Going Solo in Japan Series: KYOTO & OSAKA

KYOTO

After spending 3 days in Nagoya & 2 days in Hiroshima, it’s time to move to the next city – Kyoto. I already visited Kyoto with my high school friends in 2015 but the city is so beautiful I didn’t mind going back.

I took a 7-hour Willer Express night bus ride from Hiroshima to Kyoto. I arrived Kyoto around 6:45 am the following day & I immediately walked to the hostel to leave my things & freshen up.

It was also in Kyoto where I met my good friend & colleague Rona who has been going around Osaka while I was in Hiroshima. We decided to meet & go around in Kyoto & Osaka for 3 days before she heads up to Tokyo & meet another set of friends.

With my Kyoto-Osaka buddy & good friend Rona

Accommodation

I loved my previous stay in Backpacker K’s House Kyoto I decided to stay there again for this trip. Rona & I decided to stay in a mixed dormitory room to cut down expenses & also to meet & talk to other travelers. Each night stay in a 6-bed dormitory room costs ¥2,900. Not bad, right?

The hostel’s 2nd floor common bathroom

I really like this hostel. The staff were so nice they allowed me to use the shower & toilet even before check in; they also allowed me to use the common lounge area while waiting for Rona. They also kept our luggage while we walked around the city (check-in time was 3:00 pm).

Backpacker K’s House Kyoto Communal Lounge & Dining Area

Also, this time we had some spare time to meet & hang out with the other hostel guests in the on site bar. We even met a group of Filipino guys who are now based in Brisbane, Australia. What a small world!

Places We Visited

Just like the 2015 Japan trip, we only spent 1.5 days in Kyoto. Given the limited time, Rona & I only chose the places to visit. We went to the following places:

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest – what a beautiful view! 😍

A trip to Kyoto will never be complete without a visit to the bamboo forest. Just like last year’s itinerary, this beautiful place came first. We wanted to make it different by taking the Sagano Scenic Railway trip but all the seats were sold out. Oh well, another reason to go back to Kyoto. (No entrance fee)

Access: From JR Kyoto Station, take the JR Sagano line to JR Saga Arashiyama Station & walk for 10-minutes to the bamboo forest. You can also visit the nearby Tenryū-ji, a Zen temple located beside the bamboo forest.

Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)

Kyoto’s most beautiful temple 😍

As mentioned in my past Kyoto blog, this Golden Pavilion Temple is the most famous & the most beautiful temple in Kyoto. The autumn colors of the leaves added beauty to the temple surroundings. (Entrance fee: ¥400 per person)

Access: From the bamboo forest, walk to the Randen station of the Keifuku Randen Tram Line. Take the local tram to Kitano Hakubaicho station & walk up for 10 to 15 minutes to Kinkaku-ji. If you still have more time, you can get off Omuri-Ninnaji Station & check out the temples (Ninna-ji, Myōshin-ji & Ryōan-ji) on the way to Kinkaku-ji. Note that you need to board different buses in between these temples; make sure to avail the 1-day bus pass for this.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

The 3 storey pagoda before upon entering the Kiyomizu-dera Temple grounds

After going back to JR Kyoto Station, we hopped on to Bus 206 to go to Kiyomizu-dera Temple. This Japanese Buddhist temple is located in the hills east of Kyoto. Famous for its autumn & spring sightings, the temple grounds provide beautiful sunset & city view. This temple was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

Tip: The temple grounds tend to get busy during sunset. Make sure to go there early if you want to secure a good spot while watching the sunset.

Gion

After waiting for the sunset in Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Rona & I decided to walk 15 minutes down to Gion area. Our main purpose here was to hunt for geishas. We went back to same street & geisha house we went to in 2015 & luckily we saw a handful of them. Mission accomplished!

Nearest train station: Gion-Shijō Station of the Keihan Main Line

Fushimi Inari Taisha

The iconic torii gates of Fushimi Inari Taisha

The following morning, Rona & I went to Fushimi Inari Taisha. This shrine is famous for its torii gates up to the top of Mount Inari. Again, we did not bother going up to the top of the mountain due to limited time. (No entrance fee)

One of the small shrines in Fushimi Inari Taisha

Nearest train station: Inari Station of the JR Nara Line

Tōfuku-ji Temple

Located 10 minutes by foot from Fushimi Inari Taisha is Tōfuku-ji Temple. This Buddhist Zen temple is famous for its spring & autumn colors. This temple is also dubbed as one of the great five Zen temples of Kyoto.

One of the smaller halls in Tokufu-ji Temple (forgot the name, sorry!)

Nearest train station: Tōfukuji Station of the JR Nara Line | From Fushimi Inari Taisha, turn right & walk for about 10 minutes to reach Tōfuku-ji Temple.

Tip: Make sure to check out the garden near the Tsutenkyo Bridge. It’s at its best during autumn. (Entrance fee: ¥400)

OSAKA

After our brief stay in Kyoto, Rona & I took the 29-minute train ride to Osaka. Yes, it’s my 2nd time in Osaka. Since I’ve been to this city before, I decided to just walk around & relax a bit. I needed to take my time because the past few days were really tiring.

With Rona in Mikkabozu Kamoshi, a known local ramen joint in Osaka

Accommodation

Due to Majo’s last minute decision to join the 2015 Japan trip, my friends & I ran out of accommodation choices. We stayed in an Airbnb flat somewhere in Namba area. For this trip, I decided to book early & stay in what was supposed to be our 2015 Osaka accommodation – the Osaka Hana Hostel. Yes, it is also part of the Hana Hostel / J-Hoppers Hostel Group.

The hostel is located in the Chūō Ward, a few minutes walk from the Shinsabashi shopping street. The nearest subway exit is Exit 7 of Shinsaibashi Station. I spent 3 nights here & decided to stay in a 6-bed male dormitory room.

Slept in this bed for 3 nights in Osaka Hana Hostel

Just like any other Hana Hostel branch, each bed includes its own reading light, pillow & sheets, curtains, curtains (for privacy), universal plug & a storage box beside the bed. Toilets & bathrooms are shared by guests per floor. I paid ¥3,100 per night (¥9,300 for 3 nights) because it was peak season. It’s still affordable in an expensive city like Osaka.

The hostel people were one of the nicest people I met on my trip (shout out to Kazzy!). They helped us in all of our questions; they even recommended good places to visit & eat. The hostel has a spacious kitchen, lounge & dining facilities on the 2nd floor & 5th floor – a good place to meet & hang out with other guests.

Osaka Hana Hostel’s 2nd floor communal dining, kitchen & lounge area

Osaka Hana Hostel is definitely a good accommodation choice in Osaka. It has the most affordable rates per bed or room, the most convenient location, the nicest staff & the best facilities you can have in a hostel.

Tip: The hostel staff will give you a coupon for the sake bar in the first floor. Make sure to try the different flavors of sake + alcoholic drinks. Good stuff.

Places to Visit / Things to Do

Since I’ve been to Osaka the past year, I sort-of took advantage of my 4 days there. Aside from taking day trips to Nara & Kobe, I just stayed in the Chūō area.

Dōtonbori

Always a busy night in Dōtonbori

Dōtonbori is one of the busiest tourist destinations in Osaka. It is the home of the famous Glico Man signage & the Dōtonbori canal. It is also the home of famous takoyaki shops, ramen places (like Ichiran!) & Don Quixote.

Dōtonbori canal at night.

Shinsaibashi-Suji Shopping Street

Shinsaibashi is Osaka’s largest shopping district. Home to different specialty stores & brands, tourists flock this area almost every day. The perfect time to walk around the shopping street is during lunch time where there are less people. Make sure to go to check out the big GQ store in the middle of the shopping arcade.

Hozenji Yokocho Alley

Located behind the Hozenji Yokocho Temple is an alley of local bars, izakaya & restaurants. I walked along the alley to just see what’s in there. Looks like the bars, izakaya & restaurants offer authentic Japanese meal experience. I would love to go back & try some restaurants there. The alleys gets a bit busy during night time, so make sure to go there around 6:00 in the evening.

Tip: All these places are located a few minutes walk from Midōsuji Line’s Shinsaibashi Station Exits 5 & 6.

Umeda Sky Building Floating Garden

View of Osaka from the 39th floor of the Floating Garden Observatory

The floating garden observatory is located in the 39th, 40th & the rooftop floor of the Umeda Sky Building. The observatory is the ‘bridge’ that connects the 2 sky buildings. It offers a 360-degree view of Osaka.

The best time to go is during night time where you can see the beautiful city lights of Osaka. Note that it can also be really crowded during night time; but that is only before the elevator access. Entrance to the observatory costs ¥1,000 per person. You can stay as long as you want to.

Tip: We got our tickets from the hostel at a discounted price of ¥900. Ask your hostel / hotel; they might have discounted tickets too. Also, the Willer Express Bus Terminal is located in the 1st floor of the east tower.

Access: Get off at Osaka Station & walk for about 7 to 10 minutes to the Umeda Sky Building grounds.

Ichiran

The. Hype. Is. Real. The. Hype. Is. Real.

Ichiran is definitely a must try when are in Japan. The ramen chain originated in Fukuoka, the birth place of tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen. Ichiran ramen is probably the best ramen I’ve ever tried – rich & creamy pork bone broth, perfectly cooked noodles, tender pork slices & red pepper sauce all in one bowl. It was really good I ordered another serving (yes, you can do that) of noodles. I went to their Dōtonbori branch twice – one for dinner with Rona & the other one for brunch.

Ichiran is the place to be! 😋

Tip: Plan out what time you’ll visit this ramen chain. People usually line up outside & wait for their turn. If you’re staying nearby, then you won’t have any problem because they are open 24/7.

Pablo

Pablo signage you’ll see outside the Shinsaibashi shopping street store

Pablo is known for the freshly baked cheese tarts. People line up in their Shinsaibashi branch just to buy boxes & pieces of these heavenly cheese tarts. I believe it is also something worth trying when in Osaka.

Oh Pablo cheese tart, why so good?

The Pablo branch here in Manila has mixed reviews; if you want to know the real taste of the cheese tarts, make sure to head to their Japan stores. I’ve also tried another famous cheese tart store in Japan named Bake (tried it in Fukuoka because the Osaka branch is far from where I stayed). I believe Bake’s has better crust, but Pablo’s filling is a stand out. Both cheese tart shops are worth the try.

Pasalubong shopping in Don Quixote & Daiso

Pasalubong shopping is always part of the itinerary when a Filipino is out of the country. The perfect places to buy goodies & treats in Osaka are Don Quixote & Daiso – located both in Dōtonbori / Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade. Both stores have everything you need – from chocolates, to noodles, clothes, accessories & even house stuff.

Some of the Kitkat chocolates you’ll get in Don Quixote 😋

Don Quixote offers tax-free shopping for purchases more than ¥5,000 provided you have your foreign passport with you. Daiso on the other hand is famous for their ¥100 (+ tax = ¥108) goodies. Your ¥10,000 will have a long way to go in both shops. Make sure to head over these stores before going home to the Philippines, okay?


The Kyoto & Osaka leg of this trip had almost the same itinerary as that of last year’s with some additional sightings like the Kiyomizu-dera & Tōfuku-ji Temple in Kyoto & the Umeda Sky Building Floating Garden in Osaka. It was mentioned above that I did 2 separate day trips from Osaka – one day in Nara & another day in Kobe. Those 2 cities will actually be the topic of the next part of the Going Solo in Japan Series. Stay tuned!

The beautiful autumn colors of trees in Tokufu-ji Temple 😍

Make sure to also check how I conquered the <₱50,000 challenge in going around 7 Japan cities for 13 days. Click here to know more. If you are planning to apply for a Japan tourist visa soon, I also posted a blog about the 4 easy steps in applying for it.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or send me an email to contact@thewkndtravel.com. You can also send me a message on Facebook, drop a comment on Instagram or send me a tweet on Twitter.

Arigatou gozaimasu (ありがとうございます) 🇯🇵 & have a nice day! 😃

PS. All photos above were shot using my HTC Re & HTC One M8.

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