In Japan, it’s all about visuals: even their manholes are decorated.
Japan has always been on my list of top countries to see. I was supposed to go to Tokyo a few years back to visit a friend who was living there but somehow the universe didn’t conspire and I remained in Manila while my travel mate Joanna, went ahead. Fast forward to 2015 and my fiancé, now husband, Carlo and I were thinking about where to go for our honeymoon. We originally planned to do it this year after we’ve saved enough and found permanent residence. Turns out he had some time off from work so we decided to make a trip of it. It was too short a break to go on a long haul flight across the globe so we thought why not Japan–it was close enough, within budget and from the stories and photos of friends, looked like a fantastic place to see. It was both our first time so we were beyond excited! Upon landing in Kansai International airport late at night, it was settled: we would go back.
Carlo in front of a temple near our hotel. We decided to rent bikes on our first day in Kyoto.
Ready for adventure with nothing more than a map and a lot of guts to get us around.
Yup, that’s how sure we were we wanted to visit this country again, even before stepping out of the airport and seeing what was outside. We took the train straight from Kansai to Kyoto and settled in our tiny hotel room. We were warned about the hotels in Japan but was assured that it was also very clean and complete with everything you’ll need. Shoe shine brush? Check! Everything else was provided for, heated toilet seat included. Our friends suggested we rent a bike to see the city. Now, I haven’t been on a bike in years so that was the first hurdle. Biking around an unknown city was the next and that freaked me out more. Add the cold weather to the equation and the result was a long, interesting, tiring, mind-blowing day that ended with a hearty dinner, beers and lots of laughter reminiscing.
Parked our bikes beside this flower shop by Nishiki Market, our first stop. Look at the huge orchids!
As expected, it was sushi heaven!
One of my most memorable meals were these sashimi sticks. Simple, fresh and so delicious!
My husband, the sake lover, choosing a bottle endemic to Kyoto.
He did a good job, it was the best bottle I had the whole trip!
School kids were a common sight.
We found a temple within the market.
It was nice and quiet, you wouldn’t think it was inside a bustling market.
My first soft serve in the trip. It was true, Japan had one of the best ice creams!
Carlo loves Okonomiyaki and we chanced upon this small space in the market. It was delicious!
Insanely colorful shop.
Yes, we chased after these girls for a photo. He insisted.
Next stop was Gion.
Beautiful Kamo river at dusk.
I SO loved the old world feel! Too bad no Geisha sightings.
The gardens that I’d see in photos and paintings of Japan were exact renditions of this place.
Everywhere we looked was just so pretty and perfect.
Not a pebble out of place.
This was the first imposing indoor structure we saw which included a shrine.
Ceiling shot of a painting that was done over several years using the finest Japanese paper and ink.
The next day was devoted to visiting Fushimi Inari shrine. Naturally, I wore red pants to match the thousand pillars. Kidding, it was a coincidence. Really!
Train to Fushimi Inari. The locals were so quiet and mostly kept to themselves. My kind of ride.
Couldn’t help but take a photo of these two seniors as we were entering. Especially the guy on the left. His fashion game was so on point!
The famous thousand pillars was a sight to behold!
So much details straight out of a movie set.
Caught the last few foliage before everything turned grey.
As if the day wasn’t long enough, we headed to the Golden Pavilion temple after.
Tired, cold (and hungry) as we were, it was worth it!
I’ve seen photos and heard a lot about the Arashimaya Bamboo Forest. It was quite a trek from the city but my heart was set on seeing it. It was as beautiful as I expected it to be and so much more.
There were a hundred tourists that day so we posed in the one empty pocket we saw.
Right by the forest was this gated property, Okochi Sanso Villa, owned by a famous actor Okochi Denjiro that served as his own personal sanctuary with living quarters, tea houses and gates. Not too shabby. It took him years to complete all the structures and landscaping.
He chose the location for its perfect view of the city. In the Springtime, cherry blossom trees can be seen everywhere.
One of the many houses inside the compound.
This meditation space was solely just for this view.
Our passes came with matcha tea and pastries. It was such a peaceful place to rest for a while.
It was a surprise to see rickshaws there, too. It was really for the tourists but still a sight to see.
On our way back to Kyoto, we stopped for some takoyaki balls and fresh yakisoba in this small resto. So good!
A few steps away was this small boutique selling silk everything.
Shopping for a scarf.
Carlo looking dapper with his new purchase. The owner even tied it around his neck herself.
Back in Kyoto we decided to look for this bag shop with only one branch in the whole of Japan, stopping for a photo op in one of the temples along the way.
After more than an hour of walking, getting lost and scared it might close on us, we decide to take a cab. Only to realize it was just a block away!
Ichizawa Shinzaburo Hanpu is a canvas bag shop selling every style imaginable, using the lightest canvas, fine leather details and sturdy hardware.
And it can only be found in Kyoto, at this shop and nowhere else. Naturally, I had to g0 and get one!
Took forever to pick one, it wasn’t cheap but upon using it for the rest of the trip, it was well worth it! Thank you to my friend Clarisse for the reco!
All that walking got us starving so we ate at this ramen joint just across the shop.
The broth was so rich and thick I couldn’t even finish it. Not the best one I’ve had…
On our last morning before heading to Osaka, we walked to the nearby temple for one last look.
It was a gorgeous day!
Touchdown Osaka! The view from our (much) bigger hotel room was breathtaking, buildings upon buildings as far as the eye can see.
Osaka at night was magical.
And Dotonbori was, to say the least, a feast for the eyes and tummy! Put my new bag to the test, too.
The river by day.
Lunch was at the famous Pinoy haunt, Matsusaka M where everything tasted like butter. Melt-in-your-mouth goodness!!
This wagyu sushi and rice were TDF! That’s a cube of fat used to cook the meat.
This seemingly nondescript place served some champion yakitori!
This takoyaki stall had a line the WHOLE day and night. Carlo lined up 30 mins. just to see what the fuss was about. It WAS good.
Here’s proof! Huge servings of tako with the tastiest batter, mayo and whatnot.
This bowl of ramen from the resto above was el primo. We were the only tourists in the house, which is a good sign we were told.
Bikes along Shinsaibashi street, the main shopping district that seemed to be an endless lane of designer shops!
Feeding the deer in Nara was…interesting, to say the least.
There were some pretty amazing temples too!
These statues were huge! And apparently, each one had their own personalities.
Stone lanterns that started in the temple and ended all the way into the forest!
Our last stop was Osaka castle. Filled with interesting tidbits of history. It was a gloomy day but fun nonetheless!
Only in Japan did I see jacket hooks right behind your seat. I already miss this country so much! Until the next trip, Sayonara!