided to check in at a capsule hotel instead of a regular room. I chose 9 Hours in Shinjuku and it was SOOOO amazing.