Japan is such a charming country with a good balance of scenic, cultural, interesting and fun sights all over. Of course, each cities have their unique characteristics. Kyoto is a very cultural and tradition rich city while Osaka has it’s own fair share of tradition filled with shrines and all, but it has a more city vibe with different shopping streets and night life, not forgetting the morning seafood markets too.
Day 1 – Depart from SIN on JAL at 0150, transit at HND and arrive at ITM at 1235
On a 772 aircraft, JAL has quite a comfortable seat pitch of 33″ and width of 18.5″. The skirting of the seats feels pretty new, cozy and snugs well into the seat. Their miso soup is praise-worthy! Served piping hot and flavors were intense.
After about 9hours of flying, we landed in ITM airport and off we head out to Kyoto first before returning to Osaka. We got to change a couple of lines and it took us about 1.5hrs before reaching our AirBnb. Hop on to Osaka monorail (Osaka Airport Station –> Hotarugaike Station) Hankyu Takarazuka Line –> Juso Station Hankyo Kyoto Line –> Central Kyoto Station Karasuma Line –> KarasumaOike Station and our AirBnb is about 5-8 mins walk from KarasumaOike station. Generally their AirBnb are pretty small and it comes with an en-suite bathroom and a small kitchen area.
After checking in, unloaded our luggage and all, we went off to check out Nishiki Market (Japan, 〒604-8054 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, 9.30am-6pm). Nishiki market is a long shopping street thriving with hundreds over retails shops selling their traditional specialties, pickles, live seafood and seasonal produces etc! Besides that, they have stores selling croquettes, tempura and sweets too!
Different varieties of pickles using different marinades, with one such as Sake Lees, which actually uses Sake Kasu with probably alittle of mirin and miso too.
Tako Tamago: A small baby octopus with a quail egg inside the egg. The little red skewer treat is candied with a bizzare combination of sweet and umami taste.
Small little pancake with custard fillings
Dorayaki: Japanese pancake with warm mashed azuki paste. Sink your teeth into one of the slightly crisp pancake followed by a bed of warm soft red bean paste which sweetens right through your heart.
Definitely don’t miss checking out the wide range of fresh sashimi they could offer you! All the way from salmon sashimi, tuna sashimi, scallops, sea urchins, oysters, top shell. Have it fresh with a dash of lemon and vinegar, or a pinch of wasabi and ginger slices.
Tamagoyaki: Made by rolling layers of cooked egg together to form a hefty-looking block. Fluffy and a little sweet thanks to the mirin used in the cooking.
Kind of fall in love with this Cremia milk soft serve on a cookie cone. It comes with a variety of flavors – Chocolate, Milk, Matcha etc. The flavor is full bodied with richness of milky taste. Apparently it contains 25% of hokkaido fresh cream and 12.5% high milk fat content. The texture is very smooth and velvety but it does melts a tad faster than any other soft serve.
After satisfying your stomach, take a stroll down along Pontocho Alley and if you’re lucky, you could see the Geisha around evening time. Across the alley, there are quite a number of recommended restaurants. Unfortunately, it was pouring rather heavily while we are locating our dinner place. We wanted to check out the legendary Kichi Kichi Omurice where video of the whole cooking process of their omurice went viral (could really tell how much passion the chef has and how much he enjoyed preparing the food), but regretfully, we didn’t make a reservation and it was full house! 😦 But actually did you know, their specialty was actually their Ox tongue stew instead? Anyway, yes, do remember to make a reservation probably a few weeks in advance if you want to check out the place!
Since we didn’t had our luck with Kichi Kichi omurice, we decided to walk back to the main street and seek some comfort at Honke Owariya (52, Teiammaenocho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 600-8520, Japan), specializes in soba. They had a few outlets, but we decided to go to the one nestled within Takashimaya. Their soba are made using high quality buckwheat flour from Otoineppu Hokkaido, freshly ground, kneaded and cut. Their broth are made using Kyoto’s well water and rishiri kombu. Each bowl of soba noodles are served piping hot, and the broth was light and sweet. Those that comes with yuzu peel gave a hint of refreshing sour note. Really warms your stomach on a cold chilly night.
(Top pic) Oyakonanba (¥1134) -Torinanba with scrambled egg; (Bottom Pic) & Shippoku (¥1080) – Kake Soba topped with kamaboko, shiitake mushroom, mitsuba and thin omelet, aromatized with yuzu (Japanese citrus) peel.
Didn’t manage to note down what’s the name of this japanese restaurant but their sweets are decently goood. Variety of fruits, mochi, waffles, brownie with RED BEAN FONDUE and pretty good small little condiment choices too such as bits of almond, peanut powder. Quite interesting! Their panna cotta with matcha sauce alike is smooth and milky.
Day 2: Arashiyama Bamboo Forest – Kinkaku-ji – Maruyama Park
Come Day 2, it’s time to be like a tourist, go to where all the tourists will go to tick off their bucket list! Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is one for an experience in a way, as you can rent a set of kimono for a day and stroll down the lush tall green bamboo in the kimono, and experience how it is like decked in a traditional kimono. But it’s a been there done that kind of attraction. The crowd is pretty insane! After you’re done with the bamboo forest, take a walk along the bustling street lined with some of the souvenirs and snacks stall. If you time your trip well at the Bamboo Forest and be back at the bustling street early enough, you can join the queue for Unagi Hirokawa for lunch (４４−１ Sagatenryuji Kitatsukurimichicho, Ukyō-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 616-8374, Japan)! Latest be in the queue by about 10.30 or 11am, and you should be pretty lucky and safe to get your hands on these deliciously good and recommended unagi! There’s limited portions for a day! Once again, we weren’t that lucky!
Oh yes and by the way, there’s a few kimono rental shops along the streets from the train station towards the Bamboo forest. If you googled for some of the more reputable or recommended kimono rental shops, do remember to make a reservation too! As the place is filled with tons of tourist who would like to experience the same too! Otherwise, you’ll end up like us going into random rental shops. Fortunately, the rental price wasn’t that expensive! For about 3-4hrs rental, inclusive of all the accessories (excluding hair accessories) and japanese clogs, it’s about 3000yen. Their designs are not that extensive though. Other than that, the service and quality are commendable. Look out for the below storefront! That’s where we rent ours from Akahime Kimono Rental (Japan, 〒600-8103 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Shimogyo Ward, Shiogamacho, 361-1 宝島ビル).
So wells, sometimes random finds are not that bad either! We didn’t make it for Unagi Hirokawa, but we chanced upon a stall selling rather good Takoyaki and Yaki Udon. Food were served piping hot. Their Takoyaki are very soft and chewy and i liked how their batter includes bits and pieces of other ingredients such as cabbage, pickles and all in addition to the main tako pieces encapsulated within right at the center! Their Yaki Udon is pretty amazing too, not fry with too much ingredients but yet at its simplicity, it brings out the homely flavors.
After which, we made our way to Kinkaku-ji (1 Kinkakujicho, Kita, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 603-8361, Japan). A zen Buddhist temple well known in Kyoto by it’s iconic golden pavilion that shimmers in the sunlight over its mirroring pond surrounded by such greenery. The view is an art itself. If you’re in luck, you may catch the cherry blossom in season! The smell and sight of pink just instantly brightens up your day.
In an attempt to catch more sakura during the season, we decided to try our luck at Maruyama Park in the evening. It’s better to go in the day though! Walk through Nishiki Market and along Gion-Shijo shopping street, at the end of the street you’ll reached Maruyama, first greeted by Yasaka Shrine. Didn’t know there was some food stalls lined up around the area, so we just walked around and grab some snacks and food along the way! Street foods are always the best isn’t it!
“Fake” crabmeat fishcake to begin with! Ooops, i was just expecting some real crab claws meat or something similar!
This is pretty good stuff! It’s like takoyaki and similar with texture of fishcake and all. Quite like it!
& grilled squid in japan! Oishi!
Day 3: Nijo Castle – Fushimi Inari Taisha
Before heading to Nijo Castle, went to grab our breakfast on the go from a random bakery at one of the train station. Guess one good thing about Japan is that, be it their Bakery goods, Onigiri, or other food, it just looks enticing and appetizing. Prices are reasonable too! After which, made our way to Nijo Castle the next day. Nijo Castle was built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period (1603-1867). His grandson Iemitsu completed the castle’s palace buildings 23 years later and further expanded the castle by adding a five story castle keep. After the Tokugawa Shogunate fell in 1867, Nijo Castle was used as an imperial palace for a while before being donated to the city and opened up to the public as a historic site. Its palace buildings are arguably the best surviving examples of castle palace architecture of Japan’s feudal era, and the castle was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994. The architecture was exquisite and full of elegance. It features a plum orchard which blooms with cherry blossom comes spring! An amazingly pretty sight!
As we didn’t had the chance to try Unagi Hirokawa at the Bamboo Forest area, we decided to check out Eel Restaurant Maehara (〒604-0856 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, 二条上北小路町108-1 Ryogae-machi Dori) which has gained enough reputation to earn a michelin star. It’s pretty near Nijo Castle and this time round, we were very fortunate, we didn’t make any booking but we manage to get a seat! I’ve got Ryo Eel on Rice (ie. whole eel) which is about 5,800 yen. Since we were already there, we decided to splurge abit! Pieces of big, thick, juicy and tender eel were delicately placed atop of the rice. Lightly grilled with brown sauce till hues of golden yellow, flavor were well balanced and well infused into the unagi. Savory with a tinge of sweetness overlay. Meal was served elegantly on a semi-round tray with a bowl of raddish soup and pickles.
After satisfying our stomach, we went to Fushimi Inari Taisha, another iconic attraction of Kyoto, identified by the orange black tori gate. It was a pretty long climb if you make your way all the way to the top. From above, it presents you with a bird eye’s view of the whole city and also more importantly, it has much lesser people, providing you with a better chance of that clear of people background instagram shot! Otherwise, you can reach there early in the morning to skip the crowd.
There’s usually a purification fountain near the entrance of any shrine. Usually there’ll be step by step instructions on how you should go about doing it. Typically is to fill the ladle with water and rinse your right/left first followed by the other, then you can transfer the water into your cupped hand then into your mouth and any leftover water should be poured outside of the well.
Finally after a long day out, we decided to reward ourselves with some kobe beef, beef sashimi and not forgetting the cold noodles at Kyo Kurozakura (Japan, 〒604-8015 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, 東 四条上ル鍋屋町211-2 Kiya-machi Dori)! The beef are thinly sliced and decently good. The cold noodles really complement wells with the bbq-ed beef. It washes the grease and refreshes your palette!
Day 4: Kyoto – Osaka – Shinsaibashi shopping street
We checked out of our accommodation and head to Osaka via Tozai Line (KarasumaOike Station –> Sanjo Station) Keihan Main Line (Sanjo Station –> Kitahama Station) Sakaisuji Line (Kitahama Station –> Nippombashi Station) Exit 6 and off to our AirBnB which is around 10-15mins walk from Dontonburi.
Our accommodation at Osaka wasn’t too bad! Rather spacious, clean and comfy! Just that the toilet is abit small. There’s a lift too, so don’t have to worry about your luggage!
After we have checked in, we went to check out Shinsaibashi shopping street! First pit stop was Ichiran Ramen! Experience the solo eating of ramen in cubicle style. Their pork broth was thick, sweet and savory.
At Shinsaibashi shopping street, you get to do a mixture of your souvenir shopping be it food or cosmetic related since there’s a lot of drug stores here too. It also housed a number of big brands such as Uniqlo, GU, H&M etc, not forgetting your local brands. If you’re in luck, you’ll be able to find pretty decent deals here and there actually.
After which, we decided to head to Hokkyokusei for some japanese omu rice. Though it’s not the fluffy egg omelette you’ll get and instead a very thin and fine layer of egg wrapping around the rice but the sweet thick curry make it all up. It’s a very traditional and homely flavor you’ll get from Hokkyokusei.
Walked along the shopping street and landed ourselves with the famous fluffy, soft and jiggly Uncle Rikuro’s cheesecake. It’s with such fluffiness yet blend of denseness to it that make this cheesecake so unique. It’s light yet with tinge of cheesiness to complete the whole taste. Perfect for a supper or breakfast snack!
Day 5: Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum – Pokemon Centre – Cafe Lucky Owl – Dotonburi
8 out of 10 travelogues you see for sure will include a trip to Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen museum. Beside journeying how they started their instant noodles and how the flavors and packaging evolved over time, the best section they have in the museum is to make your own cup noodles corner!
Choose your own toppings (up to 4 toppings if i didn’t remember wrongly), flavor and design your own packaging! Definitely make it as a good personalized gift to your best friend and a good hands-on experience for myself making and designing my very own cup noodle!
After which, it’s time to head back to the city area. Like typical Singaporeans, we decided to join the long snaking queue for Honmiyake! But there’s not the only reason, we read about raving good reviews about the melt in your mouth beef they have so we decided to try it out. I think we queued almost 1 hour for this? Partially also due to the small seating area and i guess that’s how they can better control the quality of their food too.
They are known for their beef don! Must try if you ever joined their queue! Such pinkness and tenderness to these reasonably sliced beef.
Not forgetting this piping hot beef sukiyaki! Sweet broth with thinly sliced beef. Such comforting food to warm your stomach after a cold day out!
After which we dropped by the Pokemon center and walked around Dotonbori street. Loads of food, cafes and random drugstores!
The famous Melon-pan ice cream that you should go for! Liked the crusty pastry-like puff of this melon-pan pastry.
After which, checked out the Owl Cafe at Cafe Lucky Owl (Japan, 〒542-0071 Osaka Prefecture, 大阪市中央区 道頓堀1-1-7真幸ビル3F)! Look at these cuties! With some like sleepyheads, and some with eyes wide open, big and round, like how people associate them with being sharp and wise.
They also housed a couple of cute hedgehogs. They are so pokey with their spines but yet they are so nice to carry and you just can’t help but to cuddle them despite the pokiness.
Stumbled upon a Okonomiyaki shop along dotonburi street called 福太郎 (2 Chome-3-17 Sennichimae, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 542-0074, Japan), which are fully packed with customers and a long queue awaiting. We decided to do takeaway instead. We decided to go for one prawn and one beef. Both with or without mayo taste equally goood! I could imagine the crispness it has if we had ate it fresh from the pan! The most challenging part of okonomiyaki is always getting the dough-y and egg-y proportion right and i would say 福太郎 has done it well! Very generous with the ingredients too!
Day 6: Universal Studios Japan
I guess this doesn’t need much words or descriptions to begin with! Famous for their Harry Porters (not forgetting their butter beer!), Roller Coaster rides and check out their Minion theme! In short, be there early! Be there during weekday and hopefully during their non-holidays and queue will seem to be much more bearable!
Day 7: Nara Deer Park – Todai-ji – Higashimuki Shopping Street
Decided to have breakfast at Matsuya, this chain restaurant in Japan. We needed the fuel before our day trip to Nara! Quite decently priced and portion was not overwhelming for a breakfast meal. Do pop by if you’re feeling hungry and looking for some more substantial meal!
After which we headed to Nara Deer Park via Kintetsu Nara Station or JR Nara Station which is about a 5 min / 20min walk from the station respectively. The deer are so accustomed to human and the crackers they are holding on to. They are not afraid and shy infront of you at all, they will bravely walk up to you just for the food in your hands! Some of them may stand/sit still for a while for you to capture their moments, otherwise, you can always try with food in your hands! Believe it will be quite hilarious too!
Continue our journey to Todai-ji, probably just another 10-15mins walk further up from Nara Deer Park. Enjoy some moments of historic vibes and cultural sense here. Their structures are pretty majestic and magnificent.
After that we decided to just check out Higashimuki Shopping Street which was just beside the station. Quite a short shopping street, but the main thing was to check out the traditional green tea mochi dusted with peanut powder and red bean paste filling.
After a long day out and second last night in Osaka, we decided to pamper ourselves with yet another kobe beef feast at Tsurugyu (3 Chome-5-14 Kawarayamachi, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 542-0066, Japan). We went there rather early since we don’t have a reservation and to avoid being denied as walk-in because they were full house. As usual, we ordered a variety of kobe beef cuts (i believe it’s their top or second top cut!) and a portion of cold noodles! And just looked at how even the marbling of beef was! OMG, insanely even and good! The staff were rather particular how we cook and eat the beef too. They were at the side constantly telling us how long we should cook it and how should we eat it. The quality of the beef was superb and without a word, it’s money well-spent! We probably spend about SGD 280+ on this meal but the dining experience was really amazing!
Day 8: Kuromon Ichiba Market
Last day we have in Osaka before we fly back to Singapore. We decided to have it chill and the only thing to checkdo off our list is Kuromon Ichiba Market. It’s basically a seafood market with fresh sashimi, grilled seafood and sashimi dons.
Look at how plump and juicy these seafood were! Their scallops are to die for! Sashimi were decent though not the freshest of all i would say. Their grilled seafood is sweet but lack the juiciness. But all in all, it’s still much cheaper and of decent quality that i could get it in Japan compared to trying to get it in Singapore.
Not forgetting the milky Cremia brand soft serve!
As the day was rainy and it’s hard to get to anywhere, we decided to do just some last minute shopping then we got ourselves some street food like Takoyaki, Gyoza and Skewers back to go with our cup noodles for our dinner!
Day 8: Check out
All adventures come to an end and it’s time for us to check out and head back to the sunny island. Nonetheless, Osaka and Kyoto have been wonderful and amazing! Thankful for the company, all the beautiful sights and delicious food!