Map of Kansai
Map of Kansai
Kyoto Fushimi Inari Shrine
You wouldn't think a series of wooden gates, one after the other, would be especially captivating under normal circumstances but as they wind up the mountain side, each painted a vivid orange, you can't help but find yourself quietly delighted. Well worth a visit.
In Kyoto, a temple should not be only a religious place but also an artistic place. And some temples, one of them being Sanzenin, have wonderful gardens. They have a garden covered with moss. And there are many 地蔵（Stone statue of Buddhist monks who protect souls of children). This temple is located at the northern part of Kyoto and it's a really quite and peaceful place.
The main attraction of Sanjusangendo is the interior, which is filled with 1,001 statues of Kannon, all beautifully carved from Japanese cypress. Each statue was made around 800 years ago, and the statues stand there quietly...waiting for you!
This zen temple has famous 2 windows. The left one is square and is called "The Window of Confusion" while the one on the right is round and called "The Window of Enlightenment". Why? To find out, maybe you (and I) need to visit there and meditate.
Summer in Kyoto is really hot, but people there know how to cool down gracefully. They build tatami floor above the river. While listening to the sound of the river and feeling the cool air, they enjoy hot summer.
Amano Hashidate (天橋立)
Amano Hashidate is one of Japan's three most scenic views. (The other two are Miyajima in Hiroshima and Matsushima in Miyagi). The canonical way to view Amanohashidate is to turn your back to it, then bend over and look at it upside down from between your legs — this is supposed to make the bridge appear as if it floats to heaven, and bring good luck. The sandbar is located at the bay in northern Kyoto Prefecture.
If you're a coffee lover and need coffee even when travelling in Kyoto, do visit Inoda Coffee. At Inoda Coffee, you can have a cup of coffee with a nice view of Kyoto. The Kiyomizu branch of Inoda coffee is at ideal cafe for coffee (and travel) addicts.
Path of Bamboo in Sagano, Kyoto
You can smell the scent of bamboo and feel feeble sunlight throughout the path. And you can also feel 'history' of countless travellers who passed this path. This fantastic scenery appears many times on Japanese TV dramas and commercial films.
The late Steve Jobs,one of the founders of Apple, had a favourite ryokan in Kyoto. It's Tawaraya. It's a simple small ryokan, but in this ryokan, you can see what is beauty in Kyoto. Every single item in the ryokan is an embodiment of beauty.
Japanese-style guest house
Ryokan (authentic Japanese style accommodation) is wonderful but might be a bit expensive for young travellers on a budget. A good alternative is a guest house, where you can enjoy Kyoto culture at a reasonable price. The average accommodation fee of a room in decent guesthouse is S$40-$100 and the dormitory is around S$30. http://www.kazari-ya.com/index-e.html http://hannari-guesthouse-english.com/ http://en.hostel-mundo.com/#home http://matome.naver.jp/odai/21301918226690
Toei Kyoto Studio Park
Do you want to try cosplay of Samurai period? At Toei Kyoto Studio Park, it's possible to take a photo in various types of the costumes in Kyoto with the assistance of professional make up artist and photographer.
Zen is not a 'great' religion or knowledge. It simply helps us to know ourselves. If you are interested in Zen, and want to spend time in a Zen temple, then you can contact the temple. English-speaking monks will teach you about Zen and you will also have a chance to meditate there
Tea is a very important culture in Kyoto. People used to have peace in their mind through drinking tea. Lemon Salon in kyoto is ideal place to enjoy not only tea, but also meals, which are wonderful. But please note that you need to queue up during busy period.
Mitsui Garden Hotel Kyoto Shijo
Want to have Kyoto-style breakfast in a reasonable and comfortable hotel? Then MItsui Garden Hotel Shijo might be a good choice. Accommodation fee is close to that of a normal business hotel (¥7000~), but service, bath, room and breakfast is much better. You can enjoy Kyoto-style soba (herring soba), pickles, and Kansai-style omelette!
To see an unforgettable aurora-like green floor, Jissoin temple is the place to go! Throughout the year you can enjoy the beautiful changing vista of the garden reflected on the lacquered wooden floor inside the temple: bright lush green in spring and summer, red and yellow of the maples in fall and white of the snow in winter. As the surface of the floor is blacked out, the colours stand out very well, offering a breathtaking view. Please note that photo-taking is not allowed at Jissoin~
9h Capsule Hotel
If you would like to try staying at a capsule hotel in Kyoto, '9h' is the best. You might feel that you are in a spaceship! The accommodation fee is from ¥1900.
Lady's Hotel Nishijin
If you are a woman travelling Kyoto alone and want to save on accommodation fee, 'Lady's hotel Nishijin' in Kyoto is suitable for you. If you stay alone, you need to pay for only one person (¥4000). What's more, the reputation of the hotel is very good. PS: This hotel is for ladies only. Male travellers who want to save on accommodation can stay in a capsule hotel. (Strangely, many capsule hotels don't accept female travellers).
Nishiki Ichiba (錦市場)
Eating at restaurants in Japan might cost a lot, so why not buy some delicious cooked foods and eat them in your hotel? In Kyoto, you can find delicious bites at Nishiki Shijo. The standard of food at the market is one of the best in Kyoto as many chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants visit there. One of the best food there is Kyoto-style omelette.
Kyoto city is a nice place but it can be a bit crowded when you visit there on weekends. If you prefer a quite place, Kurama in northern part of Kyoto is ideal. You can go there by train and take a walk in the beautiful mountain area with temples and onsen. Yes, you can enjoy onsen and appreciate the view of mountain (and autumn leaves too). It's a good destination for a short day-trip.
Food: Nishin Soba (Herring Soba)
Nishin Soba is a bowl of soba in a hot broth, which has a dried herring added to it. It was created in Kyoto in the 19th Century. Originally, Kyoto people often ate dried herring as a side dish. In addition there was a custom to eat sea tangles boiled with herrings on every first day of the month. But now you can try Nishin Soba whole year. Nishin is seasoned quite strongly and it matches well with soba! Matsuba is the most authentic Nishin Soba restaurant in Kyoto.
Food: Nagashi Somen (Flowing noodle)
Do you feel confident in your chopsticks skills? If so, you might be ready to try Nagashi Somen, a fun Japanese eating style that serves somen (very thin wheat noodles) racing by in a bamboo pipe full of flowing water! It's common in Kibune, northern part of Kyoto. But you can find it only during summer season because people enjoy Nagashi Somen there to cool themselves in front of river.
Food: Yu dofu
Tofu is a very simple food, that's why you will be surprised when you have awesome handmade tofu. Nowadays, it's difficult to buy authentic tofu, and it's impossible to buy it in supermarkets. But you will find good tofu at special tofu restaurants in Kyoto. They cook tofu just in hot water, so that the subtle taste and texture of tofu aren't destroyed.
Food: Ochaduke (お茶漬け) at Akoya Chaya
Do you know Ochaduke (お茶漬け)? Made up of the words "ocha" (tea) and "tsuke" (submerge), it is a simple Japanese dish made by pouring tea over cooked rice . And some Japanese pickles are added to rice too. Akoya Chaya in Kyoto has Ochaduke buffet. So you can have many types of pickles , rice, tea, as well as Japanese sweets. It's located near Kiyomizu Temple.
Food: Tonjiru (豚汁) in Kadoya Syokudo
Besides elegant women, men who like to eat a lot stay in Kyoto. There are some places for such men. If you like Yoshinoya, then you will love Tonjiru (pork soup) with huge amount of rice.
Food: Masutani Ramen
Each part of Japan has their own unique ramen. And Kyoto-style ramen is one of most popular in Japan. Thin noodles are cooked with very rich soup and spring onion. Though the soup looks very oily, they don't use much oil. Instead of oil, they make soup by tons of vegetables. Masutani ramen is considered to be one of best Kyoto ramen.
Food: Shichimi chilli (七味唐辛子)
Singaporeans love spicy food, don't they? If you'd like nice Japanese chill, shichimi is a good option. Shichimi means 'seven flavours' and consists of the seven ingredients below: - Red chili pepper (the main ingredient) - Ground sanshō - Roasted orange peel - Black sesame seed - White sesame seed - Hemp seed - Ground ginger - Nori or aonori Shichimi in Kyoto is considered to be best and it's good as a souvenir.
Food: Kamo Nabe (Duck hotpot)
Japanese seldom eat duck, though duck in Singapore is very nice. In Kyoto, you can have Japanese style duck hotpot. The soup from the duck is very delicious, so add soba after you've finished duck! Japanese duck tends to have more fats than those in Singapore. But as the duck is boiled (not fried), it's probably healthier.
America Mura is like Harajuku in Tokyo, a Holy Land of Hipster. Here, you can find old clothes, funky goods and Japanese-style fast food. What the young want is America Mura!
Shin Sekai (新世界)
Osaka is not a cool city when compared to Tokyo. But most comedians are from Osaka, where 'laughter' in their first priority. And you can see their culture deeply in 'Shin Sekai' area in Osaka. This is a good place to find 'funny' gifts and souvenirs for your friends!
Umeda Sky Building
There are many skyscrapers in Osaka, but Umeda Sky building has one of best observation deck where you can enjoy 360 degree viewing. And as the observation deck is not covered with glass, you can feel the wind about 200m from the ground. And there are many, surprisingly, nice old surprisingly restaurants at basement 1.
Sheraton Miyako Hotel Osaka
You want to stay in a luxury hotel without the high price tag, consider Sheraton Miyako Hotel Osaka. This is a 4-star hotel in the central area of Osaka which offers a good discount ($70 per room) if you book a room in advance though Japanese website, especially though website by JTB (but only in Japanese) Refrain from booking through popular English booking websites as they charge more than double ($200)!
Kuromon Ichiba (黒門市場)
Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo is very famous, but do you know there is also a big market in Osaka? It's 'Kuromon Ichiba'. You will find not only fish but also many kinds of special food there. And it's convenient for tourists because you can buy just small pieces of cooked food there! Stroll around for an hour and you might find yourself to have eaten a lot from various small shops there!
Osaka has a nickname - ‘A kitchen in Japan’. Although most people there are gourmet and standard of restaurants is very high, what local people love most might be Takoyaki on the street. Most takoyaki in Osaka are probably much better than those in Tokyo. Abeno Yamachan's takoyaki is a must-try. It's crispy on the outside but, thanks to octopus, soft and chewy inside.
Food: Omu rice at Hokkyokusei (北極星)
What is Omurice? It's a combination of 'omu' (or omelette) and 'rice' ! It's a Japanese-Western fusion food that was created by a chef at Hokkyokusei in Osaka. Hokkyokusei's omurice is probably the best in Japan. And if you can, visit their main restaurant and you can enjoy genuine omurice amidst a Japanese garden.
Food: Butaman by 551
If, upon reaching Osaka Airport (KIX) and you feel very hungry, what will you eat there? You may want to try Osaka-style fast food? 551's pork bun is very chewy and the pork is well seasoned. And remember to add some Japanese mustard to enhance the taste.
Takeda Castle at Asago
Climb a mountain and from the top, you will see Takeda Castle Ruins, also known as Castle in the Air. To see this castle in a fog, it's better to climb the mountain in the morning. As this castle is very far from Kobe or Osaka, you'll probably need to stay around Asago city in Hyogo. A good time to visit it is from September to April at dawn before 8am. During winter, the mountain might be too dangerous for climbing due to snow. This is a castle definitely worth visiting.
Caffera at Kobe
Sitting in a cafe and seeing people walking by, imaging their life and story, can be a very enjoyable thing to do. Caffera in Kobe is the best place to do this. The cafe is located in very classic area in Kobe and you might feel that you are a character in a 1920's movie. Besides that nice atmosphere, you can also enjoy the rich-tasting cappuccino.
Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden
Kobe is famous for its night view. It's said to be a "ten-million-dollar night view". The view from ' Kobe-Nunobiki Herb Garden' is spectacular. When you step off the cable car at Herb Gardens Top Station, from the View Plaza, you can gaze down at the lovely flowers in the Herb Gardens, the port city of Kobe, and the sparkling blue sea and beyond. Visitors are surrounded by pleasant aroma wafting from herbs and flowers everywhere.
Most onsen in Japan are located in countryside areas, but Arima onsen is in Kobe (just 30 minutes by train from the city centre). Arima onsen is not just an onsen, it is a very unique 'onsen town', where visitors can enjoy strolling, eating, and shopping for souvenirs. The quality of the onsen itself is considered to be one of best in Japan, and its Kin no Yu (金の湯) has a unique colour. You can try staying in the town, so that you can try countless onsens there.
Hotel Piena Kobe
If you would have a chance to visit Kobe and are looking for a nice and affordable hotel, please consider 'Hotel Piena Kobe'. The rooms are very spacious and the breakfast is said to be one of best in Kobe! Best of all, their accommodation fee is quite affordable (from S$60).
Food: Kobe Beef
Kobe Beef is considered to be the world's best (and most expensive) beef. It is almost impossible to eat Kobe beef outside Japan, so consider trying Kobe beef if you're in Kobe? The beef is so tender that it might melt on your tongue. There are many nice steak houses in Kobe, and 'Mouriya kobe' is one of the best.
Food: Kobe-style Ramen at Mokkosu
Ramen is very popular in Japan and every part of Japan has its own unique style for ramen Kobe-style ramen has the following traits: 1) Straight thin noodle 2) Tons of roast pork and spring onion 3) Strong soup made of vegetable and pork bone One authentic Kobe-style ramen stall is 'Mokkosu'. The ramen adheres to the traits of Kobe ramen.
Food: Soba at Muragen
Have you ever been moved by a bowl of soba? You might have such an experience at Muragen in Ashiyagawa. Here, you can understand how wonderful truly authentic soba is. Once the noodles land in your mouth, the flavour of soba explodes amidst it! You don't actually need any soup or seasoning to appreciate the soba. Soba Muragen is located in Ashiyagawa in Kobe.
Food: Tempura at Makino
Good tempura should be very crispy outside, but juicy on the inside. When you put tempura in your mouth, the fragrance of fresh tempura oil should explode in your mouth. A chef fries your tempura one by one in front of you, and you can enjoy the tempura as well as witness the way he cooks tempura. The good tempura at Makino, located in Kobe, is reasonably-priced; you can enjoy it at less than S$8!
Food: Katsu Don at Yoshibei
Katsudon (fried pork rice bowl) by Yoshibei is one of the best local food in Kobe. Even if you don't have a big stomach, you may want to order "double size" Katsudon because the price is almost the same as the normal size. This Katsudon is awesome. Pork is very tender with a crispy coating, and the half-fried egg with Japanese dashi matches well with the fried pork. And good quality Japanese rice is used. Though Kobe is famous for Kobe beef, people should enjoy Katsu more!
Wakayama: Saizenin (西禅院)
It's possible to stay in a temple in Kouyasan, Wakayama. The place is very different from normal accommodation. You will experience a calm atmosphere, have breakfast served by a monk to your room, join a morning praying session in a totally quite place. If you're lucky, the monk may be a handsome one! Saizenin is very reasonable and a good place to understand unique Japanese Buddhism.
Wakayama: Kumano Kodo
There are only 2 routes in the world registered under the UNESCO World Heritage. Kumano kodo is one of them (another is Way of St. James in Spain). For more than 1,000 years, people from all levels of society have made the arduous pilgrimage to Kumano. Walking the ancient Kumano Kodo is a fantastic way to experience the unique cultural landscape of Kumano's spiritual countryside. Start your trip from Katsuura station, which is 4hrs from Osaka station.
Wakayama: Mount Koya
In Japan, it's possible to book a stay in a temple like how you do so for a hotel or guest house. In Mount Koya, or Koyasan, there are many temples for visitors. Many of us are very busy with many things in our daily life, so it'll be meaningful to find some time for ourselves in a temple. You can also join a meditation session with monks there. It's hard to find a temple for stay in major websites for accommodation so please check out the link below. Kouyasan is 1 hr by train from Osaka.
Shiga: Biwa Lake
Biwa Lake, or Biwa-ko, is the biggest lake in Japan (almost the size of Singapore). There is a big firework festival at Biwa Lake on 8th August every year. Reflection of the fireworks on this lake is breathtaking. It's very near from Kyoto, so you can drop by this lake when you travel Kyoto (even if there's no fireworks, of course).
Nara: Nara Park
Its easy to become friends with deer... People want money, and deer want special senbei for deer. Just second you buy it, deers huddle round you and beg it from you. And if you dont give it, then some of them starts to bow to you! Even deers are Japanese here. I hope you can feel peaceful relationship with people and deers :)
Nara Food: Kakinoha Sushi
Instead of nori (seaweed), Kakinoha Sushi is wrapped in a persimmon leaf (Kaki means persimmon, ha means leaf). This sushi has a nice flavour of persimmon leaf. Usually, mackerel, salmon and a kind of sea bream are used for this type of sushi. The best season to eat this is from September to December as persimmon leaf is picked during this period.
Wakayama Food: Buddhist Cuisine
Buddhist Cuisine, or shojin ryori, is meal for monks, and it's a vegetarian meal. As there is limited selection of ingredients, they really work very hard to create delicious and nutritious meal without any meat and fish. It's possible to enjoy shojin ryori at some temples in Mount Koya in Wakayama.
Wakayama Food: Chuou Shokudo Sanpou
If you would like to try Monk's food, or seishin ryouri (精進料理) at a reasonable price outside of a temple in Mount Koya, Chuou Shokudo Sanpou is a good option. Though you can't eat any meat there, you will feel very satisfied by their filling meal.