[Accommodation Review] – Airbnb – Mitz’s Apartment (1-Bedroom Apartment), Osaka, Japan (19 – 26 May 18)

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Facade of Mitz Apartment

When I was planning for my trip to Osaka, I wanted an apartment that has a separate bedroom from the living room which provides space for me to throw my shopping and have sufficient space to do the packing on the night before I depart Osaka. The apartment has to be near to Namba area as this is where I will be taking the train to Kansai International Airport on the day of my departure. Numerous listings on Airbnb around Namba area, but these listings are studio apartments and are very small. I found Mitz’s apartment on Airbnb that fits all my requirements. The price is very reasonable for the location and size of the apartment.

Location

Mitz’s apartment is very well located. It is within 5 mins walk from the nearest subway station, Nippombashi Station, which is 1 stop away from Namba Station. It is also with 3 mins walk from Kuromon Ichiba Market (commonly known as Black Market). There are 2 convenient stores within 2 mins walk from Mitz’s apartment. The apartment is also within 7 mins walk to Dotonbori. Link to Mitz’s apartment can be found here: Mitz’s Apartment Listing on Airbnb.

The Apartment

Porch

The first thing that I come across as we entered the apartment is a small porch where I take off our shoes. It is customary that one takes off one’s shoes before entering any Japanese house. A small cabinet by the wall is where we found in-room slippers and where I can store my shoes as well. There is another cabinet where umbrellas are stored beside the shoe cabinet.

Bathroom

A little further from the porch are the bathroom and the toilet. The toilet is a separate room on the left of the corridor. The toilet is equipped with a wash bidet and has a sink on top of it that saves water. The bathroom is located opposite the toilet, on the right side of the corridor from the porch. The dry area of the bathroom comprises a sink, which Mitz placed a cabinet on top of the sink to create more storage space. Next to the sink is a washing machine. The wet area has a shower head and a bathtub. The bathroom in Mitz’s apartment looked modern and clean. As with most Japanese Bathrooms, Mitz’s bathroom has a heating function which can dry the bathroom in no time.

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Toilet

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Dry Area of the Bathroom

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Wet Area of the Bathroom

Bedroom

Mitz’s apartment has a separate bedroom, which is rare for housing in Osaka at this price point. The bedroom is just next to the toilet. The bedroom is rather small in size, Mitz has placed 2 king size bed in the bedroom, leaving it hardly any space to move around. However, there are 2 doors, one by the kitchen and another by the living room, which makes the bedroom rather accessible. There is a cabinet inside the bedroom, but this cabinet is not usable as the owner has used this as a storage space. The sleep quality on the beds is excellent. I had a great night sleep every night every night. The pillows are not too soft for my liking.

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The bedroom that has 2 king size beds

Kitchen

Further down the corridor from the main entrance to the apartment, opposite the bedroom lies the kitchen. The kitchen is small but is well equipped with stove and a fridge. Mitz has readied some coffee and tea as well as some condiments that we could use.  The kitchen is well stocked with utensils and pots and pans which allows one to cook some simple meal. There are a microwave oven and an electric kettle in the kitchen that we used to make hot water every day.

 

Living Room

Mitz’s apartment has a separate living room, which is fantastic for us to put our shopping and pack on the last day. The living has an L-shaped couch that is capable of sitting up to 5 adults comfortably. There is a sizable coffee table in front of the couch which is very useful in putting out stuff onto. There are also 2 power sockets by the wall near the coffee table, which is perfect to charge our lifestyle devices. As the wardrobe in the bedroom was not usable, we used the living room to store our luggage.

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Living room in Mitz’s apartment

Dining Room

The dining room in Mitz’s apartment is in front of the kitchen and beside the living room. There is a dining table good for 4 pax with 4 chairs placed at the dining table. Mitz is very thoughtful as he has placed a box of tissue as well as a box of wet tissues on the dining table. There is a full-length mirror placed by the wall next to the dining table. A TV is placed at the corner of the dining table, which is visible from the dining table as well as the couch in the living room area. A clothing rack is placed at the other corner of the dining room next to the kitchen.

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Dining Room where the TV is placed

Balcony

There is a balcony in Mitz’s apartment where a small table and 2 chairs are placed. This is an area where we can chill out and take in the sights of this area of Osaka City. There are some clothing racks in the balcony where one can hang their clothes to dry.

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Balcony

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View from the Balcony

The Owner – Mitz

Mitz is a wonderful host. He is very responsive when communicating via the Airbnb app and he always responds to my questions within 1 hour of posting. Mitz is very accommodating towards our timing of checking in. We originally agreed to check in at 6pm, however, due to our travels, I arrived at Mitz apartment at 8pm. Mitz is very patient in waiting for my arrival at his apartment. Mitz is also very helpful in offering suggestions on where I can visit in Osaka as well as the amenities in the vicinity of his apartment during our conversation with him when checking into his apartment. Mitz even left a message on Airbnb app asking how was I doing in Osaka and if there is anything he can help to make our stay comfortable.

Overall

Mitz’s apartment is very well appointed. The location is superb, it is within 3 mins walk to the Black Market, and 5 mins walk to the subway station as well as 10 mins walk to Dotonbori. The apartment is very large for Japanese standards, I particularly like the separated bedroom from the living room, which gave me a lot of space. The bathroom is very modern. Mitz’s apartment is a very value for money for its location and the size. We are very comfortable staying in Mitz’s apartment. Highly recommend for anyone coming to Osaka. Link to Mitz’s apartment can be found here: Mitz’s Apartment Listing on Airbnb.

 

Kansai (Kyoto/Osaka) Day 8 (25 May 18) – Shopping In Namba Area and Night View of Osaka City from Umeda Sky Tower

 

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Namba Shopping District

Our shopping day today lands us at Namba area. At the time we arrived at Namba area, most of the shops are still closed. Shops in Namba area opens at 10am. As we still have time, my friend and I went over to the Nankai Train Station to attempt to redeem our train tickets to Kansai International Airport for tomorrow when we depart Kansai. We had previously purchased the tickets online. However, at the station, we were told to head over to OCAT Building to redeem the vouchers and come back here for the tickets. Since the shops are still not opened yet, we headed to OCAT Building which took us about 10 mins walk from Nankai Train Station. After redeeming the vouchers, we headed back to Nankai Train Station and sorted out the tickets. I told my friend we were lucky that we had decided to settle our train tickets on today rather than on the day of our departure, as it would be too rush to have to sort out the tickets the next day. On the hindsight, we should not have ordered the tickets online and should have purchased the tickets at the train station instead, this will save us the time walking back and forth.

Other than the Takashimaya Department store above Namba subway station, I find shopping in Namba a tad confusing. The shops seem to be arranged overall the place, feels very different from Osaka Station (might be due to the fact that we were rather familiar with the shopping in Osaka Station, after all, we have been passing through there since day 1 of our arrival in Kansai). Unlike most departmental stores, which has only at most 2 levels dedicated to men’s section, Takashimaya in Namba has men’s section in every floor, occupying a corner of each floor. Walking through Takashimaya seem no different from the other departmental stores we have visited. We left Takashimaya and headed to Carnival Mall. Carnival Mall does not have departmental stores, it is like HEP5 Shopping Mall we visited the day before. There are independent stores in Carnival Mall. Most of the men’s stores are located on the top 2 floors of Carnival Mall.

Shinsaibashi Shopping Street

After we were done with Carnival Mall, we headed for Shinsaibashi Shopping Street. We originally wanted to take a subway from Namba to Shinsaibashi but upon seeing a shopping street across from Takashimaya Departmental store, we decided to check it out. Ebisubashi-Suji is where we ended up. Ebisubashi-Suji is a covered shopping street with shops on both sides of the street. Most of these shops are pharmacies. There seem to be a pharmacy on every street and spaced out every few shops. Most of the products offerings are about the same, some shops do not offer tax refund here.

As we were walking, suddenly the place seems familiar. We ended up in Dotonbori without us realising. That is the food street that we have been coming for the past few days. As we were a little hungry, my friend and I got the takoyaki balls that was sold out shortly after we gotten ours a few nights ago. From Dontonbori, I told my friend we do not have to take the subway after all Shinsaibashi Shopping Street is just right across the bridge.

We got to Shinsaibashi after eating our takoyaki balls. Shinsaibashi is another cover shopping street that seems no different from Ebisubashi-Suji. There are the same pharmacies that seem to be everywhere and shops selling sports shoes. The price of the goods is not any different from Ebisubashi-Suji. My friend has gotten a pair of shoes and we had gotten backpacks from the Adidas shop. After some walking, we thought the shops are getting repetitive and decided to head back to our accommodation to leave our stuff before heading out for dinner. My friend had to collect the pants that he bought the day before near Osaka Station.

Umeda Sky Building

After collecting my friend’s pants, we headed for dinner. We ended our trip to Kansai, Japan by visiting the Umeda Sky Building. Umeda Sky Building is a 10 mins walk from the nearest Osaka Station. It is pretty out of the way compared to the rest of the attraction. Umeda Sky Building Observatory is also covered under the 2-Day Osaka Amazing Pass. Most visitors come here for the sunset over Osaka City and that is also the time when it is most crowded. The journey observation deck is one of the highlights when visiting the tower. The iconic floating escalator that connects the 2 building towers had us feel as though we were floating in the sky. The observation has 2 levels, the lower level is the enclosed area where we had a 360º view of Osaka city. However, the view from the upper open observation deck is more stunning. From the upper deck, we had an almost unobstructed view of the city. The view here is much better than that from the HEP5 Ferries Wheel. As it was at night at the time we arrived, the upper level is illuminated with ultraviolet lights. These lightings have the floor illuminated looking like stars in the sky. It is windy here and from here we could see the floating escalator that we have travelled on. Looking out into Osaka City, this is a great way to end our trip to Kansai. Ironically our trip to Hokkaido last year also ended up with a night view of Sapporo. We headed back to our accommodation to pack our luggage for tomorrow’s flight home. After visiting 2 Japanese Cities 2 years in a row, we are unlikely to return to Japan until some time later. It is off to explore other countries and other cities in the world.

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Panoramic shot of Osaka at night from Umeda Sky Building

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Our last wefie in Osaka

Kansai (Kyoto/Osaka) Day 7 (24 May 18) – Creating Instant Noodles and Shopping Around Osaka Station

 

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View of Osaka City from HEP5 Ferries Wheel

We spent the last 2 days of our Kansai trip in Osaka. Unlike my previous trips where I did not cater time for shopping, we dedicated 2 days to shop around in Osaka. There are 2 main shopping areas in Osaka, 1 at Osaka Station and another at Namba area. Today we shopped around in Osaka Station Area.

Cup Noodles Museum

Our first stop today is the Cup Noodles Museum. There are 2 Cup Noodles Museum in Japan, one of which is located in Osaka. To get to the museum, we took the train to Ikeda station (this station is not covered under the 2 day Osaka Amazing Pass) and walked for about 5 mins. The Cup Noodle Museum is relatively empty at the time of our visit. Entrance to the museum is free. Once inside the museum, there are exhibits on the origins of cup noodles and cup noodles were prepared and sold in the early days. There is even a mock-up shed where the world’s first instant noodles were created and how it was created. Down the hall, there is a tunnel display of the instant noodles that was sold in Japan throughout the decades.

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Nissin Cup Noodle Museum in Ikeda

The highlight of this place is that we get to make our own cup noodles. My friend and I each bought an empty cup (at ¥300 each) and was escorted to a table where we start doodling on the cups. After we were done drawing our cup, we approached the end of the room where we customised our cup noodles with ingredients and flavouring. Our customised cup noodles were sealed right before our eyes before they were given to us as a souvenir for us to bring back. We headed to the 2nd floor of the museum where there is a class for visitors to make the ramen noodles from kneading the dough to the finished product of the noodles. My friend and I did not participate in this activity. It took us about 1 hour to finish visiting the Cup Noodle Museum.

Shopping in Osaka Station

We headed for shopping at Osaka Station. There are a number of shopping malls in the vicinity of Osaka JR Station. We headed for the HEP5 Shopping Mall, which is across the road from Osaka Station. The HEP5 Shopping Mall has 6 levels and sells mainly clothing and shoes. We saw the ferries wheel on top of this building and will be back later in the evening after the shops are closed. After shopping around in HEP5, we headed to the departmental stores right on top of Osaka station. The Daimaru store occupies 15 storeys while the Lucca occupies 10 storeys. There is another Hankyu Departmental Store across Osaka Station. We did not go into this store as the product offerings are the same in all these departmental stores.

HEP5 Ferries Wheel

One good thing about getting the Osaka Amazing Pass is that other than allowing us to take the subway for free, we can also visit 36 spots for free. Some of these include riverboat ride, entering the Osaka Castle and taking a ride on HEP5 Ferries Wheel. My friend and I returned to HEP5 at about 8pm, after most of the shopping malls have closed to ride on the Ferries Wheel. The HEP5 Ferries Wheel is located on the 7th floor of the building. The ride on the ferries wheel takes about 15 mins, with the highest point being 106m from the ground. The views on the ferries wheel aren’t that great as the glass looks blurry and we did not have a good view of Osaka city. I would not have ridden on it if it is not covered under the Osaka Amazing Pass. After taking the ferries wheel, we headed back to our accommodation to rest.

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HEP5 Ferries wheel is located on top of a shopping mall

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On the streets of Osaka at night

Kansai (Kyoto/Osaka) Day 6 (23 May 18) – The Temples of Kyoto: Wandering Through the Torii Gates of Fushimi Inari-Taishi, to the Zen Gardens of Ginkakuji, to the Majestic Water Temple of Kiyomizu-Dera

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Torii gates of Fushimi Inari-Taishi

Fumishi Inari-Taishi (伏見稲荷大社)

Visitors to Kyoto will bound to make a visit to Fushimi Inari-Taishi, a shrine that is dedicated to The God of Rice, Inari. The shrine was built in 711, just celebrated its 1300th anniversary recently. Our journey to Kansai today brought us to Eastern Kyoto, our first stop is The Temple of Thousand Torii Gates – Fumishi Inari-Taishi. We were hoping to get to the shrine early to avoid bumping into huge crowds, after all, Fushimi Inari-Taishi is one of the visited and photographed spots in Kyoto. I figured it would be boring (not mentioning mainstream) if we just visited the main shrine and walking through the very busy Senbon Torii, other than these sites, we planned to hike up to the top shrine in Mt Inari, hoping to get a good view of the surroundings from the top. The 4km hike up Mt Inari would take about 2 hours. Despite the drizzle, Fushimi Inari-Taishi is still packed with crowds. At Romon (樓門), the main gate of Fushimi Inari-Taishi, we spotted a single storey structure that is decked in bright red pillars and beams with white coloured walls, as the centre part built slightly higher than the side structures.  A little further from Romon sits Honden (本殿), the main shrine of Fushimi Inari-Taishi. Visitors are only allowed to pay their respects to the 5 deities enshrined here at the entrance of the shrine, where 5 bells are installed for prayers to ring prior to their prayers.

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We were greeted with hordes of visitors at Romon, the main entrance to Fushimi Inari-Taishi

After paying our respects at Honden, we started our hike up Mt Inari through the first stretch Torii Gates, know as Senbon Torii (千本鳥居). Senbon Torii has the highest concentration of torii gates, estimated to be thousands. The torii gates are lined up almost back to back with very little gaps. Walking through these bright red torii gates gives me an almost magical feeling. I have been seeing pictures of Senbon Torii, and now that I am here, it just feels so surreal. Owing to its fame, the number of visitors here is also the highest. It is very difficult to take pictures of the torii gates at Senbon Torii without capturing someone in the shot. My friend and I ended up walking through the torii gates, taking very few pictures. At one point under these torii gates, we came to a split path. The right side leads upwards towards the inner shrine, whereas the left path is for visitors to descend from the inner shrine. Moments later we arrived at the inner shrine of Okusha (奥社奉拝所). There are 3 buildings at Okusha, 2 for temple administrations and 1 is where the deity is enshrined. We also spotted a queue where people seem to be touching some stone. As the queue was rather long, plus we have to cater time to hike up Mt Inari, we did not join the queue.

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The torii gates at Senbon Torii Gates

Fushimi Inari-Taishi consists of many smaller shrines spreading on Mt Inari, which we spotted on the hike up to Mt Inari. The torii gates pass Okusha are much larger than those we have seen so far. This part of Fushimi Inari-Taishi is where the crowd started to thin out. From here onwards, we were able to take more pictures with no people in it. Along the way, we saw Kumatakasha (熊鷹社) shrine with a large lake behind it. Along the way, we also came to a rest area. There is a small tea house looking shop that sells food and drinks. I highly recommend people making a trip to Fushimi Inari-Taishi to make a hike up here. It is here we saw Kyoto city from a higher ground. We continued our way up the peak, along the way seeing more smaller shrines. Some shrines are bigger while others seem to be a cluster of smaller shrines. At some points of the path, it felt that the shrines have merged with nature. The forest air is crisp and fresh, possibly due to the rain. We finally reached the top of Mt Inari where the shrine Inchinomine (一ノ峰) is located. We were a tad disappointed that there are no viewpoints at the peak of Mt Inari. From Inchinomine, the path turns downhill. The shrines here are more spread out. We also spotted some torii gates that seem to be newly installed. We see more nature on our way down. Once at the base of Mt Inari, we headed to Kyoto JR Station for our next destination.

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View of Southeastern Kyoto from Mt Inari

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The Shrine on the top of Mt Inari

Ginkakuji (銀閣寺)

We originally planned to visit the Kyoto Imperial Palace after we are done with Fushimi Inari-Taishi. However, due to the downpour, we spent additional time at Fushimi Inari Taishi, which caused us to miss the English guided tour timing. We decided to change our destination and wanted to visit Kiyomizu-Dera. While queuing for the bus, we realised bus number 100 goes to both Kiyomizu-Dera and Ginkakuji. We decided to make a trip to Ginkakuji. Ginkakuji is a short walk from the bus stop we alighted. Along the way, we walked past the famed Philosopher’s walk. I told my friend we would take a look at Philosopher’s walk if we have the time after visiting Ginkakuji.

Ginkakuji is built in 1482 and served as the retirement villa for the owner, mirroring the Kinkakuji which was built by the owner’s grandfather. Ginkakuji was converted to a temple after the owner’s death in 1490. The named Ginkaku was given when the owner wanted to cover the pavilion with silver foil, however, this did not materialise till the day the owner passed on. Entering Ginkakuji, there is a short walk from the main gate before we reach the inner gate. Passing the inner gate, the highlight of Ginkakuji, Kannon-den (観音殿)or Ginkaku (銀閣) was on the right of the entrance. Ginkaku is a 2 storey wooden structure sitting by a small pond. The silver pavilion is much simpler and smaller than Kinkakuji, perhaps due to the owner does not want to dwarf the works of his grandfather. Ginkaku still retains its original look (and colour) the day it was built. Similar to Kinkakuji, a silver phoenix taking flight stands on the roof of Ginkaku. Having visited Kinkakuji the day before, looking at Ginkakuji feels like a knockoff from its golden version. Afterall it is modelled after its famous golden version.

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Ginkaku, the Silver Pavilion

Next to Ginkakuji is where Kogetsudai (向月台) is located. The Kogetsudai is a large open space with a volcano structure made of white sand, which represents waves and Mt Fuji. Next to Kogetsudai sits the Hondo (本堂) and Togudo(東求堂) side by side. Built of wood, the Hondo is out of bounds and is one of the largest buildings in Ginkakuji. Similarly, the Togudo is also made of wood, this is the oldest Shoin style building that has survived earthquakes and fires throughout the centuries.

Perhaps the most iconic feature of Ginkakuji is its zen gardens. Almost half the area is dedicated to the zen gardens. There are 4 ponds in Ginkakuji in total, of which 3 are visible to visitors. Passing the Toguko, a path that leads to the moss gardens in Ginkakuji, which leads to a viewpoint up a small hill. Walking around the gardens feels therapeutic and peaceful. From the viewpoint up in the hills, we can see the whole of Ginkakuji and the town in Northeastern Kyoto. Ginkakuji is rather small, it took us 30 mins to finish walking around the grounds of Ginkakuji. Unless one is interested in zen gardens or happens to have spare time (like us), Ginkakuji is hardly worth the time to travel to this part of Kyoto. We originally wanted to take a walk down Philosopher’s Path, however, after walking past, it felt like walking behind someone’s backyard. We gave up the idea of walking down Philosopher’s Path and headed for our next destination in Kyoto.

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View of Ginkakuji and northeastern Kyoto from the hill in Ginkakuji

Kiyomizu-Dera (清水寺)

We took the same bus that brought us to Ginkakuji to Kiyomizu-Dera, which is one of the more iconic temples in Kyoto. It took us 7 mins to walk from the bus stop to Kiyomizu-Dera, passing by some wooden buildings along the way. Walking on this street feels as if we are being taken back in time. The street is now filled with shops selling souvenirs. Kiyomizu-Dera is at the end of this street, the first indication of arriving at the temple is the bright red 2 stories main gate. The 14m tall Nio-mon (仁王門) is the main gate that welcomes visitors daily. Sitting on top of a flight of stairs, Nio-mon looks commanding. Walking past Nio-mon, just right behind it, is where the Sai-mon (西門) is located. We were not particularly impressed with the Sai-mon, but are more captivated by the 3 stories red pagoda behind it. From Sai-mon, we spotted another pagoda across on the other side of Kiyomizu-Dera.

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Nio-mon, the main gate to  Kiyomizu-Dera

As it was approaching closing time (we only had 45 mins at the time we arrived at Kiyomizu-Dera). My friend and I wasted no time and headed into the main hall – Hondo (本堂). The Stage in Hondo is the most iconic feature in Kiyomizu-Dera, thanks to the location it is built on. The Stage is essentially a veranda, protruding out of the Hondo, built on the steep cliff, supported by 18 pillars that measure 13m tall. However we were a tad disappointed to learn that Kiyomizu-Dera is undergoing preservations works, most the iconic Kiyomizu Stage is covered in canvas and scaffolds, except for a small section that allowed us to take a peek down from the veranda. After offering our respects to the god in Hondo, my friend and I proceeded to the other parts of Kiyomizu-Dera.

From Hondo, there is a path that splits into lower and upper path in Kiyomizu-Dera. We took the upper path as this is where we can get a good view of Hondo. There are a couple of buildings on this side of Kiyomizu-Dera, the Okuno-in Hall (奧の院) resembles Hondo, but at a smaller scale. Similar to Hondo, there is a veranda at Okuno-in Hall where we got great shots of Hondo (if not for the hideous canvas). We continued on the path leading to the pagoda located opposite Hondo. From Hondo, this pagoda seems far, but the distance between the 2 structures is not as far as it seems. Arriving at this pagoda, it looks the same as the first pagoda next to Nio-mon. As Kiyomizu-Dera is closing soon (announcements were being made on its closing time), we headed for the waterfalls in the temple grounds.

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The veranda at Okuno-in Hall is a great picture spot of Hondo

Coming from the pagoda, we took the lower path that leads to the waterfall. Otowa no taki (音羽の瀧) is one the iconic features in Kiyomizu-Dera. It is the pure waters from the mountains here that gives the temple its name. Otowa no taki is a pavilion that has 3 streams of water flowing down from the mountains. It is believed that each of these streams grants different wishes, but drinking from all 3 streams will bring bad luck. I tried drinking from one of the streams, the water tasted like tap water and is very refreshing. One of the good thing about coming to Kiyomizu-Dera when it is about to close is the absence of large crowds, my friend and I did not have to queue for the spring water nor are there crowds that obscure us from taking pictures. If one were to come here when it is about to close (the temple closes at 6pm), do come at least 1½ hours before it closes.

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Taking the last wefie before we leave Kiyomizu-Dera

We hurried out Kiyomizu-Dera as it was about to close.  As it was dinner time, my friend and I had dinner in one of the small bento eateries (they were delicious and not pricey at all). We spent the rest of the night shopping in Kyoto before heading back to Osaka.

 

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On a double-decker train heading back to Osaka

 

Kansai (Kyoto/Osaka) Day 5 (22 May 18) – The Nature and the Ancients of Kyoto: From Arashiyama to Kinkakuji

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Kinkakuji in Kyoto

For the next 2 days, our travels in Kansai region will be spent visiting the sites in Kyoto. There are a lot of historic places to visit in Kyoto and it would not possible to see everything given the time we will be spending in Kyoto. Numerous guides online provide guides for visitors to Kyoto. I was initially planned on following one of these guides. After some planning, I was telling myself why settle for some guides with places that I am not interested in? A few iterations later, I finally settled on the places I wanted to visit in Kyoto, the beauty of a free and easy trip. We spent our 1st day visiting the sights northwest Kyoto and 2nd day in the southeast Kyoto.

Arashiyama (嵐山)

We started our Kyoto travels with Arashiyama, which is famed for its scenic views of the river and the Bamboo Grove. There are 3 train stations that serve Arashiyama area namely Hankyu-Arashiyama Station (阪急嵐山駅), Randen-Arashiyama Station (嵐電嵐山駅), and JR Saga-Arashiyama (嵯峨嵐山駅) located at the south, central and north of Arashiyama, respective. We opted to take the train to the southeast of Arashiyama so that our journey will start from the south and end up in the north of Arashiyama where we will catch the Sangano Scenic Railway.

Togetsukyo Bridge (渡月橋)

Leaving Hankyu-Arashiyama Station, we headed towards the Katsura River (桂川), where the famed Togetsukyo Bridge is located. We reached Katsura River within minutes and there lies the 155m Togetsukyo Bridge in a distance. The view from the riverside was beautiful. With Togetsukyo Bridge in the foreground and the spring green trees on the hills behind the bridge, no wonder visitors flog here for a picture on the bridge. We walked towards the bridge and was treated to more scenic views of a small raised dam, which looked like a waterfall on the river bed. There are sightseeing boats that dock in the nearby pier. Crossing Togetsukyo Bridge, we came to the built-up area of Arashiyama. The view of the bridge from this side of the river presents a different view, however, I prefer the view from the side near the Hankyu-Arashiyama Station, mainly due to a lesser crowd there.

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Panoramic Shot of Katsura River from Togetsu Bridge

Arashiyama Rickshaw Ride (京都人力車)

The buildings in this part of Kyoto looks rustic and as though they are from a page out of a history book. As we were waiting to cross the road, we saw rickshaws with visitors on them. Though not in part of our plan, nonetheless we tried a 30mins ride on the rickshaw. Despite being touristy, riding the rickshaw through Arashiyama is a good way of orienting ourselves around Arashiyama. It is also a good way of seeing the sights around this town for those who have little time in this area. Our rickshaw driver introduced us to the various sights along the way. Everywhere in Arashiyama town is crowded with visitors, our rickshaw driver is very skilful in manoeuvring the rickshaw through the hordes of visitors, especially when he was turning into the Bamboo Grove. The main highlight of the ride is the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. As the rickshaw driver pulled us through the Bamboo Grove, he suddenly turned into a small road that is free from visitors. The rickshaw driver explained this is a road that is reserved for rickshaws. On this road, we can feel the peacefulness in the Bamboo Grove. The Bamboo Grove is split into 2 parts, the area before the train track is crowded with visitors. as compared to the area after the train track. There is a small Shinto shrine near the train track. Somehow this is where all the visitors turned back and headed back to the town. We made mental notes of where to go to after we are done with the rickshaw ride. The driver pulled us pass the train tracks to the part where there are lesser people. It is here that the rickshaw driver made a brief stop and took pictures of us on the rickshaw. We made a u-turn and head back to Katsura River where we boarded the rickshaw. As we thought that our ride will be ending soon, the rickshaw driver made a turn into a side road. On this road, we felt the peacefulness of Arashiyama once again. There are some rustic buildings on this road. Soon we were on the side of the road that we boarded the rickshaw. This marks the end of our rickshaw ride. After a few pictures with the driver, we headed back to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.

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Map and rate of the Rickshaw that we rode in Arashiyama

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My friend with the rickshaw driver

Tenryuji (天龍寺)

As we were walking towards the Bamboo Grove, we came to Tenryuji, one of the temples on the main road in Arashiyama that we have passed by on the rickshaw just now. My friend and I headed into the compound of this temple. There are quite a number of visitors to Tenryuji. The attraction of this temple is its zen gardens. After walking for another 5 mins, we came to the Kuri (庫裏).  Entering the compounds of the temple is free, however, there are different charges on the admission to various buildings and gardens. Kuri is a relatively small white building triangular roof and is built in 1899. The Kuri is considered one of the 7 major buildings according to the principles of Zen. We felt this place is a little touristy and did not enter Kuri. As we were rushing for time, we exited Tenryuji and headed for the Bamboo Grove.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove (竹林の小径)

Minutes later, we arrived at the entrance to the famed Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Having been here moments earlier, we know exactly which spot to go to where there are lesser people. In the area before the train tracks, we couldn’t really appreciate the bamboo grove. Most of the time we were squeezing with other visitors and this area is very bad for photos. As we were making our way past the train tracks, we made a brief stop at the Shinto Shrine in the midst of the Bamboo Grove. Nonomiya Shrine (野宮神社) is a small shrine that the locals come to pray for marriage. There are several small structures in Nonomiya Shrine, consisting of the main prayer shelter and several boards for visitors to hang this wishes. As the shrine is rather small, we exited the shrine after taking some pictures.

The train tracks that cut the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove into 2 parts is right next to Nonomiya Shrine. We continued our walk in the Bamboo Grove past the train tracks. This is where we felt peace in the Bamboo Grove. There are significantly lesser visitors to this part of the grove, making strolling in this part of the grove a relaxing one. It is here we can hear the rustling of the bamboo leaves as they dance to the rhythm of the wind. My friend and I turned into a small area where we stopped by on the rickshaw earlier to have our photo taken on the rickshaw. This is a perfect spot for pictures with the Bamboos and lesser people. It is recommended for those visiting Arashiyama Bamboo Grove to walk past the train tracks and come here to get away from the crowds.

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On the rickshaw in Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Sagano Scenic Railway (嵯峨野トロッコ列車)

Leaving Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, our next stop is the Saga Torkko Station where we planned to board the Sagano Scenic Railway towards Kameoka. The station about 7 mins walk from the rear exit of the Bamboo Grove. The 25 mins Sagano Scenic Railway runs along Hozugawa River between Arashiyama and Kameoka, after which it will turn around and return to Arashiyama. There are 5 carriages on the Sagano Scenic Railway, 1 of which is open air. We originally wanted to take the open air carriage but was told all seats in this carriage are taken. Our plan of taking the train up to Kameoka was also changed on the spot as the next train available is some 2 hours later. We did not want to wait and opted for the return train ride from Kameoka instead. As our JR pass is still valid, we took the JR towards Umahori Station and waited for our train to come by. Arriving at Umahori Station, we took a 5 mins walk from the JR station to the Scenic Railway station. Along the way, we saw some farmlands in rural Kyoto.

Our train ride arrived on time and we boarded the train as soon as passengers alighted. The cabin of the train is made of wood, giving the train a rustic feel to it. As the train left the station and started on its 25 mins journey towards Arashiyama, we were treated to views of the wilderness in Kyoto. The dramatic scenery saw Hozugawa River turns from being peaceful to angry with rapids in certain areas. The river also widens and narrows as the train runs alongside the river. We saw the hills on the opposite side of the river donning on their spring green coats and at some point of the journey, the hills gave way to the river as Hozugawa River snakes through the mountain ranges. We even saw boats at some point of the river, where visitors chose to brave through the rapids of Hozugawa River as their return option towards Arashiyama. Initially, we were worried that the seats we were assigned will not give us much of the river view as one side of the train tracks will be facing the mountains. We were lucky to have assigned seats on the left side of the train as we realised on the return trip the left side has more time with the sceneries of the wilderness of Arashiyama.