Osaka (Namba 2 nights) –> Nara (2 nights) –> Arashiyama (1 night) –> Kyoto (2 nights) –> Nagoya –> Takayama and Shirakawago –> Tokyo (1 night) –> Kawaguchiko (2 nights).
No one warned me that I would fall in love with Japan. As someone quoted to me – he has never heard of anyone who went to Japan and came back not liking Japan. It was true. Neither have I.
With this trip, I completed my 4 East trips, starting with Beijing in November 2018, and then, Taiwan, followed by Jeju Island, South Korea and now, my first ever Japan trip – on a backpacking mode.
August 25, 2019
My afternoon flight arrived in Osaka, Japan in the evening, where I checked into Hostel Enisia Nambia before midnight.
Japan Travel 12 Days Sim Card RM72.76
Transportation Nankai-Kuko Line Airport Express towards Nankai-Namba (Namba Station) 920 yen (RM36.34)
Hostel Enisia Nambia for 2 nights – 2970 yen
Hostel Enisia Nambia offered a pleasant stay. Good wifi. Excellent location – short walking distance from Dotonbori.
August 26, 2019
Walked to Osaka Castle. Travel on foot was a good way to see Japan. It was a pleasant walk. I did not have much plan in Osaka. So, an hour walk to the castle was ok. The entrance into Osaka Castle compound was free but to enter the castle itself, it costs around 600 yen (RM23.70). I skipped as I was more excited about the compound and its surrounding than what was inside.
Dotonbori was a more interesting place to explore, with buildings of unique displays and architecture. Its small lanes made me felt like I was walking in a straight maze, waiting to be surprised and delighted by round-the-corner creative door or front building 3D attraction.
At night, I walked to Shinsekai, which funnily sounded New World Park in Penang, Malaysia, where New World Park in Hokkien sounds exactly that. I could not find a good spot for a photo and had to go with what I could get. And then, it was a stroll back to Dotonbori (passing by the only porn shop in Japan I had come across) and back to the famous Glico Running Man. There was no way I could take a good selfie at night with the Running Man, by my Samsung Smartphone. Pity.
August 27, 2019
Before leaving for Nara, I went to Namba Yasaka Shrine. It was worth the time. The front of the building was unlike other common temples. Here, the door was the mouth of mythical lion. It was impressive.
I did not realise I would be liking Osaka. Sure – it did not offer me much of traditional Japan look or nature scenes but the unique shops and narrow lanes of Namba stuck in my mind.
Transportation Kintetsu-Nara Line Rapid-Express towards Kintetsu-Nara (Osaka-Namba Station to Shin-Omiya Station) 560 yen (RM22.12).
I arrived in Nara in the drizzling rain. And then, it got heavier. My walk from Sin-Omiya Station got my pants all drenched wet but thank goodness my umbrella covered my top and my backpack. Nara was not as crowded as Osaka. I could be walking along empty streets at times. But then again, it was raining.
Nara Guesthouse Kamunabi was waiting for me. And I was the single guest in the 6 bed hostel room for one night. I stayed there for 2 nights, paying RM126. I chose Nara Guesthouse Kamunabi for the experience of staying in a traditional Japanese house. Sure, the wooden floor was creaking. The location was a bit far from any convenient store. However, I did not mind. I was happy for the experience. Even the sliding door to my dorm room was charming.
The rain stopped for me to explore Nara in the late afternoon and evening. My first stop was Kofukuji Temple, which was very near to the station where I got off. There were deer all around. And their poop. But who cares, right? People come here for the deer in the wild, wandering around the parks and temples.
My first night walk in Nara was really pleasant. The night was quiet. There were hardly anyone around and yet, it felt so safe. My walk led me through many old traditional houses, which were still occupied. These were unlike the modern feel of Osaka. In Nara, it was like a step back in time, although I knew the houses had been renovated a few times, but the old town feeling was there.
August 28, 2019
It was a day for more exploring and I headed for the park for more shots of photos plus, a wander off to Todaiji. The entrance fee to Todaiji was 500 yen (RM19.75), but I did not go in, when I could see that the fun of the area was at the compound, taking photos of deer.
In the afternoon, I headed for Naramachi Koshino Ie. It was a Japanese old house, open free for tourists. The lady in charge of looking after the house was really friendly. The exploration was short as it would cover one floor up and then, to the back of the house. However, since that this was a good exposure of how the layout of a traditional house would be, I was pleased.
I skipped Gangoji Temple, as there was a charge for entrance, but I was surprised to find a quiet, free site nearby. Ruins of Gangoji five-storey Pagoda stood a few lots away from the commercial temple and there, I had the whole place to myself. It was quiet. It was pleasing.
On the second night walk around Nara town, the feeling that I had felt the night before was gone. It was no longer a slow walk around the town and enjoying the solitude. Maybe I was already tired of long walking. I just needed to get back to my hostel as soon as I could.
August 29, 2019
I hiked up again to Kasuga Shrine. I think the actual attraction here was the moss that grew on the stone-lanterns. There were rows and rows of the lanterns. The temple was in a forest that would look dim, even during bright days. You know, something where Snow White would run into and got lost. But the tracks were clear and it was an easy path to go to the top, where the shrine was. However, again, I did not walk into the shrine.
One detour that I did, and I was glad for, was to Yoshiken Garden. Interestingly that this garden was free for foreigners to explore. I bet the garden would look exceptionally lovely during autumn foliage and winter. It was a short walk, passing by the traditional resort in the garden.
I was done with Nara. I headed to Arashiyama.
Transportation Kintetsu-Kyoto Line / San-In Line (JR)(Saga Arashiyama Station) 1370 yen (RM54.12).
I stayed in the overpriced Mulan Hostel. I read the map wrongly and thought the bamboo forest was on the same side of the river as the hostel. I learned that the map was marked wrongly and I had to walk a long way to where the attraction was. I wanted to stay near the bamboo forest, so that I could get there early in the morning, where the crowd would be less. Staying at such a distance kinda beat the purpose. And to make it worse.. there were two train stations in this area. My train stopped at the further station.
Mulan Hostel was nice and clean. It was a lovely place. However, for such a distance, I think it was overpriced.
I placed my bag and set out to explore. The evening was greeted by drizzling rain again and it made the bamboo forest perfect. There were so few tourists there. Since seeing this Arashiyama Bamboo Forest in so many internet photos, I had always wanted to go and see for myself. The view/visit was worth all my effort. Entrance was free. It was a short walk. And the fact that it was not even crowded in the evening made it a worthy deal.
After Bamboo Forest, it was time to worry for dinner. I could not find a dining place of my liking but I did bump into Kimono Forest.
My walk back to my hostel (as well as going back to the town) required me to walk on Togetsu-kyo Bridge. Many stood there to snap photos. However, my favourite spot on Togetsu-Kyo Bridge was not that main one, but the extension part of the bridge. It was here – 35.011466, 135.677414
I found myself to be snapping photos of the river accompanied by the parked boats on its left and right banks, with the green hill at the background I snapped the photos in the evening, night, morning, and afternoon. I’d bet that the river looked even more dashing during autumn foliage.
By evening, most of the shops were closed. Thank goodness there were convenient stores for me to buy noodle cups and some bread for dinner.
August 30, 2019
My morning in Arashiyama Bamboo Forest did not disappoint me. There were few tourists there. It was another nice walk through the forest. There was a nice viewpoint at the top of the hill, but unfortunately the weather was not condusive for me to snap good photos. I headed for Tenryuji Temple. Already drenched with the rain, I was not in the mood to explore another temple wet. I headed back to Mulan Hostel to check out.
My next destination was Kyoto. Using Transportation San-In Line, the train fare was 240 yen (RM9.48).
I arrived in Kyoto early, and the reception counter at Kyoto Hana Hostel was closed, until afternoon. Kyoto Hana Hostel was acceptable. I stayed in Kyoto Hana Hostel for 2 nights, for the price of RM152 per bed. It was near the Kyoto station. If I could, I would choose a bed that was placed away from the window. I woke up in the early morning, thinking that it was noise from a bar, but eventually, I realised it was early morning talking and loud laughing from the volunteer workers of the hostel and their mates. In fact, the room stench came from the items that the volunteer worker’s clothes and bag. It was unpleasant to pass by his messy and smelly bed.
I was pampered for choice in Kyoto. There were simple too many to see and I did not have enough time to see all. And of course, I could get tired of seeing too many temples. My one mistake of going to Kyoto first was that I could have gone straight to Kinkakuji Golden Pavilion. It would have save me the time and money.
August 31, 2019
Happy Merdeka Day, Malaysia.
In the early morning, I headed to Fushimi Inari. Public transportation was easy. I took the bus. I reached in the morning around 7 plus and headed up the hill. I did not realise the hike was going to be a challenge. I was not prepared to sweat. But the Torii Gates were so impressive that I was happy, although puffing away, in my hike. One tip though – the Torii Gates looked better when they are snapped facing downhill, and not uphill. Thank goodness I did not have better photos of me at Torii Gates, facing uphill. The wordings on the Torii Gates are at the back of the Gates, not facing front.
With the 600 yen One Day Bus Pass, I headed to Kikankuji Golden Pavilion. It was not that crowded at the entrance but once I got through the gate, almost everyone, including me, crowded around the spot at the lake to snap a photo of the Golden Temple. Lucky for me that the day was clear and the golden temple was reflected nicely on the water. The 400 yen entrance fee was worth it. Although it was a short trail, I was glad I made the trip from Kyoto city to this area to view the beauty.
From Kikankuji Golden Shrine, I headed for Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Since that it was already after lunch, crowds of tourists had already swamped the place. However, it was still nice to explore and take in the view the temple had to offer. From this temple too, I could see the view of Kyoto city as well as Kyoto Tower.
Walked the path to my favourite Hokanji Temple, I passed by a short path of traditional looking houses. It was a good spot to snap photos but there were too many tourist to my liking. The rows of shops were intriguing. However, my heart was set on Hokanji.
I stood at the path that overlooked Hokanji Temple Pagoda for more than half an hour. It was really a good spot to snap photo. Almost like every minute a different look came about to try to get another good photo.
I went back to Kyoto Hana Hostel, tired but not that tired to un-notice the smelly volunteer worker’s area in the bedroom. Thank goodness the night was quiet this time, without the street yells and laughs.
September 1, 2019
I woke up and headed for the empty lanes around Hokanji Temple. I was hoping to catch some good photos around the area. I did not get much.
After that, it was an uneventful day for me as I headed out for Nagoya. I just needed to stay the night to join a tour to Takayama and Shirakawago on the following day.
The bus from Kyoto to Nagoya cost me 2550 yen (RM100.73). I stayed in First Cabin TKP Nagoya Station, for RM95.56. Interestingly, this hostel provided me a free access to its bath house. I had to take a bath in the open, after dipping in its onsen. Yes, now I realised it could not be a real onsen but still, it was an interesting experience. I had actually done my research on this, but one thing that I was not prepared for was how hot the water was. I felt uncomfortable and realised then that I did not know how long I was supposed to dip in the water. It was an interesting experience. I have to try a real onsen one day. And I have to say that First Cabin provides the best hostel capsule that I had ever been to – free hostel wear (black t-shirt and shorts), towel, LED tv, breakfast, wake-up calls etc.
September 2, 2019
Sad to say goodbye to such a comfortable hostel – First Cabin, I headed to the station to board my tour bus to Takayama and Shirakawago. I was pretty excited. The trip cost me only RM305. I had done my own research. If I had gone on my own and stayed one night there, plus connection to Tokyo, I would need to spend around RM800 to RM1000. And this tour provided me free buffet lunch.
It was a 2 seats by 2 seats bus, and this would be the first time I realised that as a foreigner, I was given the whole 2 seats.
Takayama could not be enjoyed properly as it was drizzling. I was kinda lost at which area to explore as it was not easy to refer to the map in the rain. And I was busy trying to catch pokemon as well as raiding. Serves me right.
But Shirakawago was as enchanting as I could imagine. I could not believe such a serene village would still exist, away from the crazy, busy civilisation. It was simply beautiful and marvelous. The gasshō-zukuri building structure, learned and preserved from the olden days, earned this village the UNESCO Heritage status.
The tour bus returned to Nagoya by evening, with the adorable, young tour guide offering us free refreshment.
In Nagoya, I waited for my late night bus connection to Tokyo and this was my first time a language barrier in Japan became my liability. I had booked my bus ticket in advance. I was sent an email in Japanese language a few days before my boarding. It was all in Japanese. I learned later that it was to inform me of the change in boarding time. Luckily, I was not really affected as I was already there waiting. However, there was no bus arrival from the company that I had booked the ticket from. Nearby, there was a crowd watching two Japanese holding a banner, making announcement in Japanese language. I learned later that these two were announcing to the crowd of bus arrival – in another location. Once announced, the passengers would follow a line, walked for a distance of more than 10 minutes to board buses that were waiting by the road side. After waiting for quite some time, I approached the lady who eventually understood that I was one of the passengers and quickly pointed to a line of passengers walking a distance away. I understood that I was supposed to follow them. I rushed and caught up. We walked and walked until we reached a junction and there were 4 buses. I had no idea which bus to board. Through minimal communication, I found my bus. Walked up the steps and saw the seating with my name. I was seated at seat No.1. And again, I was seated alone at a 2 seaters. And the bus driver just drove away without checking tickets.
Night bus ticket from Nagoya to Tokyo – 3000 yen (RM118.50).
September 3, 2019
I arrived in Shinjuku Bus Station early in the morning. It was around 5am. And I was lost in the big station. Eventually I understood where I needed to go, to head for Sensoji Temple. It was nice to see early people in Tokyo city, heading for work and schools. The temple was already filled with morning people. I bought my breakfast from a 7-11 and had my light snack in the temple. And then, I hugged my backpack and tried to catch some sleep. It was going to be a long day before my hostel check-in.
I walked to Tokyo Skytree Tower but it was covered by cloud. I prayed this was not how it would be like near Fuji Mountain.
I did not have any concrete plan in Tokyo. I headed for Imperial Palace and did not even know that I had my McDonald’s lunch at the famous, rich Ginza. No wonder there were so many branded outlets.
I was told by internet to consider Akihabara and I was impressed. I could never imagine a location to be so crazy high-tech as this place would exist.
My stay at Hostel EAST57 Asakusabashi was nice. It was just RM55.41, with breakfast. And just like in Nagoya, I found it funny that cities, just like in Malaysia, were employing foreigners to take care of convenient stores.
At night, I went to Shinjuku. Sadly, although I saw the busy crossings, I did not know how to take a good photo of it. And the night was with drizzling rain. So, it did not help me much in finding good spots to do so. But lucky for me that I did find the statue of the famous loyal dog statue – Hachiko.
September 4, 2019
I stayed in Tokyo only for one night. I was more excited for my next destination – Kawaguchi. I wanted my turn to view the famous Fuji Mountain. And I prayed that the mountain would not be shy to show itself to me. I prayed. And I prayed. And I prayed.
The bus fare was 2000 yen (RM79).
I arrived almost in the evening. Orange Cabin picked me up at Kawaguchi Station. It was cloudy in Kawaguchi. However, I consoled myself by saying that this did not count as an omen. The day was drawing to an end. So, it had the right to be cloudy. Along the way, I looked out the vehicle to where Fuji was standing. It was a view of nothing but cloud.
I was the only guest in Orange Cabin. Fantastic place.
September 5, 2019
Fuji Mountain was shy.
I sat almost the whole day at the lake and there was no sign of the mountain.
It was only in the late evening that I was allowed to have a peek at the peak.
It was going to be a sad trip.
I had always thought of Fuji as a snow-capped mountain. Little did I know that that image was misleading. It was only snow-capped for months near or in winter. My further reading taught me more – there were other views of Mount Fuji. For example, Red Fuji, at a certain timing, the mountain looked burning in red. It would not happen so often. Or Reflection of Fuji on the water and more.
Whatever it was, I was not getting any Fuji love.
Orange Cabin was noisy. School girls checked in and they did not seem to sleep even in the early morning.
September 6, 2019
I woke up to my last morning in my Japan trip. Peeked at the window, in hope to see a Fuji mountain and….
I dashed out of the hostel and made my way to the lake. It was a 10 minutes run.
Fuji had shown up.
After all the thrill and an hour of photo-snapping, it was time for me to leave for Haneda Airport (2470 yen). As if this trip was not fun enough, the bus took me on a path that made sure I did not forget another star of Tokyo; Tokyo Tower.
Osaka (Namba 2 nights) –> Nara (2 nights) –> Arashiyama (1 night) –> Kyoto (2 nights) –> Nagoya –> Takayama and Shirakawago –> Tokyo (1 night) –> Kawaguchiko (2 nights).
Flight: Airasia Around RM750
Accommodation: 10 nights Around RM950
Transportation: Around RM900 and a lot of walking (around 25000 steps a day)
Entrance Fee: RM15 for Kinkakuji Shrine.
Total = Around RM3300