Life in the Fast Lane


Konnichiwa (Part Two)

By 9:09 AM , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Goodness me, I can't believe it's been four months since Japan happened, and I totally forgot to write about Days 3 and 4 of our trip. Big thanks to my friend, Peggy, for reminding me about it.

Anyway! Let's get on with the 2nd installment of this Japan trip series. Part 1 here, if you want to check it out (featuring our first full day around Osaka and our second full day in Universal Studios).

Day Three began bright and early, because we were headed off to Kyoto. We had to factor in the travel time*. Also, since we'd only be there for a day trip, we wanted to maximize our time there.

With all the walking and transferring from station to station that we did, we couldn't help but be amazed. Osaka's train stations are not just overwhelmingly huge, but almost airport-like in terms of look and efficiency. It made me wonder how much more exciting Tokyo's train stations are, though.

Finally, a little over an hour later, we set foot in Inari. And what greeted us ten minutes upon exiting the Inari Station was this.

Hello, old Japan!

The literary and film geek in me really, really wanted to visit Fushimi Inari, largely because of Memoirs of a Geisha. Ever since I saw the film about a decade ago, I knew that I wanted to see that bright orange tunnel and check out these structures.

When you enter the grounds, you will initially see lots of similar structures, as well as people praying.

After a bit of walking, you'll finally see the tunnels Sayuri ran through.

Some of the tunnels are taller, while some have a lower ceiling and are narrower.

I was just so happy to have a picture taken within these tunnels that I didn't care how touristy it looked.

You'll want to try walking the entire route of Fushimi Inari (up to the peak). Because the views are worth it.

If only I could've taken my sweet time, I'd have savored every sight there was to behold.

Wear comfortable shoes, though, if you plan to do a day trip to Kyoto. You'll be doing a lot of walking, and the Inari "trek" has a number of climbs and descents.

An hour and a half later, it was time for lunch.

Since we had Internet access (thanks once again to our best friend, our portable WiFi), we checked Google Maps for nearby restaurants. We explored the neighborhood near Inari first, though.

CJ, my youngest brother, eventually found this almost canteen-like restaurant (none of us got the name of the place because the signage was in Japanese). What caught his eye was the poster on the window, which had different plates of katsu.

We had to figure out, then place our orders in a vending-machine type of system. I ordered curry katsu, and I was so happy because the whole meal cost less than PhP 200 when converted. And it tasted amazing — from the breading, to the texture of the rice, to the overall flavor of the sauce, as well as its consistency.

With satisfied bellies, we had to figure out where we wanted to go afterwards. Admittedly, I only had two items on my agenda (Fushimi Inari and Gion); we weren't as well-researched as we should have been, so we didn't get to strategize in advance.

However, while walking, we chanced upon this park and had fun with the birds.

It was also nice to see different shades of cherry blossoms all in one place.

After some time in the park (and after bullying enough birds), we headed over to the Gion District. At this point, we weren't exactly sure where we were, so we couldn't locate the nearest train station. We ended up having to hail a cab, which cost us some money. After a 15-minute drive, we had to pay around ¥ 2,400 (or PhP 900).

Tip: Make a more structured day trip itinerary than we did if you want to save more money. If you want to YOLO it like we did, then be ready to figure things out along the way.

Anyway, Gion was a delight for the eyes. It really looked like a movie set (well, it was basically a throwback to Memoirs of a Geisha as well, being Kyoto's geisha district).

You'll feel like you're transported back to, maybe, a century ago. Gion definitely has the charm of historic Japan.

Meanwhile, I was wondering where the geisha actually were.

Along Gion, you'll see some Japanese women dressed in kimonos (some of them rent kimonos for the day). It's rare to spot a real geisha, though.

We crossed over to Yasaka, which had a shrine, but a nice park with beautiful ponds.

My sister loved her kani on a stick, which she got from a stall within the grounds.

Cherry blossoms and the setting sun = a wonderful combination.

We wished we could've traveled with our other brother, our sister-in-law, and our nephew Mateo (who was only six months old when we went on this trip).

On our way back, we found a ramen restaurant within the Shinosaka Station. Again, a wonderful experience. Japan never disappointed us in the cuisine department.

The next day, which was our last, I woke up early to run and mentally said goodbye to the wonderful area of Esaka. I really loved running amidst such gorgeousness (and in that kind of cold).

Then we got to meet our Airbnb host, Yuriko, after we turned over the keys to her apartment. We thanked her for being such a wonderful host. 

Since we only had enough time for some last-minute shopping and lunch, we decided to check out Denden Town (Osaka's gaming district) and go back to Shinsaibashi and Dotonburi.

I ended up buying a pair of all-white Nike Roshe Runs in Shinsaibashi. When converted, they came out to PhP 2,500! Such a far cry from those being sold in Manila for PhP 4,500 and up!

My last lunch (again, none of us got the name of the restaurant, but it was along one of the side streets perpendicular to Shinsaibashi) consisted of a salmon fried rice and gyudon.

Before we knew it, it was time to leave for the airport. On the way, we picked up our luggage, which we stored in lockers in the Shinsaibashi train station. Extremely convenient for tourists!

We had one more Starbucks run, dropped off our pocket WiFi in one of the Global WiFi designated dropboxes within the airport, did some shopping, and it was time to say sayonara to Japan and konbanwa to Manila.

Arigatou gozaimasu to Japan! We definitely had a wonderful time and I'm hoping to visit Tokyo next year.

If you're considering a trip to Japan, don't think twice — just do it. The visa requirements, though extensive, are well worth collecting. For those in Manila, you can ask Friendship Tours in the Dusit Hotel to assist you (processing fee for single entry visa: PhP 1,200; for multiple entry: P2,000).

Nowadays, you can manage your expenses in a much more efficient way, especially with cheaper flights and accommodations from the likes of Airbnb.

Truly, traveling is one of the most rewarding, most enriching investments in a person's life.

(Cameras used: Canon EOS 550D, Nikon S6300, iPod Touch, iPhone 5S.)

* Three train changes, plus some walking — ride the train from Esaka to Shinosaka + walk from Shinosaka to the Tokaido-Sanyo line bound for Tsuruga + ride the train bound for Kyoto + ride one more train to Inari.

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