Kyoto and Osaka, Japan

Wow, what a trip to Japan! Strap in your seat because this is a long one (we are too lazy to split it up into multiple posts). The trip functioned as a visa run, which basically was a way to extend our time in Taiwan without having to mess with getting a real visa. We took the opportunity to make it into a mini vacation!

We flew into Kyoto on Vera’s birthday and eventually reached our Airbnb apartment after weaving through the elaborate train system and a 20 minute walk in 55 degree weather. This does not seem cold but remember we were used to 95 degree weather for the past 3 months so it was a bit of a shock to the system. It was also a little scary with 2 little ones in the dark meandering through side streets, but we always felt safe. 

What attracted us to the apartment was its traditional Japanese styling, right down to sleeping on the floor, tea drink area, straw floor mats, and paper/wood window screens. The one room apartment was very cozy, and eventually Ellie got used to “Vera-zilla” ruining everything (imagine a giant Vera in slow-motion destroying a Lego city or knocking the tablet down).

The only draw back was that it was on the 3rd floor and there was no elevator which meant carrying the stroller up and down every day, twice a day, for 2 weeks. One important perk was the close location to 2 different train stations. Here is a picture of Kyoto station and the girls waiting for the train to arrive:

 

Japan takes their trains very seriously and many stations have a huge mall attached. I’ve traveled through my share of public transit in the US and Europe, and never have I ever encountered so many different types of trains owned by different train companies that spider webbed through a city. Here is a side by side of the Kaohsiung, Taiwan transportation system, and Osaka/Kyoto area transportation system.

 

Moreover, each of these colored lines have 3 separate trains at different speeds that stop at only certain stops (There are Local trains, Rapid trains, and Special Rapid trains). This makes it very efficient for the local who knows which train to get on but it can be a nightmare for the casual tourist. Seeing how many men and women in business suits were shuffling through trying to get home from work at 9:30PM on a Wednesday night was quite the sight to see.

In the morning we set out to explore the surroundings and immediately noticed how clean and tidy everything was. The sidewalks were manicured, the air was clean, the noise was at a minimum.

We were within 5 minutes of a very large mall, and therefore ended up using it every day to stock up on fresh bakery items for breakfast or baby food for Vera before heading out for the day. At the top of our list was Arashiyama Bamboo forest.

Here are some pictures of the surrounding area and a video Ly took of us walking up to the forest. However as soon as we got to the food she stopped recording for the rest of the walk..which is why there is no video of the forest!

It’s hard to describe the feeling of standing inside this forest. It’s quiet, serene, and just amazing to look up and see nothing but bamboo all around you. It’s hard to see from the pictures, but many of the bamboo trunks were so big I couldn’t even get my hand around them. Also, there wasn’t a single other kind of tree anywhere to be seen in the forest, leaving you to wonder how it was even possible.

The passersby wearing their kimonos made it even more scenic and unique. This explains the picture below that we took with Ellie and a group of girls wearing kimonos.

Next was Fushimi-Inari Shrine. It’s the most important Shinto (God of Rice) shrine that is famous for its torii gates. It normally takes 2 hours to climb through them all but we were stopped short by our wonderful daughter who wanted nothing of it. 🙂 Enter Ly’s handy camera work:

On Halloween night we checked out Dotonbori in Osaka, which was quite the experience. Only this video could show you what we experienced because it reminded us of NYC Times Square!

It was so crowded we had a hard time navigating through with the stroller. During our walk we met some interesting characters dressed up in all kinds of costumes, and everyone was taking pictures of everyone else. In the picture on the left you can see a canal which runs through the city and also the iconic “running man” display that Osaka is well known for.

Kiyomizu-Dera Temple was one of the cooler temples we were able to see. Here’s a video that Ly put together:

More pics of the temple and an outdoor eatery for food and tea. Notice you sit on mats on an elevated platform instead of using chairs.

 

We loved the food – In fact, we basically were able to eat traditional ramen or sushi & sashimi every day we were there. We also tried some traditional Takoyaki (seafood balls made of all-kinds-of-things with all-kinds-of-things on top). In addition, everything in the shops had matcha or green tea in it – from ice cream to sweets to green tea noodles to actual green teas.

We tried to balance adult temple and night life activities with play areas. After arriving, we determined that the kids wouldn’t really have much fun in a big Disney Land or Lego Land type environment with long lines, so we stuck with the smaller play areas. This turned out to be a much better experience for them and included the Osaka Aquarium and Osaka Kids Plaza.

Kyoto Railway Museum: Ellie loves trains so we took her to the train museum. They have many different kinds of trains and many train related activities for adults and kids.

Ellie as a Kyoto firefighter outside the train museum.

Osaka Kids Plaza where Ellie dresses up in a traditional Korean Hanbok and Vera trying to crawl across a suspended rope bridge, Osaka Aquarium, and a giant size Lego Giraffe.

Ly was inspired by all the Doraemon everywhere, afterall we were visiting the country he was created in! For those that don’t know, Doraemon is a blue robot cat from the future that was sent back in time by it’s owner to when his grandfather was a child in order to correct his uber-lazy ways and ultimately prevent his future family generations from tail spinning out of control. Got that? To top it off, any gadget the cat desires can be pulled out of his magic pocket. Along with this came MANY Doraemon purchases to bring a little piece of that nostalgia home with us, including a 10 volume series of the original comic books in Japanese/English!

With only a few days left, we went to Nara Park to visit the Tojai-di temple with giant Buddha statue and for Ellie to feed some deer! She was scared at first because of the deer’s aggressive pursuit of deer cookies. They stopped at nothing to get them, which included yanking the airline tag off of our stroller and map of the park and proceeded to eat them both. Later we got to some calmer deer and Ellie enjoyed feeding them.

Kimono “forest” which was a beautiful trail of light posts made from different kimono fabrics and a random picture of us in front of a shopping corridor.

 

During our journey, I also had my eye out for Yamazaki Whiskey, which won an award in 2013 for best whiskey in the world. Ever since then it has been getting harder and harder to find. After 2 weeks of searching I eventually found a bottle of 2016 Limited Edition! We also came across this winter melon which, for whatever reason, costs an astonishing $20 (We didn’t try it)!

Kudos if you made it here to the end! Coming up on the next blog post: Taipei

2 respuestas en “Kyoto and Osaka, Japan”

Neil,
It’s fun seeing your year long family adventure. It’s fun seeing all the sights and foods you are experiencing. My family lived in Japan for 3 years when I was very young and it’s great seeing your girls enjoy this experience. I have fond memories of our family time there.

Hey Susan!! Great to hear from you. I had no idea you lived in Japan for 3 years! I hope it does produce fond memories for them as well. It is a little difficult without friends or extended family but they are handling it great so far. Hopefully we can all get together for lunch again when I get back! Take care.

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