We spent most of our time in Osaka and Kyoto, but did get to explore a little bit of the surrounding areas. There’s just so much to see and experience I feel like we barely even got a start on it!
– Otsu: A very short train ride from Kyoto. I would like to return to this little town and explore some of the temples there, especially the ones up the mountain, but we went to Otsu on this trip for a particular reason: I wanted to see Lake Biwa. I had read Dr. Junichi Saga’s book Memories of Silk and Straw and Lake Biwa was a central point mentioned time and time again in the stories he recorded from residents who remembered living and working in rural Japan before modernization occurred. After reading all of these stories I really wanted to see the lake for myself and connect it all in my head, so we planned to take a daytime cruise there.
I loved it. This is the boat we took, the Michigan, and it was an absolutely lovely, relaxing, hour and a half tour across the water. There were some games and sing-alongs on board hosted by a gentleman that I felt like could have been a modern-day, very charismatic pirate (I mean this in a good way), but my Japanese wasn’t strong enough to participate and that’s okay, I mostly just wanted to see the lake anyway. Continue reading →
On to Kyoto, where we spent the majority of our trip and still had only barely begun to see the incredible city.
View from the rooftop of our apartment building
We rented an apartment in the Higashiyama area, only a moment’s walk from Gion. There was so much to see and do from here without ever even stepping on train or bus, but both modes of transportation remained easily accessible for the times when we did venture further out.
Our first day just consisted of us moving ourselves and our luggage from Osaka to Kyoto via two separate trains and two separate taxis. It was very different than managing such a move in America, but we did it! Despite having bought many lovely things in Osaka which meant our luggage had very much increased in size. (We would end up buying another full sized suitcase in Kyoto and another carry-on in Kansai Airport before going home… and that was after I had already packed one suitcase inside another on our way to Japan, knowing we’d need the extra space!)
Our first full day in Kyoto, however, was timed so we wouldn’t miss the magnificent procession of the Aoi Matsuri, or Hollyhock Festival. Continue reading →
For my first trip to Japan we decided to stay in the Kansai region. South of Tokyo, this is where you’ll find Osaka and Kyoto. I hope to visit Japan many times in my life and see many faces of it, but I planned my first trip as if it were my only one since nothing is ever guaranteed. I wanted to see the traditional side and the historical side of Japan more than the modern, so to Kansai we went.
We spent most of our first week in Osaka, staying at Hotel New Otani Osaka because it was both near a JR train station, making it easy to get around, but also because it was directly across from Osaka Castle and the surrounding park. The hotel was incredible. The staff made our first days in country wonderful, helping us get our bearings in the new culture and giving us an incredibly beautiful and comfortable place to stay. I mean… who can possibly deny this view? I spent time every day sitting in this window, loving on the view and watching the crowds below. When it came time for us to move to Kyoto I was already very sad to leave this behind.
Osaka Castle was one of the very first things we visited in Japan. Our first day we mostly spent exploring Osaka JR Station because it was rainy and while I wasn’t really all that jetlagged, hubby was. There was more than enough there alone to spend a very full afternoon. (My first purchase in Japan? An umbrella! A lovely mint green with white polka dots umbrella.) Continue reading →