Japan adventures – Osaka & Kyoto

by Diane on 12/01/2013

It’s been more than a month since we’ve returned from a trip to Japan, but somehow life seems to have got in the way of sitting down and writing about the amazing holiday we had. December was a pretty busy month, and after having been away for ten days we had to squeeze work, gardening, Christmas preparations and a New Year’s trip with friends (more about that later) into the remaining couple of days for the year. Today feels like the first day where I have the time to sit down and write about our trip. So, here we go:

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you might have noticed that Kai and I really like Japan. We’ve been to Tokyo in 2010 and it was clear that we would have to return to see more of the country. This time we’ve seen Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Fukuoka.

Map of Japan – this time we’ve been to Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima & Fukuoka.

Osaka

We really, really liked Osaka. It’s not quite as hectic as Tokyo, and although it’s a huge city, getting around isn’t too much of an issue. Our hotel was close to Osaka station, from where we could easily get around via train and subway.

We did lots of shopping, including regular visits to my favourite Japanese shop: Tokyu Hands. It’s a huge department store chain with a strong focus on all things crafty. They have heaps of stationery (yes, I had to get more post-its) and also a fantastic choice of kitchen tools and toys. This year I made my very own Christmas crackers for friends for the first time, and I got most of the tiny little gifts I put into them at Tokyu Hands. But we didn’t just go shopping, we spent a lot of time doing touristy things as well:

  • Pokemon Centre (which is basically a giant shop where you can get anything Pokemon related you can think of: games, toys, lollies, picnic baskets, books, cutlery… I don’t think there’s a single product that hasn’t been turned into Pokemon merchandise).
  • The German Christmas market: glühwein, baumkuchen and a Japanese boy band singing Wham’s Last Christmas. What more could you possibly want?
  • Osaka Castle: an impressive building in a great park – especially if you consider when it was built. It’s an absolute mystery to me how they cut some of the large stones that form the walls, and how they transported them to their destination, without having had the tools and vehicles we have today. The castle is home to a museum, wich was ok and enjoyable, but we’ve certainly seen better museums elsewhere.
  • Other tourist attractions: one day we got a special bus/subway/train ticket for visitors, that would give us free access and some discount vouchers for various destinations. We used it for a ferris wheel ride, to visit the Umeda Sky Building (which in itself would be worth a full blog post, with its giant escalators, the floating garden observatory and all its kitsch for couples in love) and a trip to Dōtonbori.
Pokemon Centre

Pokemon Centre

Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle

Dōtonbori

Dōtonbori

The craziest product we’ve seen (apart from the usual things like pegs to make your nose ‘look like Cleopatra’, skin whiteners and the famous toilets) was something we saw on TV: a muzzle for dogs which looks like a duck bill. It’s appropriately named ‘Quack‘.

Quack the muzzle

Quack the muzzle

Kyoto

While we were in Osaka, we also did a day trip to Kyoto. We took the Shinkansen, the super fast and super comfy Japanese bullet train, and it got us there faster than it would take to get from Karori to Porirua by public transport. We hadn’t done much planning for Kyoto, so on the night before the trip we decided to have a look at Narelle’s and Hadyn’s travel blog and just picked two of the awesome attractions they had visited when they were in Japan just a few weeks earlier. Yay for friends who explore great destinations for us!

The Manga Museum is based on a private collector’s donation of thousands of mangas. It’s a cute little museum, located in a former primary school, with plenty of opportunity to read or to create your own manga. My favourite part was a little show on historic story telling. In the old days story tellers would travel the country with large paintings, which they would show to children while telling a story that was based on the images. The whole show was in Japanese, but we still understood quite a lot, and it was heaps of fun.

Here’s the manga Kai made about our first date:

Kai made a manga about our first date (roughly 20 years ago).

Kai made a manga about our first date (roughly 20 years ago).

In the afternoon we visited the Nishijin Textile Centre. It’s a mix of museum, kimono show and shop, with the most fascinating part being the silk worms, which you could watch doing their silk wormy work.

Silk worms at work

Silk worms at work

Kyoto is even quieter than Osaka. It was a nice and relaxing day, and the wintery cold and christmassy atmosphere made this trip one of the highlights of our journey. Oh, and they also had a steam cream shop. Really, an entire shop full of all the awesome tin designs of my all time favourite hand cream. Looking back I should have bought way more than just two tins!

Steam Cream shop!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Iris January 12, 2013 at 11:05 pm

Sounds amazing, Diane – Japan has never been on my wish-list so far, but now I’m curious – really seems worth a visit! Belated happy New Year!

Jen October 28, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Sounds like you had a great time both in Osaka and Kyoto. We have visited both cities too, but I always feel like there isn’t enough time. There’s just too much to see. I hope to go back again soon. :)

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