A First-Timer's 2-Day Itinerary in Kansai Area

Friday, July 1, 2016

Kansai area, especially Kyoto will always be one of my favorite places to go to during autumn in Japan. So autumn last year, together with the sister, I brought her to some tourist spots in Nara, Osaka and Kyoto. 2 days is not enough to visit Kansai area so we sum up this trip on some famous places and landmarks a first-timer should go (in this case, my sister). After all, there's a reason to come back, right? Well, Kansai is just an hour ride from Nagoya through shinkansen and merely 3 hours through ordinary train ride.
We traveled by an ordinary train for 3 hours and head on to Nara. There are so many heritage sites in Nara but we chose the Todaiji temple where one of the biggest Buddha statue in Japan is located. This is also the place where herd of deer are. You can feed, touch and get a picture with them. Just be careful when touching those. Some are naughty, some are nice.
Todaiji temple is the landmark of Nara. You can't go home without visiting this famous temple when you're in Nara. This temple houses the 15 meters tall seated bronze Buddha. An entrance fee of 500JPY is necessary for you to be able to enter the temple and be amazed of the beauty of this site together with other tourists.

Around the area near Todaiji temple is the Nara park where you can see, touch, and feed deer. There are many of them so don't worry if there are many tourists around also playing with these animals. You can feed them with senbei for 150JPY. Just be careful when feeding them. Once they see you holding their food, they will approach you and will try to get their food. Not only one but a couple of them. You should have courage to face them all! LOL... 

After all the walks and side trips in Nara, we went back to Osaka for us to check-in at our booked hotel via Booking.com. We stayed for 2 nights for 8,400JPY at Hotel Shin-Imamiya located 50m from Shin-Imamiya station. Upon checking in, we had some rest for a while and preparing for our next route bound to Namba, Osaka to spend our night and cap off our first night.
Namba is a famous city in Osaka for its entertainment, dining and shopping choices. So for our dinner, we went to Dotonbori and ate authentic ramen at one the ramen houses located in Dotonbori street. Again, you will be surrounded with a flock of tourists left and right. Here, you can take a picture of the Kani Doraku crab sign of a famous restaurant in this area. Along the bridge side, you can take a picture of the famous Glico running man as the background. Before going back to our hotel to take a rest and prepare for another day tomorrow, we enter some shops for window shopping. Forever 21, H&M and the like. You can shop till you drop at one these shops located in the area.
For the next day, from Osaka we head ourselves to the former capital of Japan, Kyoto early in the morning. Despite our earliness, still, there were already bunch of people in the train going to Kyoto. You can't finish visiting Kyoto for just a day but it doesn't mean you can't enjoy your day here. For just a day, we were able to go to 4 famous sites in Kyoto. Included in the list are the Kiyomizudera temple, the Golden Pavilion, the bamboo groves in Arashiyama and the Fushimi Inari Shrine. With our 500JPY ride-all-you-can of the Kyoto bus, we were able to go to these places in 1 day. It will save you a lot of moolah. You can buy these 1-day pass along the vending machines located near the bus stops.
We first head on to Kiyomizudera temple. This temple is now a UNESCO World Heritage site so expect people from different parts of the world with the same purpose as you. This is a great place for sakura viewing during spring and watching those maple leaves turn into their red-orange color during autumn. By the way, during these seasons, there will be an illumination during a period of time and see the beauty of it during the night with the wooden temple as the background. For 400JPY, you can enjoy sightseeing around the area.
Next on the list is the Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion). It is a 2-storey zen temple made of gold leaf. It is located in a large pond where the viewers can view its beauty. This is also a site in Kyoto packed with tourists and Japanese alike. After the viewing, you will pass stalls that sells good luck charm for every aspects in life. It may be for your health, schooling, love life, driving, etc. You can also rest for a while on one of the tea garden in the area and feel the Japanese vibe while sipping a cup of green tea and eating Japanese treats.
Before heading to Arashiyama, where the famous bamboo grove is located, we had some side trips along the way and arrived late in the afternoon. We walk along the middle of those straight and tall Japanese bamboos. The sister was awed by the place and took pictures like there's no tomorrow. Even I already saw it, me, myself is still in awe every time I see this sight. So beautiful and amazing, you better see it with your own eyes. My picture will not give justice to its beauty. There are also other places to visit in Arashiyama area like the Tenryuji temple and Togetsukyo bridge.
After spending hours in Arashiyama area, we head ourselves to Fushimi Inari shrine before calling the day off. Since it is autumn that time, it gets dark early so we didn't enjoy that much in the area. Because I guess, it is better to see those thousands of vermillion torii gates in the day. But still, since it is the first time of the sister, we took the opportunity of being there, hence the picture of the sister below. By the way, this shrine is dedicated to Inari, the god of rice. It is believed that foxes are the messengers of Inari, that's why the shrine is full of fox statues. Also, this shrine serves as the entrance to the summit of Mt. Inari where you hike up to the summit inside these torii gates.

You may also read my previous Nara/Osaka/Kyoto posts HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Access and Opening Hours
Todaiji Temple (Daibutsuden Hall)
It is a 30 minute walk from JR Kintetsu Nara station or 45 minute walk from JR Nara station. You can also ride the bus from either stations and get off at Todaiji Daibutsuden and from there, you will walk 5-10 minutes. There are no closing days for the Daibutsuden Hall but be conscious of these times depending on the season. 
From November to February, 8:00 am - 4:30 pm. 
During the month of March, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm. 
From April to September, 7:30 am - 5:30 pm.
Whole month of October, it will be 7:30 am - 5:00 pm.

You can reach Dotonbori by walking from Namba station. From Osaka station, you can take a direct train from the Midosuji subway line for 240JPY. Since Dotonbori is for nightlife purposes, some of the shops and restaurants here are open 24 hours.

Kiyomizudera Temple
From Kyoto station, ride the bus number 100 or 206 and get off at Kiyomizu-michi bus stop for 230JPY or just present your 1-day pass card and then an uphill 10 minute walk to reach the site. You can also walk 20 minutes from Kiyomizu-Gojo station via the Keihan Railway line. They are open from 6:00 am - 6:00 pm (until 6:30 pm on weekends and holidays and until 9:00 pm during spring and fall illuminations).

Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) Temple
From Kyoto station, take the Kyoto City bus number 101 or 205 and get off at Kinkakuji for 230JPY. The temple is open everyday of the year from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm for 400JPY as entrance fee.

Arashiyama Bamboo Groves
For a faster route, better ride a train via JR Sagano line and get off at Saga-Arashiyama station for 240JPY. From there, the sight is a 5-10 minute walk.

Fushimi Inari Shrine
From Kyoto station, take the JR Nara line to Inari station for 140JPY and the shrine is a short walk from there. It is free and always open day and night.

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