Sidetrip from Osaka: Koyasan vs Ise?

Old Sep 7th, 2012, 03:01 PM
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Sidetrip from Osaka: Koyasan vs Ise?

Hi,

Which place is worth a side trip from Osaka: Koyasan or Ise? I know one is Buddhist and the other Shinto. Looking for something spectacularly scenic and unique.

Which one is more do-able as a day trip from Osaka? Or it's better to spend a night there, esp. Koyasan--do templestay?

Thanks for your input!
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Old Sep 7th, 2012, 03:21 PM
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If you go to Koy-san you do need to spend the night, and it matters which temple you stay at. The trip up and back is definitely scenic.
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Old Sep 7th, 2012, 03:36 PM
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Trip from Osaka to Koya san probably takes a few hours. If you got an early start you could see most everything in a day. Returning just depends on the cable car and train schedule . If you do stay the night try to stay at a temple which does not host groups. The temple we stayed at wasnt geared for treating individual guest well. Their focus was more on getting groups in a groups out. The expense for the night was not worth it. On a positive note ths shop keepers in Koya san were exceptionally nice. Everyone in Japan treated us with courtesay and friendship. A few shop keepers in Koya san went out of their way to help us. The temples and the cemetry had quite a nice feeling.
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Old Sep 7th, 2012, 04:45 PM
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If you can, go to Koya-san and stay the night in a temple, and do try to see Okuno-in at dusk or dawn or both.

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4901.html

I'm very glad I spent the night in Koya-san. The scenery was spectacular, Okuno-in was magical, the temples included some very special features, and there was a small museum with some exquisite mandalas and other works. I was very pleased with my experience (which was a splurge for me) at Shoshojin-in - you will not get ryokan service at a temple, but I thought the temple lovely; my room was simply but comfortably furnished and looked out over a gorgeous garden and mountains; my dinner and breakfast were both truly delicious and beautifully served; and the monks and opportunity to join their morning prayers made the experience very, very special. You can find out more about it and other temple-stay options at:

http://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/index.htm

When I planned my trip, I considered stopping in Ise because I thought I would like to see the shrines. I decided against doing so after I read that one can't really see them:

http://www.frommers.com/destinations...926010029.html

Hope that helps!
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Old Sep 7th, 2012, 06:58 PM
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Ise Jingu is one of the very best trips I've ever made in Japan. You cannot enter the final set of fences, so you have to use detective work to figure out what's there: climb the hill, look at the former sites, visit the Atsuta shrine in Nagoya...

The forest and the general atmosphere are really intriguing. There will be Japanese tour groups and solitary pilgrims, but no other westerners. You can take in some other only-in-Japan sights on the same trip, such as Meoto Iwa.
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Old Sep 7th, 2012, 07:12 PM
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Sorry, I meant Shojoshin-in. Oops!
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Old Sep 7th, 2012, 07:14 PM
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These are wonderful choices. I wanted to visit both when we were in Osaka this summer. Because we wound up having to choose only one, we went with our Japanese friend's reccomendation to see Koya san. (He thought that Ise would be better visited during a less hot season; this concern doesn't apply to you.)

We went as a daytrip from Osaka which is very doable in a car. Arriving by cablecar and staying overnight would be even better, but I can attest that a daytrip from Osaka is still worthwhile.

I loved it. Please let us know what you decide to do.
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Old Sep 7th, 2012, 09:10 PM
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Thanks, all, for your responses! I'm leaning toward Koya-san mainly because it's a bit closer to Osaka than Ise, although Ise does sound more uniquely Japanese than Koya-san.

We can only do a day trip, because we just booked a flight out to Hokkaido the next morning. The other option is just to spend an entire day and 2 nights in Osaka -- worth it? Doesn't seem to have much to see. Maybe just spend the nights there, and do a day trip to Koya-san?

Thanks again!


P.S. I did a templestay in a remote mountain temple in Korea (Haein-sa) last year -- it was quite magical in the evening after the crowd had left. And it's only $50 USD per person including nice, clean, heated floor room and dinner and breakfast, chantings, meditation. We had the big room to ourselves that night. The vegetarian food served in the same hall as where monks eat was very delicious. I'd also been to several Unesco world heritage mountain temples in China. Koya-san sounds similar to one of these, but it'd be still interesting to see
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Old Sep 7th, 2012, 09:42 PM
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Much as I loved my time in Koya-san, I don't know if I would have visited it if I hadn't planned on spending the night. I definitely enjoyed what I saw during the day - especially some of the amazing painted screens and aforementioned mandalas. (But I've seen screens and mandalas in similar styles elsewhere, so while seeing them added to the pleasure I took in my overnight stay, I'm not sure they were sufficiently special to have warranted a long day trip for my tasts.) I'm glad I didn't have to consider just a day trip!

I'm sure you've seen the japan-guide page on Osaka, but if not:
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2157.html

If there isn't enough in Osaka itself to entice you to spend the day there (and I admit that I skipped it, not because I thought it without sites of interest, but only because I was much more interested in other destinations), I'm sure you know that another easy day trip from Osaka is Nara. That's another place that I found magical and unique and filled with special places and things. But then, I thought Koya-san sufficiently different from other holy mountains that I've seen - Tai Shan and Wutai Shan - to recommend them without even considering whether you might have seen them. Still, a day trip to Nara would not give you the experience of something that I personally would consider 'spectacularly scenic."

Good luck!
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Old Sep 7th, 2012, 10:05 PM
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When?
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Old Sep 7th, 2012, 10:12 PM
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Can't comment on Ise as we didn't got here but we really enjoyed our couple of nights in koyasan. I would strongly recommend an overnight at a temple to get the full experience as I am not sure it would be quite the same as a day trip. It takes a bit of time to get there but it is an interesting journey by tran and funicular. Some photo and more info on our blog:

http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blo...8720/tpod.html
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Old Sep 8th, 2012, 06:32 PM
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Thanks all for your input. Unfortunately, we only can do a day trip, as we have a morning flight out of Osaka the next day. The question remains whether it's worth the effort. How long would it take to get there since it requires different modes of transportation? Is 2 hours one-way a good estimate?

We'll be there on October 7 (Sun). Basically, our flight from the US gets to Osaka on Oct 6 (Sat) at 4 p.m. See nightlife and eat Osaka that Sat night. Plan is to get out early the next day (Sun) and do a day trip to Koya-san. Back to Osaka late afternoon for more of Osaka. Fly out of Osaka on Mon morning.

If you think it's too hectic to fit in Koya-san, then we can just hang out in Osaka, but then it may seem like a waste of the whole day? Or it will be ok?

Thanks!
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Old Sep 8th, 2012, 07:01 PM
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You could do a day trip to Kyoto or Nara or just spend the day in Osaka.
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Old Sep 8th, 2012, 07:52 PM
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Wow, this plan calls for you to fly in from the US on the afternoon of what we will call day 1. Then you will spend several hours of day 2 in transit to and from Koya san. That may be what you want to do, but I do wonder about all those hours of ground transport on day 2.

Have you thoroughly explored Kyoto already? You could get there from Osaka by train in under an hour, leaving much more time for exploration of some of the wonderful temples and shrines there. There is a lot of magic there, much closer to Osaka than Koya san. Nara is only slightly farther away from Osaka than Kyoto and also has some great charm and lovely temples. Kyoto and Nara, as you may know, are very dfferent from Osaka.

If you were able to spend the night at Koya san, I would feel so much better about you putting all that time into ground transport to/from there on days in between flights because the overnight would give you a qualitatively different experience than a botel stay. As it is, you are going to spend lots of time moving around.

This daytrip to Koya san is doable and may be exactly what you want, but if you don't know Kyoto or Nara, you could consider those options closer to Osaka.
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Old Sep 8th, 2012, 08:06 PM
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Thanks, all, for your advice. We've been to Kyoto and Nara pretty thoroughly before. But there were a few temples outside of Kyoto that we didn't get to at that time. Forgot what they are. If you know which ones they are and worth visiting, please remind me.

Thanks again.
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Old Sep 9th, 2012, 07:21 AM
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Fushimi Inari Shrine and Tofukugi Temple may be a couple of the sights in southern Kyoto you were thinking about.....maybe Byodoin Temple?

By the questions you are asking and with your answers it sounds like you still very confused on what to do for this day. With nothing planned for a day like this when I have to travel the next day, I would normally take the time to explore what is at my door step and not try to take in too much (ie long day trips to just anywhere). Osaka is the second largest city in Japan and has a ton of things to do and see and they don't call it the "Kitchen of Japan" for nothing. I would concentrate more on what to see and do in Osaka if I had the chance.

Aloha!
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Old Sep 9th, 2012, 09:42 AM
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Thanks, HT, for that advice! We're now thinking that perhaps it's best to stay put in Osaka instead wasting time on long transport to another place. Posting on Fodor's is like going to therapy--really helps to sort through your thinking and emotions!


BTW, anyone know of any bunraku (puppet theater) performance in Osaka on Oct 6 or 7? The national theater doesn't seem to have any show in Oct. Wonder if we could see it elsewhere?

Thanks, everyone, again for being so helpful!
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Old Sep 9th, 2012, 09:53 AM
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Yes, there are quite a few temples worth visiting outside of central Kyoto. HT mentioned some located to the south. There are others in the west, in the northwest (Arashiyama), and in the north. For someone who enjoys temples as much as you seem to, there is an embarrassment of riches.

You might skim a good guidebook that organizes the attractions in Kyoto by geographic area to see if anything captures your imagination. If you want to do that and come back here with more focused questions about possible destinations, there will likely be someone among us who has been to areas you identify.

HT makes a good point about the benefits of staying in Osaka for that one day given the constraints of your itinerary. It is indeed a major working city rather than an atmospheric attraction, but you could put together a very fine day. Here is one version:

1 temple
1 shrine
1 castle (plus surrounding park)
1 or 2 great meals

Did you know that Osaka's temple Shitenno-ji (or Tenno-ji) is considered "the oldest temple in Japan"?

Tenman gu is the shrine where students flock to pray for scholastic success. On certain days of the month it is jammed while on other days the foot traffic is more modest. Both scenarios offer advantages.

Osaka-jo (castle)is the city's most famous tourist attraction, of course. I like the 8th floor view out over the city and also parts of the surrounding garden/park.

As mentioned above, Osaka is regarded as the food capital of the country so you would likely enjoy a good meal or two.

The "Day in Osaka" approach introduces you to some solid attractions that afford insights into Japanese history and culture, but none of these sites, in my opinion, rises to the level of "spectacular and unique" (the requirement stated in your first posting). There may be some compensation though in exposing you to one of Japan's major cities -- either the second or third largest, depending upon who's counting.

One other "spectacular and unique" day trip from Osaka, by the way, is a shinkansen trip to Hiroshima.

Decisions, decisions...
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Old Sep 10th, 2012, 11:27 AM
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Wow! Thanks, marya, for that very thoughtful response! You could be my travel therapist!

Thanks for pointing out some highlights of Osaka that I was not aware of. And I'll also look at temples outside of Kyoto.

Thanks again!
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Old Sep 10th, 2012, 06:22 PM
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"Travel Therapist" -- I love the term. As a frequent beneficiary of the sage advice of many of the more senior Travel Therapists on this board, I am delighted if any of my comments help you in a small way.

If you could have stayed overnight at Koya san, I would have advised "Go for it " because I really do get the appeal. I just think that the value proposition is not there for a day visit given your itinerary constraints. Enough said.

Now, where will you find some inspiration and magic on your Kansai day before you head up to. Hokkaido? Many wonderful possibilities. Please let us know what you decide to do.
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