The Osaka-Nara-Kyoto leg is my favourite part of our entire trip. There was so much beauty to see and take in. Unfortunately, it was also the most rushed part of our trip since as I’ve mentioned earlier, we were flying back to Manila from Tokyo. 💔 I will definitely come back and spend more time in Osaka.
DAY 1: I make it a point to schedule train rides at least 2 hours before the scheduled departure so we have ample time to segregate trash, do last-minute fixing/packing (although we pack everything the night before) and take the metro/subway with our all our luggage to the train station.
Checkout was at 10 am so a few minutes before that, we were out the door. Unfortunately, Higashi-Nakano station had no escalator or elevator so we had to carry our luggage through flights of stairs. A local saw me struggling to start carrying mine, surprisingly spoke to me in English and said, “Do you need help?” to which I said, “Yes, please.” and proceeded to carry my suitcase up the stairs. I replied with a, “Thank you very much” to which he said, “No problem.” I was so incredibly grateful for his kind deed but I think I was more stunned that he spoke to me in English and it was good English at that. Most people we’ve encountered have only spoken to us in Japanese, with the exception of service people in restaurants and shops who know enough for an exchange regarding transactions.
We arrived in Tokyo station within an hour and waited in Starbucks for another hour before departure. I was so impressed with their iced white chocolate mocha which was so rich and delicious. You can really taste the white chocolate! Unlike in the Philippines, you can only really taste the mocha or coffee with lesser quality, almost tasteless white chocolate. We then boarded the Shinkansen headed to Shin-Osaka towards Okanamaya. Note: For people with JR passes, you can take bullet trains without reserving seats but it isn’t guaranteed that there’s space so it’s best to reserve seats at any JR office to sit beside your companion.
It was roughly a 3 hour trip. Like most bullet trains, you’ll only have 1-2 minutes to get off so it’s best to stay awake at least 30 min before the estimated time of arrival. From Shin-Osaka, we took the metro to Osaka (Umeda) station. You can take any of the local trains since they all stop at Osaka station as per the signs in the station. Our Airbnb was located just 2 min away from Shin-Imamiya station, 1 stop away from Namba station which is a 5 min walk from Dotonbori. I chose this Airbnb because it had 5 star ratings for everything. It’s also right across a MEGA Don Quijote that closes at 5 am. It was very convenient. We visited the MEGA Don Q every night. Haha. After settling in, we headed to Dotonbori to see the sights and have dinner.
Dotonbori was magical! Like Shibuya, it was breathtaking at night. Wide & lit streets. Huge octopus, crab and dragon figures bursting out of the buildings. A plethora of food and amusement establishments. I was entranced.
We took photos with the Glico man and walked across the bridge to see the river. Everything was so alive and colorful.
Afterwards, we had dinner at a restaurant and grabbed some octopus takoyaki takeout.
The next day we decided to do the (almost) impossible: See Nara and Kyoto in one day!
DAY 2: We decided to take the JR Yamatoji line to Nara, approximately an hour ride. Then we took Bus #2 to Nara Park (~¥220). I actually left my jacket in the bus and after thinking of ways to retrieve it, just gave up on it completely.
We were told the deer are less aggressive in the morning so deer-feeding was first on our agenda. We bought deer cookie from an old woman selling them at ¥150.
Tip: Do not bring out and hold all of the cookies in your hands because they will, I repeat, they will bite and “attack” you! We experienced firsthand getting bitten by these otherwise tame creatures because of it. Haha. It didn’t hurt but they kind of slobbered all over our clothes. Eeeew!
Beforehand, we researched on how to properly feed deer. First, with one hand, you have to raise the cookie upwards (1st bow), hide it behind your back (2nd bow) and raise it upwards again (3rd bow). 3 bows is ideal. Although some of the younger deer who are more kulit. than the rest, would just bow their heads incessantly without prompt. Guess they’ve trained to sustain themselves through deer-feeding tourists. In my opinion, it’s better to feed the older ones because they’re easier to feed as they’re calmer and more tame.
Adjacent to Nara Park and along the way to the Todaiji temple stands the Nandaimon Gate, a large wooden 3-panel gate watched over by two huge & intense looking statues on each side that represent Nio Guardian Kings. Tōdaiji or “Great Eastern Temple” is considered a landmark of Nara and is one of Japan’s most important temples. Its main hall called the Daibutsuden (Big Buddha Hall) is the world’s largest wooden building and houses large bronze statues of Buddha. It costs ¥500 for viewing of the Daibutsuden (Big Buddha Hall) and ¥800 which includes the Museum as well. We chose the former given time constraints.
Another popular attraction is this pillar with a hole in its foundation that is allegedly the same size as the Daibutsu’s nostril. They say those who can squeeze through this opening will be granted enlightenment in their next life.
Afterwards, we went went back to the station via bus driven by a kind driver whom we spoke to about the jacket situation. We said we left it at around 9 am (it was already 12 pm then) and he proceeded to speak on a walkie-talkie. The whole ride back to the station, we weren’t sure if he had located it but when we went down we were told to wait…then to our surprise, a bus stops right in front of us and out comes my jacket! I was super happy! Haha. I’ve been told many times that Japan is the safest country in the world and I can surely attest to that. Back home, if you lose something, say BYE-BYE forever because there’s only a 50-50 (sometimes even lower depending on the worth of the item and place where it was left) chance of you getting it back. Again, my love for Japan grew. We bought a few pastries and snacks at the train station before heading to Kyoto.
From Nara station, we took the JR Nara line to Inari Station (which took another hour) since our first stop was Fushimi-Inari, a significant Shinto shrine famous for its thousands of vermillion torii gates, dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. We were only supposed to take a few photos but impulsively decided to go up Mt. Inari, at the mountain top which stands at 233 meters.
Spoilers: there’s no view at the top! What lies there is a big shrine. The scenery on the way to the top going into the wooded forest is actually way better. It was a tiring, steep, up and down climb. Although there were steps, it was undeniably difficult to continue with a pace without taking breaks. But hey, how many people can say they actually went around the entire place? It was one of those things I was proud of myself (and Carl) for powering through and not giving up. It was also so lovely to be surrounded and immersed with nature. I stopped a lot to close my eyes, take a few breaths and whisper my thankfulness to the skies.
Tip: If you don’t have a lot of time to go to Nara and Kyoto in one day or if you started your day late, it’s advisable not to do the climb to Mt. Inari since the ascend and descend total 2 hours. You should stretch, bring snacks and energy drinks or water as well. But don’t worry, there are vending machines and small restaurants on the way up.
Our second stop was the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and Tennoji temple. You can get there by taking the JR San-In line towards 各停Sonobe and get down at Saga-Arashiyama station. The area is residential with a suburban feel.
You can rent a bike to get around, although the rental shop closes at 5:30 pm so it’s best to get there early. From the station, the Bamboo Forest is a 10 min walk.
I think an interesting scene was when we saw a couple of people riding rickshaws pass by us. I read somewhere that going on a rickshaw tour is a fun way of exploring Kyoto. I will definitely try it out when I come back. The experience of the Bamboo Forest was wonderful and relaxing even though my feet were hurting. 😹
Arashiyama was a serene neighbourhood. It’s actually a nationally designated Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty. It was indeed very beautiful. We took a bunch of pictures and met a Shiba Inu, one of my dream dogs! It’s so fluffy I’m gonna diee!
Afterwards, I got a 4-layered assorted ice cream which tasted heavenly! I finished it in like a minute or two. Haha.
We then took the same JR line (San-In) to 各停Kyoto station and took the Shinkansen back to Shin-Osaka. We made our way to Umeda to have dinner at Matsusakagyu Yakiniku M, the BEST yakiniku restaurant I’ve ever eaten in! The quality of the meat was just impeccable.
It’s located a few minutes away from the Fukushima station. The 2-story restaurant had a dim and sophisticated feel. The waiter was very helpful and spoke English well. Service was quick and cooking our food was easy.
Tip: You need to make a reservation to eat in this restaurant. You can do this by visiting their website here. It’s best to book now since slots run out for their Dotonbori restaurant. Unfortunately, I totally spaced and forgot to book earlier so we weren’t able to eat at that branch. Also, prepare a lot of cash since it’s sort of expensive but I swear it’s worth it!
You can opt for the platter with the assorted kinds of meat but we preferred picking specific parts ourselves. My mouth was watering after having such a scrumptious feast.
Full and satisfied, we walked towards the Umeda Sky Tower and caught a glimpse of it. Then we made our back to Shin-Imamiya to get some rest at the Airbnb. Late at night, we did a little shopping at Don Quijote. It was our longest and most tiring day as per Carl’s phone which tracked our steps at 35,000!
DAY 3: On our last full day, we went to Universal Studios. I’m a huge amusement park and rollercoaster fan so I was hella stoked to go! Take the Osaka Loop Line to Nishikujo station then take the the JR Sakurajima line towards 各停Sakurajima and get off at Universal-City station.
Tip: Arrive at least an hour and thirty minutes early since the lines for the ticket booth AND the entrance are long. It’s also better to get your tickets in advance since the lines reach until the exterior gates. We went during the weekend (Sunday) so there were A LOT of people. If you’re willing to shell out more money, avail of the Express Pass so you can skip the queues. It takes less than 5 minutes for you to experience the ride which is super duper worth it especially if you don’t like waiting in long lines like me. Haha. There’s an Express Pass for 7, 4 and 3 rides and you’ll get to pick for which rides like for example Spider-Man or Jurassic Park. They only sell a limited number per day and can’t be bought online. Check this out for more information. All passes but the EP3 were sold out so it’s the one we got. We spent a total of ¥12600 each for the day pass and the Express Pass.
I’m not sure if this only goes for the Express Pass but for the Harry Potter & The Forbidden Journey, there’s a certain time within which you would have to go on the ride, otherwise you won’t be able to. Don’t worry if you can’t understand the text on the tickets or if you feel lost in general, there are a lot of staff roaming around to help you. They’re all friendly and can understand & speak English.
Our first stop was The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter. I’m not a big fan of Harry Potter. I’ve only read Books 1 to 3…but I’m a fan of the movies so I didn’t wanna miss out on the experience — even though everything was in Japanese. Haha. It was still oh so magical! Imagine going as a kid. There were so many of them casting spells with the wands they’d bought on real objects (which would then move or do something exciting) in different stations around Hogsmeade with the help of staff.
Aaaaand the verdict is: Butterbeer is sweet and the good kind of foamy but drinking it once is enough. I wouldn’t wanna spend another ¥600 to try it again. Haha.
We rode the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride which was really dope! I never thought dementors were scary but in 4K3D, I was screaming. It felt too real! Haha.
Tip: If you go to the Ollivanders attraction, you’ll get to see this view from the queue. Inside, there’s a giant foreign wand keeper who speaks both Japanese and English. He calls on a kid to pick the ‘perfect’ wand for them only to find out the wand chooses you etc. Haha.
Afterwards we had lunch at Finnegan’s and explored some more. There was so much to do and see! I would have wanted to spend 2 days there.
We spotted R&B The Voice performing in front of a crowd so we stayed and watched. They performed a medley composed of a few classics like Stevie Wonder’s ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours’ and ended with ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling.’ We got to talk to one of the singers, too! He was cool and down to earth. Told him we loved his amazing voice. Haha.
I love, love, love rollercoasters! We rode the Hollywood Dream in the morning and the Flying Dinosaur during the sunset. It took us 45 min in line for the former and 2 hours for the latter (not part of the Express Pass) but it was soooo worth it! I liked the Flying Dinosaur more since we were in the prone position so it really felt like we were free-falling in all the twists, turns and drops! When we entered this pitch black tunnel and got pulled backwards, I swear my insides shifted a little. My hands were shaking afterwards but it was such a good feeling! Haha.
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man in 4K3D was great, too! Used the Express Pass for this ride. We were caught in the middle of Japanese Spider-Man battling different kinds of villains — getting wet, ‘electrocuted’ and ‘burned.’ Carl bought some merch after since he’s a huge Spider-Man fan.
We ended up choosing the JAWS ride since it seemed to be the most interesting option among the 3 options for the last Express Pass use. The ride was simple since we all know the premise of the story. You basically get chased around by the shark. The robotics was kind of old but I don’t know, I enjoyed myself. It’s always good to ride a classic. Haha.
Of course it wouldn’t be a complete trip to an amusement park if we didn’t play any games. Tried to land coins flat on tilted glass plates but failed. Haha.
It was an incredible, unforgettable and endorphin-filled day. My heart and my tummy were so unbelievably satisfied. I will never be too old to enjoy myself at an amusement park.
This ends the Osaka-Nara-Kyoto leg of the trip! Thanks for reading. Hope it was helpful! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to message me here. Missed the first entry? Read Part 1 here! Part 3 will be on our last 3 days in Tokyo. Expect it a week from now. ✌🏽