Part 1 of this Post
Japan has an extensive but confusing railway system. It encompasses all if not most of Japan so wherever you want go, its all reachable by train. Each city has its own subway system as well so you don’t really need to get a taxi in most places. If you are thinking of travelling around Japan for some time, the Japan Rail (JR) does have special passes that will help you save money. Keep in mind though these passes won’t work (I believe) at local city subways.
Starting off our journey to Osaka and Kyoto, My girlfriend and I arrived at the Kansai International Airport (Osaka). We decided to go to Kyoto first and work out way back so after landing we immediately headed towards the train station conveniently located next to the airport (just follow the signs). To get to Kyoto, there are many options, one is direct, which is more expensive, and then there the local stops trains. (We accidentally took the direct line so had to pay much more.)
I will admit, it will be tricky and confusing at first but once you figure out where you are going, things get easier. Also if you ever have questions, many of the staff at the stations speak some semblance of English and will be more then happy to help point you in the right direction.
There is no ride sharing service in Kyoto or Osaka so taxis are your best bet. I would recommend having the directions written down in Japanese, have it pulled up on your phone or on a map to show to the drivers.
Staying in Japan
For Kyoto, my girlfriend and I decided to try the traditional Japanese hotel experience, booked through AirBnb. This involves sleeping on a tatami mat and on the floor. In Osaka, we went with a budget hotel (still pretty nice but very cramped). I highly recommend booking early since areas like Kyoto are popular tourist sights and rooms go fast, especially the better priced ones. If you don’t want to book through Airbnb, there are plenty of budget hotels at reasonable prices.
Things to Do
Address: 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 612-0882, Japan
The head shrine of the Japanese God of Rice and Business. This is one of the more popular shrines to visit, involves a lot of steps and arches.
Highly recommend this one if you are interested in the Samurai (Japanese warrior class) and their history. My girlfriend found this on Airbnb actually, where a group of actual Iaido practitioners (a sword drawing martial art) takes you on what they call a “Samurai Experience”. At an actual samurai house, they take you through the history of the samurais and the history of the house. After that, you are given a chance to practice cutting a bamboo pole. It was an awesome experience, one worth checking out in my opinion
Ramen Factory: Make Your Own Ramen
Another Airbnb recommended event in Kyoto. Ramen Factory hosts short seminars on how to make ramen. About an hour long, they have all the ingredients and tools prepared in advanced, all you have to do is show up and follow the instructions. If you like ramen and are interested in how it is made, definitely sign up for it.
I personally didn’t stop by one of these cafe’s (only gave it a passing glance) but Japan has plenty of them. Some I hear are pretty good whereas others may just be glorified petting stores. I would do some research first before going into one.
Address: Japan, 〒600-8505 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Shimogyo Ward, 七条上る常葉町７５４ Karasuma Dori
A massive Buddhist temple established in 1602 by the shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu. Has some great history and art.
Address: 541 Nijojocho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 604-8301, Japan
Another Buddhist temple that holds Japan’s oldest “sanmon” (type of gate). It is one of Japan’s National Treasures.
Address: 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 540-0002, Japan
Osaka castle is one of Japan’s most famous historical land marks. A vast plot of land that offers a plethora of 16th century Japanese unification history,
Places To Eat
Address: Higashishiokoji Kamadonocho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 600-8216, Japan
Close to the Kyoto train station. This restaurant is small but has great ramen.
Address: Nishinokyo Nanseicho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 604-8412, Japan
A long street that has a lot of stores and restaurants. Close by to Osaka Castle so can be put together on the visiting agenda.
Address: Japan, 〒604-8054 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, 富小路通四条上る西大文字町609番地
Located in downtown Kyoto, this marketplace is one straight road of stores selling food and other goods. It gets extremely crowded but I would take the time to go visit and try out the local delicacies.
Overall a great trip and a great experience. My plan is to definitely go back, see other parts of Japan, and train at different schools. It is always interesting to see the difference in local culture as well as how BJJ is taught/practiced. If any questions about visiting Kyoto and Osaka, don’t hesitate to contact me! Be more then happy to give you more insights.