Going Solo in Japan Series: NARA & KOBE

A week ago, I posted a blog about my stay in Kyoto & Osaka. I mentioned in my post that I went to Nara & Kobe for 2 separate day trips. These 2 cities, plus Himeji, are usually visited by tourists taking day tours from Osaka.

I was with my friend, Rona when I went to Nara while I was all by myself when I walked around Kobe. Let me discuss below how both day trips went.

With Rona on the way to Nara

NARA

The last time I went to Osaka, I didn’t have enough time to visit Nara. I felt bad I haven’t interacted with the roaming deer in Nara Park. I promised to myself that when I go back to Osaka, Nara will be number 1 in my list. And so it happened…

1, 2, 3, say Nara! 📷

Disclaimer: We did not spend the entire day in Nara. We had to go back to Osaka because Rona needs to get her bags for Tokyo plus we already have tickets for the Umeda Sky Building Floating Observatory.

How we went to Nara

Using our IC cards, Rona & I took the Midōsuji Line from Shinsaibashi Station (nearest station to our hostel) to Tennoji Station. From the red subway line, we transferred to the JR Yamatoji Line to Nara. This line to Nara starts in JR Tennoji Station so you can choose your seats inside the train.

One random walkway somewhere in Nara Park 😍 🍂

Journey takes around an hour & you pay ¥790 per way (¥230 from Shinsaibashi Station to Tennoji Station & ¥560 from Tennoji Station to JR Nara Station). An alternative route to Nara would be through the Kintetsu Nara Line from Osaka Namba Station. IC cards can also be used in this train line.

What to see in Nara

Upon arrival at Nara Station, Rona & I immediately went to the tourist information center to get maps & coffee. The walking adventure begins…

Tip: The best way to explore Nara is by foot. Yes, most sites are walkable from the main train stations.

Sanjo-Dori Street

Sanjo-Dori Street is the long, busy street that you take going to the temples & the deer park (if you are coming from JR Nara Station). It is full of restaurants, cafes, hotels & local souvenir shops. You will find almost everything you need on this street. The street has a very wide sidewalk which makes it very safe for everyone to walk.

Jokyoji Temple

Jokyoji Temple – too bad it was closed when we passed by

Jokyoji Temple – we saw this small Buddhist Temple while on our way to Kōfuku-ji. The temple had beautiful flower displays near its gate. Too bad it was closed when we dropped by.

Kōfuku-ji

Kōfuku-ji is one of the ‘Big 3’ must see temples of Nara. It was once part of the powerful 7 Great Temples in Nara. There are a number of buildings & structures around the temple grounds, but the notable ones are the following: the 5-level pagoda (one of the tallest pagodas in Japan), the National Treasure Museum & the Eastern & Central Golden Halls.

Kōfuku-ji’s Eastern Golden Hall & the 5-level pagoda 

Note: The Central Golden Hall is undergoing a major renovation. It is expected to be completed sometime in 2018.

Tōdai-ji

Tōdai-ji is Nara’s iconic & most famous Buddhist temple. The temple is also part of the 7 Great Temples of Nara. Its main hall houses the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue.

Entrance to Tōdai-ji Temple via the Nandaimon Gate

You know you are already inside the Tōdai-ji Temple grounds when you pass by the large wooden gate structure called Nandaimon Gate. Don’t forget to make friends with the tame deer roaming around the temple grounds.

Nara Park

Nara Park is the end point of the Sanjo-Dori Street if you are coming from the JR Nara Station. This park is home of the hundreds of freely roaming deer. This animal is considered sacred in Shinto religion.

The deer sittin’ like a boss 🦌

One funny thing you’ll notice is each deer knows how to bow. That also means they’re asking for food (you can buy deer crackers for ¥150 in the nearby shops). The interaction with the deer was the highlight of that day. I was also impressed that these deer know how to pose for a photo.

The autumn colors of Nara Park 😍 🍂

Aside from the deer, the park also offered beautiful autumn views. I wonder how it looks like during spring; could also be lovely. There were other halls & places to visit around the park like the Kasuga-Taisha & the Nara National Museum, but we had to rush back to Osaka. We also missed visiting Hōryū-ji (the temple to complete Nara’s Big 3 Temples) in Ikaruga. This gives me a reason to go back in the future & explore more.

What a view from Nara Park! 😍 🍂

KOBE

It was my last day in Osaka. At 9:30 pm on that same day, I will board a night bus to my last destination in Japan, Fukuoka. It was around 7:30 in the morning, I was contemplating on whether I should just stay & walk around Osaka for the last time or I go for another day trip to either Kobe or Himeji.

I didn’t want to waste another day lying in my bed or walking around Shinsaibashi, Dōtonbori & Osaka (this happened the day before – I was really lazy that day!) so I decided to go for a day trip. Himeji was a bit far from Kobe so I went for the latter.

How I went to Kobe

Random beautiful park in Kobe 🍂

Since I only have an IC card (and not the JR Pass), the only station I can arrive in Kobe is Kobe-sannomiya Station. JR Pass holders usually get off at Shin-Kōbe station. The 2 stations are about 2 kilometers away from each other. Later I found out, getting off at Kobe-sannomiya Station was actually a better idea because everything was near the area.

From Shinsaibashi Station, I took the Midōsuji Line to Umeda Station (¥230) then transferred to Hankyu-Kobe Line to Hankyu Kobe-sannomiya Station (¥320). You can also board the Hanshin Line to Hansin Kobe-sannomiya Station for the same price of ¥320. Journey from Umeda to Kobe is roughly 40 minutes.

What to see & do in Kobe

I went to Kobe with no itinerary or anything. I only have my phone & pocket Wi-Fi with me. I also had the mindset that I need to be back in Osaka by 4:00 pm to prepare for my night bus to Fukuoka. What I did was just to walk from one street to another & visit the places along the way. Luckily, I came across the following places:

Ikuta Jinja

Ikuta Jinja’s main shrine

Ikuta Jinja is a Shinto shrine located in the middle of the very busy Sannomiya area. This shrine is believed to be one of the oldest shrines in Japan. The shrine has torii gates in all entrance & exit points & even has a small garden at the back of the main temple.

View from the outside of the shrine grounds

I just accidentally saw this shrine in Google Maps while I was looking for a place to go from the train station. Beautiful shrine!

Kobe Motomachi Centre Gai Shopping Street

In my previous posts about Nagoya & Osaka, I said something about Japanese cities having a shopping street / arcade. If Nagoya has Osu Shopping Street & Osaka has Shinsaibashi Shopping Street, Kobe has its own – it’s called Kobe Motomachi Center Gai Shopping Street.

Inside Kobe Motomachi Shopping Street~

You will find all sorts of goods in this place – from clothing, to shoes, bags & even food. I found the cheapest dark chocolate & strawberry Kit Kats in one of the tax free shops here.

Meriken Park

Meriken Park is Kobe’s most famous waterfront park. It is the home of the Kobe Port Tower, Kobe Maritime Museum & the Earthquake Memorial Park. It also features a big public open space where events & special functions are held. On an ordinary day, visitors & locals normally walk or run around the park.

Meriken Park from the other side of the port

Note: There were significant improvement works being done with the Meriken Park when I visited last November. These works are in preparation for Port of Kobe’s 150th Anniversary this year.

Port of Kobe Earthquake Memorial Park

In 1995, Kobe was devastated by the Hanshin Awaji Great Earthquake. It made significant damages to both public & private infrastructure & even to houses of the locals. The pier was also severely damaged.

The government has decided to preserve a part of the pier’s damage to remind the people (both locals & visitors) of the damages caused by the strong earthquake.

Note: This earthquake memorial park is different from the Kobe Earthquake Memorial Museum. The museum is near the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art.

Kobe Port Tower

Kobe Port Tower

Located within Meriken Park, the Kobe Port Tower is considered as one of Kobe’s iconic landmarks. This 108-meter uniquely shaped structure is made of red-painted steel structure. Just like any tower, it has an observation deck which I didn’t go into. It also has souvenir shops & restaurants / cafes in some of the levels.

Kobe Beef

Kobe Beef is the most famous regional specialty food in Japan. The branding came from where the cattle are bred & raised – in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture. The Wagyu beef is known for its tenderness & unique flavor.

The oh-so-good Kobe Beef for lunch!~ 😋

Kobe beef is expensive. Yes, expensive. I had second thoughts of not trying it because of the price. A few minutes after, I decided to make the most out of my visit & have Kobe beef for late lunch. Who cares about the price, eh? Kidding.

The chef prepared preparing our food~

I went to Steak Land & ordered their Kobegyu Steak Lunch Set. I forgot how many ounces of Kobe beef were in the meal, but the set also included salad, miso soup, a cup of rice, grilled vegetables & a glass of juice (can be changed to coffee or tea). The chef cooked the beef in the hibachi table in front of me. I tell you, the beef was so good it melts in your mouth. It was so tender & the flavor was something I haven’t tasted in my life.

Steak Land’s Kobegyu Lunch Set 😋

I paid around ¥3,000 (₱1,300++) for whole Kobegyu Steak Lunch Set. I believe the price was reasonable. Honestly, I don’t mind spending that amount for such a good meal. This was definitely the highlight of my Kobe day trip. It’s definitely something one should try when visiting the city.

This pretty much sums up my quick day trip to Kobe. There were still a lot of nice places to visit but I had to go back to Osaka to prepare for my night bus to Fukuoka.


To be fair, I actually had really memorable times in Nara & Kobe. The day trips were definitely worth-taking. Going around these 2 cities, even just in the centers, gave me basically the idea of how beautiful these places are. I wish I had more time, but I won’t mind going back to explore more.

Before going to Nara & Kobe, I went to Nagoya, Hiroshima, Kyoto & Osaka. Make sure to check out the individual posts linked above. The final installment of this blog series will be about my last 3 days in Fukuoka. Watch out for it!

This lovely deer knows how to pose for a photo 🦌 😍

Did you know that I only spent less than ₱50,000 for this 13-day trip in 7 Japan cities? 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.

Do you have any questions or suggestions? 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) 🇯🇵 😃

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

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