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Trip Report Kyoto and beyond - 9 days trip in April 2014

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This is a belated trip report. We were hoping to catch the peak of cherry blossom in Kyoto area in this trip. We were in Kyoto in 2010 (March 29 to April 2) and was a little early for the peak blossom (about 40%-60% blossom, still beautiful). Below is the itinerary and description of the trip.

4/5: flying out of NYC in the afternoon

4/6: arriving at Osaka KIX at 6:20 pm, and checking into our hotel around 8 pm. We picked Hotel Monterey Grasmere Osaka because of its proximity to Namba station. After dropping off our luggage and freshened up, we walked to Dotonbori to check out the lively street and the Glica Man. We got the Octopus balls from a supposedly good stall. There was a line but it moved fast. Maybe because of the line, the octopus balls were not cooked completely. They tasted like BBQ sauced dough with bonito flakes.

4/7: We walked around the Namaba area checking out the cityscape in the morning, withdrew cash, and took the train to Koyasan around 11 am. We arrived at our temple lodging (Fudoin) about 2.5 hours later. We spent the afternoon checking Garan, walking through the cemetery and visited the Okunoin Temple. Went back to the temple for 6 pm multi-course dinner. Walked around a little bit after dinner and had an early night.

4/8: We attended the morning ceremony. It was a very interesting experience. After the ceremony and breakfast, we explored the rest of Koyasan. We left Koyasan around noon for Nara.

We arrived at Nara around mid afternoon and checked into our lodging for the night (Asukasou). It is a hotel with onsen and provides some Ryokan experience (tatami room, multi-course meal served in room). It may not be the fanciest Ryokan but we enjoyed it very much.

We actually liked Nara more than we thought we would. In addition to Todaji Temple, Kofukuji Temple, Kasuga Shrine is also lovely to visit. While walking down from Kasuga Shrine, we encountered the most beautiful cherry blossoms sight in this trip - a forest of cherry trees with full white blossoms. Maybe it was late in the day, or maybe most day visitors did not go to this part, we only saw a few other visitors and a couple photographers. The last hour of light before dark combined with the forest of blossoming trees made it seem almost dream-like.

We went back to our hotel and had dinner (very good). I spent some time soaking in the outdoor onsen and we called it a day.

4/9: We spent the morning walking around the Naramachi and visited the Isuien Garden. Both were really lovely and I would recommend them. Seeing locals walking around the Sarusawa pond and feeding cats in the morning was delightful. Around early afternoon, we took the train for Kyoto. We stopped at Uji and spent about 5 hours there. We really liked Uji. Out favorites include walking along the river and Byodoin. A visit to Mampukuji is also interesting if one has some extra time.

After Uji, we continued on to Kyoto and arrived at our lodging for the next three nights around 8:00 pm. We stayed in Westin Hotel near Keage station in 2010. This time we decided to stay in a traditional townhouse (Machiya). The machiya experience was great. It is in a residential area close to Shijo/Karasuma. We had dinner at a Japanese cafeteria style place (good and inexpensive), picked up some water from the supermarket and finished the day.

To be continued ......

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