Well, I’ve been a bad blogger, haven’t I? (Naks, blogger, anuraw?!) Bear with me since I’m still getting the hang of this after n years of being on the Internet!
This is my first travel post and it is extremely evident that it’s lacking–in directions, photos, and description. After being to different places, it’s only now that I get it–it’s not easy to blog comprehensively about where you went and what you did. You have to look back and recall all the things you did, pre-, during, and post-trip. You have to visualize the places you went to and recount what exactly you did for those days. For me, I had to use my photos and my sister’s itinerary spreadsheet to guide me back! It’s not an easy task to re-research the places because I honestly don’t remember (aka can’t connect) all the names of the places, bus stations, and train stations. It’s like, “Oh, I know this place! But what’s its name again…?” or “This name, I know this! But what did it look like again…?” (Note to self: bring a tickler next time.) Man, kudos to travel bloggers! You guys are amazing.
It’s ironic that I love to take photos but I’m too shy (occasionally lazy) to take out my DSLR–and it’s not even that huge. Okay, it kind of is, but not really since it’s just a Canon 600D. Should I invest on a mirrorless then? /stares at bank account staring back at me
For the tl;dr crowd: I need improvements in drafting travel posts, so if I’m unable to supply enough information, I’m sorry and I’ll do better!
I went with my family for this trip, thanks to mom and dad’s perseverance in booking promo flights through Cathay Pacific. #notsponsored lol. Our trip was MNL-HKG-KIX. It took a while to reach Kansai since we had a few hours of layover in HKG but it was okay since we had a good flight. (The way back HKG-MNL was a different story, lol. I had to hold in my pee for 2 hours and, uh, there were lots crying babies, the wails echoing in the fuselage. x_x Thank goodness for my earphones.)
Of Transportation, Passes, and Cards
Alright, let’s talk about Japan!
We landed at Osaka and had to secure our cards for transportation, namely the ICOCA, the Kansai Thru Pass (3 days), and the Osaka Amazing Pass (2 days).
Whaaa? What do you need all those cards for? Ehe, those were my first thoughts. Then I found out that Japan has different railways by different owners; hence, different cards are used. Remember how here in Metro Manila, LRT-1 and LRT-2 had a different card from MRT-3? It’s kinda like that. If you’re like me who’s used to universal cards (like Korea’s T-Money Card and, to an extent, the recently launched BEEP Card here), you’d have a grand time getting confused.
Map taken from Nihone.
As you can see, Kansai alone has maaaaany railways. These two are also good places to start learning about them. It can get even more confusing with the different kinds of trains (express, limited express, etc)… it takes time to get used to everything but once you get the hang of it, you’ll appreciate it because other than being comprehensive, the trains are crazy punctual! Plus, the staff–omg everyone’s so freaking nice and polite and adorable, but more on that later on.
Back to the cards, if my memory serves me right, generally, we used the Kansai Thru Pass for the privately-owned railways and buses of Kyoto and Nara, the Osaka Amazing Pass for… well… Osaka, while we used ICOCA for all other JR Lines.
Okay about the 2- and 3-day passes, this is important: once you start using your passes, their validity/usage will last for either 48 or 72 hours, depending on which one. Like in our case, we availed of Osaka Amazing Pass for 2 days; consequently, we could use it all we want for up to 48 hours while the Kansai Thru Pass for 3 days, for up to 72 hours. Once the time is up, it can’t be used anymore. We made the mistake of thinking it would be two or three calendar days, so imagine our faces when it was just the afternoon and we couldn’t use them anymore. ><; In the end, we had to use our ICOCA instead.
Last tip: Google Maps and Hyperdia will be your best friends, I’m not even kidding. Google Maps because of the directions and Hyperdia because of the trains’ timetable (since like I said, Japan trains are punctual to the minute, maybe even second). I can’t count how many times our butts were saved because of the two. That’s why it’s important to get a Wi-Fi egg prior to starting the adventure. We got ours from Wi-Fi Hire. Again, #notsponsored. :p
Okay, finally, to the travel post itself. I will be doing these in sequence of places we visited, so don’t be surprised if the scenes suddenly change from night to day.
Kyoto (Part 1)
Ahh, Kyoto. Relatively chill atmosphere, literally and figuratively, lol. Spring at 3-8°C for most our our stay in Kansai, really, so I had heavy use of my coats and tights!
We arrived early morning so after checking in the hotel, we went straight to Nijo Castle.
One of the few sakura trees that have bloomed. Our trip was a little early so the places weren’t as picturesque yet!
Ginkakuji/Silver Pavilion. It became the retirement home of shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa. I know, it’s not silver, lol! But it was built as an answer to the Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, which was owned by Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the grandfather of the said shogun.
A zoomed in view from the hill behind Ginkakuji. See those orange looking leaves with a red marker in the midst? The guide said that those trees were contaminated by the atomic bombing from World War 2. (Can’t remember if it was the one in Nagasaki or Hiroshima, but probably the latter because it’s closer in proximity.)
After that, we walked down Tetsugaku no michi, the Philosopher’s Path. Lots of cute boutiques and cafes. Gotta try one of them next time! Sadly, not many sakura trees bloomed yet that time. 🙁
Stuffed bears waiting for a bite…
CATS. So. Much. Fluff.
Next day we went to Fushimi Inari Taisha. The famous vermillion torii gates lead up to a mountain where you can have a view of Kyoto. I wasn’t able to reach the middle (Yotsutsuji intersection) because of time restraints. We had to leave for Nara after.
Each inscription behind the torii were names and companies who donated the gates. Also, hi it’s me. :p
Arrived at Nara and we went to Yoshikien Garden. Entrance is free for foreigners! Just present your passport upon arrival. The maintenance of the place is enviable. All the places we’d been to, really!
(Cries, I wasn’t able to take other photos, deer included, because I thought I had already taken some… seriously, the look on my face when I was going through my photos was indecipherable. 🙁 )
Todaiji Temple, the largest wooden structure in the world in which it houses a tall and large bronze Buddha. Surprisingly, the temple is actually just a fraction of its older self! We had a super adorable obaa-chan (elderly lady) who guided us in English here.
I’m about to end the first part of my Japan trip, but while we’re at it, let me just talk about Japanese people. They are, hands down, the nicest people I’ve ever met. Like–just. As a whole. In general, they’re all super nice and courteous. Never cutting in line, cars stopping to let other cars pass through, bowing and saying sumimasen/sorry at the smallest bump… I can go on and on!
Let me cite two specific situations.
First one, I lost my Kansai Thru Pass going back to Kyoto. When I asked the station staff what to do to exit the station, he actually asked me, concerned, where I lost the pass along the way because they could actually help look for it. I–my mind was freaking blown. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember where exactly I lost it lol, so I just dismissed the pass and thanked him for his kindness.
The second one, on a different occasion, we were supposed to take the bus. We were busy looking at the directions and one lady just randomly approached us and asked if we needed help–in limited English. With nonverbal actions, she was able to guide us to the the right bus number.
At this point, I was convinced of Japan’s customer service–people really!–and their genuine kindness. I know it sounds ridiculous but I was seriously touched by those two different occasions. ;;
Okay, I have to split it into half because it’s becoming too long/wordy! 🙂
Go to the second part.