A couple of my friends and I decided to spend the Chuseok Holiday (Korean Thanksgiving) abroad in Japan. Though we knew our plans were incredibly ambitious, and in an attempt to make the most of our short break, we decided to hit Kyoto for a couple days and Osaka for one.
My friend Megan and I flew out of Incheon Airport at 10:45am and had a short-easy flight to Osaka Kansai, via Peach Airlines. ****If you are crazy enough to fly out of Incheon during Chuseok, make sure you arrive at LEAST 2.5 hours early so you don’t have complete heart failure when you see the lines.*****
After picking up our wifi egg (you should really get one of these if you go to Japan), we took the Kansai Express train directly to Kyoto (about 75min and $22 with the 1-Day Foreigner Kansai Area Pass). As soon as we arrived in Kyoto, we grabbed a taxi and head directly to the Air BnB. It was my first time booking with Air BnB and I was exceedingly happy with our choice!
At that point (due to lack of sleep) I was running on empty. Megan and explored the Gion area a bit, found some much needed nourishment, and grabbed a few groceries. We got the lay of the land and made our plan of attack for the next day.
The following morning, we met our friend Nancy at Kyoto station bright and early. We sought out some famous Kyoto Ramen and weren’t disappointed! It was my first time having Ramen and although it wasn’t the standard Japanese-style, it was damned good! You know a restaurant is going to kick ass when it is packed with locals and has a line out the door at 9am!
The rest of the day, we pounded the pavement and saw as MANY Kyoto hotspots as we could possibly. Here’s what we accomplished:
Fushimi Inari Shrine-we took a ridiculously long walk from the Ramen place to the shrine and it was PACKED! Although it was absolutely gorgeous, it was super-difficult to get any decent pictures due to the crowds (and this was on a Sunday). We only stayed for an hour, since we had a pretty packed schedule, but it was beautiful! The next time I visit Kyoto and the shrine, I will arrive as soon as it opens (preferably on a weekday) and spend 2-3 hours exploring the grounds.
Sanjusangendo Temple– Considering it was mid-day already, we decided to take the train/subway to this temple. I’m very glad we took the time to stop here as it was the most awe-inspiring sight I witnessed that weekend. The temple is famous for displaying the 1001 Kannon (the goddess of mercy). Though we couldn’t take any pictures inside, I know the mental images will stay with me for a very long time. It was a truly amazing sight to behold!
Afterwards, we stopped at a restaurant Nancy found on Trip Advisor and we had some traditional Kyoto fare… Though some of the dishes weren’t my favorite, Megan’s was fantastic!
Kiyomizudera Temple-After lunch, we took a taxi to this temple and I’m really glad we did. It had been a long day already and we would have cried a little (maybe on the inside, maybe not), when we saw the hill we’d have to climb. It isn’t a crazy steep hill, but it isn’t pleasant when you’re already pooped! Anyway, it is easy to see why this is a very popular place to visit. There are great touristy shopping places on the way up to the temple and the views from the top are absolutely stunning! You can easily spend 30-45min at the temple before moving on to your next destination.
Gion District-After leaving Kiyomizudera, we took a taxi back to the BnB to freshen up and head out to the Gion District (the prime area to see Geishas and a very charming area of the city). Due to a couple snafus, we didn’t get to have a big dinner at one of the local hotspots and we didn’t see any Geishas. We did, however, end our day with a wonderful stroll through the streets of Gion!
Kinkakuji – The following morning, we set off to see Kinkakuji (The Gold Pavilion) and tried to be there as soon as it opened (9am). We were close! We arrived around 9:20 and were thankful that we got our tired butts moving-it was already quite busy! I’m very happy we included this in our aggressive itinerary, as it was the second most memorable sights from our trip. It was stunning… Though it didn’t take us long to walk the grounds, it’s easy to see why it is at the top of all ‘must-do’ lists in Kyoto.
After finishing up there, we decided to save the bamboo forest for another trip (we didn’t want to run ourselves ragged for a second day in a row) and headed back to the BnB. We finished packing up our things and headed back to Osaka!
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Kyoto and am mentally planning a return trip. Everyone said I would love Japan, and they were absolutely right! Need some additional ideas for your trip, check out this post by Suitcase and Wanderlust!
Stay tuned for my next post about our busy 24hrs in Osaka…..