Japan Family Trip
05.04.2012 - 11.04.2012 12 °C
So this particular family trip, otherwise known as "eating sprees", was originally scheduled for my grandfather's birthday in April last year (88, lucky number), however we cancelled it due to the nuclear disaster occuring a few weeks before we were scheduled to leave. So instead we went this year, celebrating grandpa's 89th birthday. There were 3 generations of family members present, 17 of us in total.
As you can imagine, there were times that it became a bit frustrating gathering everyone together at the same time, but we made it through the week without any major brawls. We based ourselves in Osaka, but as we only had a few scheduled "family time" events, we were able to wander around Osaka or take the train to Kyoto daily to explore.
During the trip we of course encountered many great restaurants, although the street food was equally appetising. The temples were great, although there were a couple of stand outs for me. To get from Osaka to Kyoto I walked to the Osaka station, bought a 540yen ticket (one way), and caught the fast train (~30 mins) to Kyoto Station. From there you can either switch lines for another train, depending on where you want to go, or catch a taxi or bus from outside the station.
Kingkakuji, or the "golden temple" is impressive, but if you have limited time, I much prefered my visit to Kiyumizudeira and Kodaiji. Kiyumizudeira is up on a hill, the temple provides beautiful panoramic views, and nice tranquil gardens, but the highlight by far is the short walk up the hill, with tantilizing food stalls on either side. Recommendation: Don't eat before you go, as you'll have ample opportunity to sample the local wares. Food available includes roasted japanese crackers, green tea or vanilla custard buns, traditional or green tea steamed buns, mochi, soft icecream, Takoyaki(octopus balls), and lots of other options.
After checking out the kiyumizu temple, I took a stroll down a small alleyway (on your right as you go down the hill, just opposite to the steamed bun stall), and it leads you down quaint cobbled streets, with some food stalls, and other shophouses selling small handmade nicknacks and other souveniors. I even got a chance to see a few groups of geishas perusing the shops.
You'll reach a sign after about 10-15 mins leading to kodaiji temple. It's a small temple, with a pricier entrance fee compared with other temples, but well worth it if you have the time. The temple hosts some very picturesque gardens, and an amazing zen garden you could spend a good 20 minutes just looking at.
Continue on your original path, which will lead you to the famous cherry blossom walk (amazing in April if you are lucky enough to catch it in full bloom). To get back, simply continue on till you reach the main road. The road directly opposite is shijo-dori (4th street), where you will find all the famous boutiques and department stalls, and further on (about 10 mins walk) the main shopping market.
If you care to venture even further out, either take the train (JR line) direct from Kyoto station, or if you're already in the center then catch the tram from shio-omiya station out west to arashiyama. The tram gives you a more scenic route, and is the only working tram left in Kyoto city. Once in Arashiyama, you can take a walk through the gardens, venture into the bamboo forest, or climb the hill in Iwatagama park to get a picture of the panoramic view of Kyoto. If you're up for a little more adventure, I took the train up furthur north, and caught a long boat down the small rapids back to Arashiyama. It gives u nice views, with the blossoms in bloom on both sides of the river, but at times I did get a bit wet and the water was freezing!
All in all it was a great trip!!!