A Night in Narita Airport
Because Air Canada is one of the worst airline ever (I have never had a positive experience flying with them) – especially their international flights. Our schedule was changed and we were not able to make our connecting flight into Osaka (even though I had booked my flight 3 months ahead, the schedule changed resulted in us spending a full day in Narita Airport) The only positive about staying the night in an airport is that Narita Airport is home to my favourite stationery store Traveler’s Factory
We stayed at 9hr Capsule Hotel It was the first time I have ever stayed in the much hyped “Capsule” style hotel in Japan. When I was in Tokyo a couple of years ago, I wanted to try it but did not end up doing it. The capsule pod was quite “roomy” – clean and neat. I had earplugs so the noise of people coming in and out or their phone alarms going off did not bother me. The pods don’t have lock doors (it is illegal to have capsule hotel rooms locked apparently) I felt safe anyways and my luggage were locked up in lockers just outside.
We had Kaiseki style lunch that was delicious. I think Kaiseki is my new favorite cuisine. My brother spent a lot of time browsing through the rows of Gachapon machines trying his luck. I got some postcards, stickers and pins from a store that carry a lot of Yoshitomo Nara items (one of my favourite artists)
We had some sushi in a restaurant by the observation deck of Narita Airport, it was chilly and damp with some drizzling, but I went outside and saw planes take off. The sound and the wind…it gave me this indescribable feeling…that makes me excited to watch the next plane take off, again and again.
Our luck with airplanes turned around when we surprisingly got upgraded to First Class with ANA on our flight to Osaka. The flight time was only about an hour (I wish it was longer!) There was a bit of a delay which was alright with me because I got to lie down to have a nap.
Our AirBnB Apartment in Osaka
We stayed at an Airbnb apartment in Osaka for my trip to Japan this time. The apartment was small and minimalistic. The kind of apartment that a single person could afford in order to live in Japan. It was nearby a grocery store but on a quiet street with little traffic. We picked up the key at the apartment mailbox (we did not have to meet the host) It was like fulfilling a small dream of living in Japan in my own little apartment for 10 days.
I was told by my Penpals that the weather in March can be unsettling. We got lucky and the weather was very comfortable. It was cool in the morning and evenings but sunny and fair during the day. It only rained on the last day we were there (I like to think that was because Japan was sad that I was leaving…the same thing happened last time when I was in Europe, It rained on the last day of my trip)
Our first day in Osaka we walked around the Namba area and ate some yummy food. We had more sushi with grilling our own fresh shellfish (razor clams, surf clams, giant scallops…) Eating Takoyakis and Fried Chicken walking around browsing at all the shops along the way.
Osaka Specialty: Rikuro Ojisan’s Fresh Baked Jiggly Cheesecake
When I read about it on a Foodie’s blog, I had to have this Jiggly Cheesecake. I was lucky enough to get a number before it was sold out for the hour. I tried eating the whole thing myself because my brother wouldn’t share it with me (I managed a good portion of it). At the bottom of the cake are raisons.
Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine (伏見稲荷大社) in Kyoto was on my bucket list of places to visit. Kyoto and its historical Japanese sights were my favourite part of my trip to Japan. The thousands of Torii gates (鳥居) were beautiful to walk under. I also found out that my favourite Kitsune Udon is actually “Fox Udon” That sweet piece of fried tofu in my Kitsune Udon that I love so much is a treat favoured by the Foxes (Kitsune) – the messengers of Inari (the God of Rice) The Foxes are everywhere through out the Shrine, Inari’s Foxes were generally considered helpful but they have also been said to bewitch people. My brother wanted to come back here at night to see if those stories were true.
At Fushimi Inari, I got a Omikuji – #18 – a blessing, so I took it home with me. I can understand some of the Kanji characters but other than that I kindly asked my Japanese Penpal to translate it for me. My favourite thing to do at Shrines and Temples is to get my fortune from shaking the wooden box. I even got a miniature keychain version that I carry around with me…
We spent the night in Kyoto at Watazen Ryokan near the Fish Market. It was a lovely Ryokan in central Kyoto that did not cost a fortune compared to many other ones that I was looking at. Another thing checked off my bucket list was to stay in a Ryokan so I was happy. We were greeted warmly by the reception staff (a friendly and kind looking Japanese man with grey hair) – there was a wooden box (the same one you get a Omikuji from) to shake for a “welcome gift” – I drew and won some oil blotting paper, so did my brother so he gave me his as well.
The man at the reception took us to our room and a “housemaid” came in shortly after to greet us and showed us where things were kept and some housekeeping rules. I took the robes out of the closet to wear to use their public onsen. My brother tried to put the bedding together before we head out to get dinner (there were so many different sheets it got too complicated so we gave up) When we got back, the housemaid had made the beds for us and put water in the kettle for us to have hot tea. We watched some Sumo wrestling on TV (it was the week of Sumo tournament in Osaka, sadly we could not get advance tickets to go and did not have the time to get up early for rush seating)
We head out near the Gion (祇園) district at night for dinner. We finally found this restaurant that we read about that serves traditional Kaiseki Kyoto Dinner (what we did not realize and with the poor communication…the restaurant was near closing time and they only had one set dinner left in which my brother and I ended up having to share this small meal – and we were starving)
After our delicious but small meal, we headed down to Gion (street) to see if we can see any Geisha but of course it was already too late in the night and most of them are already at work. We walked by few nice tea houses and just saw a bunch of other tourists with cameras in hand like myself.
Before heading back to our Ryokan, we were hungry again because we had to share our last meal. We stopped by a place that serves Tonkatsu.
March was too early for viewing Cherry Blossoms, Ume Blossoms (梅) were just as beautiful even though it is not as popular as Hanami. Also, Ume Blossoms symbolizes three things: Beginning of Spring, Protection, and Spirit of Health. Ume trees were planted in the past to ward off demons and evils.
Being an avid manga reader, The Kyoto International Manga Museum was on my list of places to visit. There is a cafe there where famous Mangaka visits and drew on the wall. The food was fun to look at but not very good to eat.
After the museum, we walked over to Nijo Castle (二条城, Nijōjō) – a UNESCO heritage site. Built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period (1603-1867). We had a tour and saw how grand the residence looked inside the Ninomaru Palace.
I have been to numerous temples and shrines throughout my travels in China and Japan. When I was at the Kiyomizu-Dera Temple (清水寺), I felt a strange curiosity and eagerness to learn more about Buddhism (It was kinda creepy actually). Kiyomizu-Dera Temple is an independent Buddhist temple in eastern Kyoto. The temple is part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
My brother and I unknowingly wandered toward the “Love Stone” – the Jishu Shrine located above the main hall of Kiyomizu-dera; dedicated to Okuninushi, a god of love and matchmaking. In front of the shrine are two love stones 18 meters apart. Legend says that if you can find your way from one stone to the other with your eyes closed (no cheating) you will find true love. The place was PACKED with giggly women looking for true love.
I also stopped by here, Koyasu No To pagoda