When planning our trip to Japan, we knew we wanted to go to Osaka and visit other cities in the region such as Kyoto, Hiroshima and Kobe via the Shinkansen bullet train. So we booked ourselves an Airbnb in Osaka and made the most of our Japan Rail Pass!
As always, we filmed an awful lot on our trip and made a whole vlog for the week! Check it out and subscribe to Joe’s YouTube channel to get notified of new videos from our travels!
First, our move was to take the Shinkansen to Osaka. Joe hadn’t stopped talking about it since his first visit to Tokyo in 2014 and it was great to see how excited he was. It’s an amazing mode of transport, that gets you across the country in such little time, while also being the most comfortable and smoothest journey ever.
I’d highly recommend buying the JR Pass as you save so much on train tickets, especially if you’re wanting to explore cities all over Japan with the Shinkansen.
Another tip we learnt while we were in Osaka, was that we could use our Suica (mass transit payment cards). However, you have to convert your Suica card at a ticket office from the Tokyo region to the Kansai local train lines. Otherwise you can buy an ICOCA, which is the “Suica” of the Kansai area.
With the JR pass you can reserve seats at ticket offices at the main train stations, however it’s not necessary. You can also ride in the designated non-reserved carriage, but of course that won’t guarantee you a seat if you needed to get a specifically timed train.
We pretty much fell in love with our Airbnb at Osaka, as it was comfortable and super clean. You can’t expect any less really, when you stay in any accommodation in Japan!
Of course as soon as we got to Osaka we wanted to go straight towards Dōtonbori and explore the Namba area. One thing everyone needs to try out is Takoyaki which is a pancake style mix, with octopus bits all fried in a ball. YUM. Takoyaki was originally created in Osaka and you can experience the best ones in Dōtonbori!
Kyoto Day One
Of course when you think of Osaka, people also think of Kyoto since they are really close in distance. As Kyoto was once the capital of Japan, there’s a lot of historical value, so it’s really great for tourists to see a pure Japanese culture and history. So many of the “classic postcards” of Japan can been found in Kyoto, it’s definitely a beautiful city!
We knew we definitely wanted to go to Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and we had a whole day exploring the area. There are loads of different ways to explore Kyoto, but we started the day off by wanting to do the Hozugawa River Boat tour. To get there, we took the Arashiyama Sagano Scenic Railway. You don’t have to take the Scenic Railway and to be honest, I wouldn’t really suggest it — it’s not all its cracked up to be. However, it is the most practical way of getting to the Hozugawa river boats.
The Hozugawa river boat tour on the other hand, definitely is worth it. The four guys taking turns rowing/pole vaulting/steering the boat are truly entertaining and very passionate about the area and their boats. The tour has a few spots of rapids; though it’s nothing too dangerous, there will be splashes so make the most of the waterproof covers provided.
After taking the river boats back towards Arashiyama, the Bamboo Forest is only a 15-20 minute walk away.
Kyoto Day Two
Fushimi Inari is another top attraction for Kyoto and I can see why everyone would want to go visit there. It’s the famous shrine walkway of red gates leading up through the hillside.
I didn’t actually expect the path to go as far it did. You can walk to the top of the hill (the halfway point) and then either take a quick route back down the hill, or you have the option to do a further lap through more Torii gates, deeper into the hill.
We spent a good few hours there, as we wanted to take some photos and video footage of empty pathways. It is possible. You just have to wait.
We arrived after lunch on a public holiday (which we didn’t realise at the time, oops!) and it was really packed, so I would suggest going in the morning, as I imagine you’d be able to get a much more peaceful walk around.
Other than to eat the famous Kobe beef, we went to Kobe to try and get some great photos of the modern architecture and clean lines. Typically, I looked into Instagram for some inspiration — it’s a great place to do some photography research, as it’s so quick to look via various locations and then explore further into associated hashtags.
I saw some Instagrams of the architecture at Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art in Kobe and that’s pretty much where we spent most of our day. The building is designed by Tadao Ando, who is an architect known for his designs utilising natural light.
Unfortunately—due to yesterday’s public holiday—it was closed, so we couldn’t get in to see the famous spiral staircase. However there were really nice backdrops for us to take some photos along the waterfront behind the Museum. If we had another day in Kobe, I would have loved to have gone and visited Awaji Yumebutai.
We obviously hunted to go to a top spot to eat Wagyu beef. I remembered that Simon and Martina from EatYourKimchi did a review on YouTube about Steak Land so we picked that as our spot to go and try out the famous Kobe beef.
And yes. It. Was. Delicious.
Shukkeien Garden was our first stop to explore around Hiroshima, and it was a typical Japanese style garden with lots of miniaturised landscapes. It was really peaceful with little paths and bridges you could walk around to explore each of the small areas of the garden.
Hiroshima is most famous in recent history for the atomic bomb that destroyed it at the end of World War II; one place everyone should visit is the Peace Memorial Park to truly understand its devastating effects and why this should never, ever happen again.
Another top tourist attraction when coming to Hiroshima, is to go to Miyajima Island for the giant Torii Gate that looks like it’s floating on water when the tide is high.
There are free roaming deer about which are always a great experience. Although be careful of what you have in your pockets, because one of them ate a whole brochure out of my coat pocket!
On one of the last days of the week, we actually spent half the day in Namba parks as we wanted to see the architecture as well as browse around the shops. Joe and I could forever wander around window shopping in Japan, especially if it’s anything that’s homeware, fashion or even stationery!
Most of the area in Osaka is pretty walkable and we just wanted to get lost in the city and see what was around. We also went to The Standard Bookstore to find Sister Magazine which is a publication created by our friends back in London, which happened to be stocked in Osaka for the moment. It was great to hear that Sister had made it all the way to Japan and perfect timing for us to go and see it!
Comparing our week in Osaka to Tokyo, it was great to see a different side of Japan and experience the purity of Japanese culture. Tokyo is vastly different and is a whole other world to anything we’ve ever experienced before, so being in Osaka and going to places like Kyoto and Hiroshima, was a nice way to enjoy a calmer pace of life.
Make sure to check out our post from Tokyo as well—filled with more great photos and possibly our best video yet!
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The next post in our Jelly Journeys series, sees us visit Australia for an epic road trip from Melbourne, all the way up to Brisbane via Sydney! Make sure to follow our social profiles to stay up to date with when that goes live!
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