J A P A N
In comparison to Tokyo, Kyoto is a much less hectic city with many temples. We stayed in the downtown area near the Nishiki market, which is a great location as you are situated near many restaurants and the area also has really good transport links to sites further away.
One of the restaurants we are at was called Donguri, a lovely tappenyaki restaurant. For cheap and cheerful and tasty gyozas I recommend Gyoza no Ohsho where you can get 12 gyozas for roughly £2. We also ate at Torikizoku, a quick and easy Yakitori eatery where you can order off a tablet. Their ice cream with soybean flour and sweet tamarind dessert are lush.
On one of the days, we did a temple tour around Kyoto. First, we took bus route 5 to Higashiyama, Jisho-ji which had a nice garden area. We then went to Honen-in temple, one of the many temples off of the philosophers’ walk. The philosophers’ path follows a stream and has many more temples to explore on the way.
Honen-in was really nice as it was covered in moss which gave it an enchanted woodland feel. Further along the path, we came across Sanmon which had a wooden gate where you can pay a small fee to go up. From here we bought a grape and matcha ice cream and walked down past the bamboo grove and through some of the Gion area to Kyomizu-dera, the temple on the hill.
Kyomizu-dera is a really nice temple complex to walk around with many different pagodas and smaller temples to see. The final destination we went to by jumping on the metro was the famous Fushimi Inari Taisha, with its pathways enclosed by bright orange torii gates. This is another really lovely area you could spend several hours to walk the loop taking you to the top and back (roughly 3 hours).
Our day in Osaka mainly consisted of spending the majority of our time at Universal Studios. If you plan to tie this into your trip I would recommend getting an express pass beforehand from the website Klook which will be cheaper, they are definitely worth it! In my opinion, the best rides were the Hogwarts castle ride, the Flying Dinosaur and Spiderman.
For the Hogwarts castle ride, you can also take the walking route through the castle if you don’t want to go on the ride. As we went during the Halloween season, they also had zombies walking the street late afternoon and a selection of scary attractions such as Chucky, which was brilliant!
After Universal Studios we headed over to Dotonburi, a lively area with many restaurants and shops beside the river. Although we didn’t really explore Osaka, if you have more time I have heard the Kuromon Ichiba Market is another good area for fresh food.
On the third day, we went to Nara, an hour south of Kyoto. Nara is very lovely and green with many deers roaming around the park, who will bow to you for a cracker. When we visited we also found a small food market in the park where you can try out different Japanese snacks.
Apart from eating we visited the Horyuji Temple and Todaiji Temple. With a wooden structure, Horyuji is one of the oldest temples in the country and within the Tadaji Temple, you find a large Buddha. However, if you are visiting Kamakura, I would recommend seeing the Buddha at Kotoku-in as it is just as impressive and cheaper than Tadaiji, although it is not as large.