Fei’s Top 5 Highlights in Japan
Truth to be told, visiting Japan has never been on my bucket list but I must say that I was very glad to have purchased a ticket to set foot in the Land of the Rising Sun because I have heard soooooo many amazing things about that place. My friends and I decided to visit both Osaka and Kyoto during our trip and I’m gonna share my top 5 highlights of our trip. Let’s get started shall we?
Highlight #5: Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto
I don’t think that a trip to Japan without visiting any shrines or temples is possible. One of the days when we were in Kyoto, we visited the Fushimi Inari Shrine, also known as the Fox Shrine, located at the base of Inari Mountain. It is a very popular tourist spot because of the paths in the mountain that is lined with torii gates donated by Japanese businesses. It took us approximately 3 hours to complete the trails around the mountain, looking at other smaller shrines and I must say that it was really refreshing!
However, I would highly advise you to plan your trip to the shrine on a weekday to avoid the weekend or public holiday crowd. We could hardly snap a photo without a human being in it!
Highlight #4: Hiking up Mount Daimonji, Kyoto
As a someone who enjoys outdoor activities, I always make it a point to go for a hike in all the places I visit. On our second day in Kyoto, my friend Xin and I decided to pack our day pack and head up to Mount Daimonji to get a good view of Kyoto City. It took us about 15 minutes to get to the base of the mountain and another 30 minutes to the peak. It was a short hike with quite a bit of an elevation so we were panting our heads off by the time we arrived at the peak, but at least I think it helped to burn a bit of the calories that we consumed for the past couple of days.
The panting and sacrificing our sleep was worth it when we reached the peak because it is not every day that we get to witness how dense the city of Kyoto is with our very own eyes. We spent a good 30 minutes taking in the view, enjoying the breeze and of course, making plans for breakfast.
Highlight #3: Nara
Other than Kyoto and Osaka, we also made a trip to Nara where we spent a couple of hours feeding and playing with the deers at the Nara Deer Park. In this park, deers roam freely and visitors can buy 10 pieces of deer crackers at the price of 150 yen to feed them.
Just a short walk from the deer park is the well-known Nakatanidou Mochi, known for their mochi-pounding techniques.
For a person who doesn’t fancy any sort of mochi in fear of the raw flour taste, I must say that this mochi is really amazing because it is super soft and stretchy, and most importantly, does not have any weird taste of raw flour. Nara has nothing much that is interesting but if I were to head to the Kansai area again, I would definitely make a trip to visit the deer park and eat this mochi again. (Darn it! I should have gone for a second serving when I was there because I still dream about it after a month after the trip!)
Check out this video Making Mochi by Great Big Story that shows you their unique mochi-making technique.
Highlight #2: Hoshi No Buranko (星のブランコ), Katano, Osaka
When we were working out the itinerary of the trip a couple of months prior to our departure, I stumbled upon a random blog saying that the view from Hoshi No Buranko – a suspension bridge located in Hoshida Park, is going to look really pretty with the different shades of red leaves in autumn and having spent autumn in South Korea a few years back, I have declared that autumn is my favorite season and if someone says it’s gonna look pretty, I MUST GO! And go we did!
The reason this the second highlight of my trip is because it was one of those rare outings that turned into an adventure where we got lost looking for the place, got distracted by everything we saw along the way and yet still ended up at our destination in one piece. With that said, an outing that should have taken no more than 3 hours turned out to be a 5-hour long journey.
Unfortunately, we were a few weeks too early to see the beautiful autumn leaves. Despite that, I still enjoyed the journey of getting there!
Highlight #1: Kameoka, Kyoto
The top highlight of my trip was taking the Sagano Romantic Train from Arashiyama to a quaint town called Kameoka. As a kid, I was exposed to Hayao Miyazaki’s works namely My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away and the view that you get during that train ride was definitely nothing less than what you see in Miyazaki’s film, albeit it being animated. The moment my bum was set on the seat of the train, I felt giddy with butterflies in my tummy because it felt just too surreal to be in such a beautiful place!
Kameoka was a quiet town with paddy fields near the train station. There’s a little café just by the paddy fields where you can order a simple cup of coffee and enjoy it with this magnificent view, given that the weather is good. For me, it was the perfect place to just relax and take my mind off things… until it got a little too chilly.
One thing to take note of for non-Japanese speakers is that getting around in Japan could be a little challenging when some road signs are still labeled in Japanese. However, I am glad that I activated my Flexiroam X membership and was able to stay connected to the internet so that I could still navigate my way around in a foreign place!
All in all, my first trip to Japan was interesting and eye-opening as I get to observe and experience their local food and culture. The locals we met were really kind and sweet to us, too! I had a great time and I seriously can’t wait to visit Japan again!