Saturday, June 16, 2012

Japan : Kyoto/Osaka - Day 5

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Japan (Osaka & Kyoto) May 5th-11th 2012

Day 5 - Kyoto / Nara / Osaka (9th May 2012)

After Day 4's  hectic shedule, I hoped that the girls' had planned for a less hectic today. But I was wrong. The morning will be spent in Kyoto, after lunch a day trip to Nara and after that to Osaka for the rest of our stay.

Nijo Castle

Corner Annex Tower at Nijo Castle
Not having seen any castles on our trip, we change our plans to see one. We had wanted to visit the Kyoto Imperial palace, but that needed an application one day earlier. Pity.
So we made do with Nijo Castle, the Shogun's one. It was not as impressive as the Imperial Catle, but the buildings were quite interestingly built from wood & not stone.
The castle's proper was surrounded by a moat, with a nice annex tower at each corner.

Nijo Samurais in attendance of the Shogun
To enter the main castle, we had to take our shoe's off - this is to maintain the timber flooring. We had earlier been briefed (by Amie-san of the walking tour) that the flooring can sing, and is called the Nightingale Floor. As we walked, the timber indeed creaked to a certain melody. Actually, this is a sort of alarm system in case ninjas stealthily entered the castle at night.

Nijo castle from the View Tower

Onwards to Nara
Nishiki Pickles
After seeing the castle, the girls wanted to do some marketing, and we headed back to Nishiki Market. The girls picked up pickles, spiced tael seeds, mini-anchovies, etc. We had lunch there, then went back to the hotel to pick up our luggage, and headed for Nara!

Lugging our luggage behind us we proceeded to the Sanjo Station. By now we were more familiar, and using the back/side alleys, it took us only 5 mins. to reach.

My phobia of the railway returned. Japanese railway stations are large and interconnected. So there will be several levels and multi-platforms. My advice to travelers is to ask around and make sure you get the right level and platform. Do some internet research prior to your trip. Now I am talking like an expert. Hah!

Todaiji Temple, Nara

The Todaiji Temple, Nara
We took a 45 min. JR train ride to JR Nara station, left our luggage there and boarded a cab to the Todaiji Temple. The temple is old, with construction starting around 1,500 years ago.

An imposing Todaiji
The Todaiji is immense and tall. It stands about 10-stories high. It looks gigantic sitting on its large lawn which is purposely devoid of many trees.

The temples is within the larger Nara park. A tree-line boulevard leads from the main road to the entrance gate. Along this boulevard just before the temple gate, stalls can be seen selling souvenirs and crackers.
Lynn wanted some snacks and approached a cracker stall to buy some. Oops! These crackers are not for human consumption but for the deer living just outside the temple walls.

Yes, there are deer within Nara Park. They are tame and friendly. But sometimes overly friendly, as Cheong found out. One came next to him and started nuzzling his ears.

As we left the park, it started to rain. Quickly we grabbed a taxi back to JR Nara Station where we had a quick burger snack at Mos Burger.

Dotonbori, Osaka

Dotonbori Hotel Signature Figure Heads
We had wanted to take the faster Kintetsu train back to Osaka but then our luggage was at the JR Station. So it was the JR train to Osaka then - a 45 mins. ride.

Nose Picking at Dotonbori Hotel
Getting down at the Osaka Namba Station, we took a 5 min. walk over to and checked into the Dotonbori Hotel (see review). This hotel  has unique, easily recognizable figure-heads as its front facade.
I just couldn't help it but poke my hand to nose-pick one of the heads. Cheeky me!

We took a short snooze and a quick bath an were then ready for :

Dotonbori Street

Bright Entrance Arch at Dotonbori Street
It was dark by the time we got out - just nice to experience Dotonbori. The girls had chosen the hotel well, the exciting and vibrant Dotonbori Street was just 2mins. walk down the road. Dotonbori in Osaka seems so lively, a good balance to our time in sedentary but beautiful Kyoto. Pontocho Alley  in Kyoto could be vibrant, but then Dotonbori Street just over-shadows it with it's bright, glitzy neon lights.

Once past the entrance arch, the mesmerizing neon lights seem all around - to the left, right, center and also above.

On each side of the street, the brightly lit shops seems to compete with one another to grab our attention, beckoning to us like the fabled sirens.
They were ingenious in their startling designs.

Dragons above a ramen shop.

A Raccoon  for a Japanese restaurant.

Giant Octopus for the shop selling Osaka's renown Takoyaki (Octopus Ball Dumplings).

Puffer Fish hanging above the shop selling the infamous Fugu fish.

And a crab with waving arms for the seafood shop specializing in crabs (what else?)

Satsumakko Ramen Shop
Taking a break, we stopped at Satsumakko for dinner.

Tonkotsu Ramen
Dinner was Tonkotsu Ramen and sake. Although slightly more expensive, it was a huge bowl with lots of sliced barbecued pork - enough to feed two. Me & Lynn shared one like two teenagers out on their first date.
The soup was tasty; the pork was tender with a nice strip of fat and just slightly over-burnt to bring out flavor. (See Food Review)

And this time .... Cheong was the one who got hooked on this.

Panchiko! Punch-it-Go?
Our stomachs filled with the delicious ramen, we continued our stroll down the street, and passed by:
a panchiko shop.

Okonomiyaki - Osaka's famous omelet
Bought some of the famous Osaka omelet, okonomiyaki for supper.

Passed a stall with pretty red lanterns selling takoyaki .

And finally clowned around.

Related Blogs :

Japan : Kyoto/Osaka - Day 1 & 2

Japan : Kyoto/Osaka - Day 3

You may also be interested in :

China-Yunnan Day 1

You are at - Jotaro's Blog / Footsteps / Kyoto Day 1& 2 / 03 / 04 / 05      |     Jump To - Day 06 / 07
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  1. Hey Joe, Great tips, going to be useful in our holiday planning. The rail system is giving me a lot of concerns too. Which apps did you find most helpful?

    1. Hi Joolian,

      For the railway, we used Hyperdia
      Do plan you destinations and use it to check the right train to take, this will give you an idea of which train to take.
      Do remember that sometimes there are two trains to the same destination within five minutes, one would be a direct one whilst the other could have multi-stops or a slight detour.
      Initially we were awed and worried about the train systems, but bear in mind that you should not be shy to ask the locals. There are really a helpful lot.

      Have you read my Travel Tips for Osaka & Kyoto, it does give some other helpful tips & includes some maps :-

      Hope this helps & Happy Travelling!

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