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Trip Report: September in Tokyo, Tsumago, Nara, Miyajima, more

Trip Report: September in Tokyo, Tsumago, Nara, Miyajima, more

May 8th, 2019, 08:50 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2016
Posts: 6
Trip Report: September in Tokyo, Tsumago, Nara, Miyajima, more

I started writing this report last year but then I got lazy and put it off. I am temporarily suspending my laziness to finish this report.

Dates: September 21-October 4 2018
Locations: Tokyo, Magome, Tsumago, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Hiroshima, Miyajima

9/21 Tokyo: Direct flight Boston to Narita. Checked into Millennium Mitsui Garden in Ginza. We had stayed here 3 years prior. Very good location. Room was a decent size by Tokyo standards. Had a great first meal at Ramen Takahashi a few blocks from hotel. This would most definitely not be the last ramen of the trip.

9/22 Tokyo: SUMO!!!! But first, breakfast at Tsukiji outer market. Donburi at Nakaya(been here a couple times before) and assorted street food while walking around. Ate all of the uni I could handle and more(the sumo wrestlers would be proud). This was the last week the inner market was open but we didn’t go in. Its just such a great place to walk around, try different food and do a little shopping. Strolled around Hamarikyu Gardens after our big breakfast. We’ve been here twice and both times it was pretty empty which I enjoy. 9/10 would stroll again.

We purchased tickets for the Fall Sumo Wrestling tournament the moment they went on sale several weeks prior. It was a super interesting and fun experience. We were lucky to be there on a historic day when Hakuho(the G.O.A.T.) won the tournament and scored his 1000th victory. Renting the English language radios was helpful and the sake and beer were surprisingly cheap.

9/23 Tokyo: Woke up feeling super out of it and tired as I had about 10 hours of total sleep over the prior 3 days. Stopped in Family Mart for half a liter of Coffee Boss and a couple onigiri and then I was good to go. Headed north to Ueno Park. Spent about an hour in the zoo. The line to get into the Panda exhibit was about 2 hours long so we didn’t get to see those furry dum-dums. I’m not a zoo expert but I enjoyed it. After we walked around the pond. Didn’t bother with any of the Ueno Park museums since the weather was super nice. I’m sorry we couldn’t make it work with the pandas on this trip but if they are ever in Boston we’d love to meet up for a drink.

I had heard good things about the nearby udon restaurant called Kamachiku. Apparently we weren’t alone in knowing about it because when we got there around noon there was a big line. We waited over an hour(still less than the panda line I guess) before we were seated. The restaurant is beautiful and serene. The udon noodles were amazing. It was worth the wait.

Started walking south through Akihabara. It was Sunday so the main street was closed to cars. I love how pedestrian heavy areas in Tokyo do this. Didn’t stop in any arcades this time but I made it into plenty later in the trip. Hitachino Brewing Lab is an neat building with a patio on the Kanda River. Also hit up Devil Craft Kanda which has excellent beer.

9/24 Tokyo to Magome/Tsumago: Walked up to Tokyo Station and caught an early train to Nagoya. Then a second train from there to Nakatsugawa and finally a bus to Magome. The town of Magome is seriously beautiful. The mountains, shops, buildings, everything. There were a ton of people there around noon though. We began our hike to Tsumago. Lovely but hot. Bumped in to a local who said the second half of the hike would be much cooler temperature wise and he was right. Beautiful forests, river, views. Arrived in Tsumago after 4 hours. Tsumago isn’t as stunning as Magome but it is more charming and feels less touristy. It was great walking around town with no cars around. Checked in at the Fujioto Ryokan. The room was nice, the garden was beautiful, the food was good and the owners and staff were super lovely.

9/25 Tsumago to Kyoto: Torrential rain. We had previously considered hiking back to Magome but it wasn’t happening in this weather. Got on the bus instead and caught a train to Kyoto at Nagoya. Walked from Kyoto Station to the Kiyomizu-dera area. Got sidetracked for a bit at Otani cemetary with its 15,000 tombstones built into the hillside. Breathtaking place. We had been in the Kiyomizu-dera area before but never entered the temple. Worthwhile even though there was some construction. Beautiful building and views of Kyoto(and even of the Osaka skyline). Walked around the Higashiyama preserved district. We were approached by some school kids who were asking people questions for an assignment. They asked how many times we had been to Japan and seemed surprised that it was our third time. Time to check off “kinda impress schoolchildren” from the To Do list for the trip. Walked through Gion and then checked in at Hotel Gracery Kyoto Sanjo North(I love the location of this hotel). Felt great to be back in Kyoto.

9/26 Kyoto and Osaka: Took a bus from our hotel headed northwest to Kinkaku-ji(Golden Pavillion). The weather was great in the morning. Perfect for pictures and temple hopping. Kinkaku-ji really popped in the sunlight. I was worried about crazy crowds here but it wasn’t bad. Worth the trip. We then walked to Ryoan-ji which is known for its stone zen garden. I do not understand the appeal of these. To me it it is mostly starring at a bunch of little rocks and its hard to be “zen” when there is a crowd of people around you. Ryoan-ji does have a nice pond with a little island shrine you can walk to in the middle. We then walked to Ninna-ji and I was impressed by the 5 story pagoda.

We then headed to Kyoto Station and took the train to Osaka. In the basement food hall of Osaka station we had a couple beers at an excellent bar called Craft Beer Market. Very affordable prices for Japan. Took the subway to the Osaka Dome for some baseball action: Orix Buffaloes verse Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. I'm not a big fan of domed stadiums but it worked out well because it was raining that night. The game was fun although I preferred my first Japanese baseball game at Koshien Stadium 4 years prior. PRO TIP: You can bring a drink into the game. They'll give you a big cup to pour it into when you enter.

More to come, including a trip altering appearance by Typhoon Trami...
Kinopio is offline  
May 15th, 2019, 10:11 AM
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9/27 Nara:
Took the train from Kyoto to Nara. Strolled to Kōfuku-ji temple. Pretty nice. Tons of deer. Then made our way to Tōdai-ji. Damn is this place big. Breathtaking from the outside and then you walk in and see that huge Buddha and your jaw drops even more. We did a fair bit of walking through Nara Park. The southern part of the park was super nice. Fewer people, nice little ponds, a huge grass field where people were taking wedding photos. Got food and a couple good locals beers at LBK Craft. I would have liked to have gotten to Horyuji Temple but it was a bit far away. You can't see all Nara has to offer in one day.
Took the train to Kyoto station and walked to Kyoto Beer Lab. This place is so good! The best craft beer spot I've found in my 3 trips to Japan. Most of their beers have Japanese ingredients like wasabi or tea and they come in a range of styles. Plus, the brewery is on a super charming street on the Takase River. A must stop for any craft beer drinker.

9/28 Kyoto(Arashiyama area): Headed to the western edge of Kyoto to start the day. We began a mile or two north of the main Arashiyama strip at Otagi Nenbutsu-ji temple. This temple is built into the hill and has 1200 little, whimsical statues. We then walked downhill to Adashinonenbutsu Temple, which has 8000 statues and a bamboo grove. The last temple of the day was Jōjakkōji. This temple goes up into the mountains so it has great views from the top. Around these temples is the Saga Toriimoto Preserved Street. It was very charming and gives you a feel of what Kyoto was like 150 years ago. This area was peaceful. Very few cars and people. Combine that with the temples and mountains and it was a delightful part of Kyoto to spend a few hours.
We then did a little shopping and strolled through the bamboo grove. We skipped some of the major temples in the area because we have been to them before(I'm a big fan of Daikaku-ji). We walked along the Katsura River to Tempura Matsu where we had dinner reservations. This was the best meal of the trip by far(it hasn't been a tempura restaurant for several years now). We then headed back toward our hotel, but not before stopping at the sake bar at the Jam Hostel. This place is a favorite of ours and a great bar to taste and learn about sake.
Kinopio is offline  
May 15th, 2019, 06:30 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,851
A very nice mix of activities. City sites, hiking part of the Nakasendo Highway, sumo, baseball and craft beer. Sounds like my kind of trip.
curiousgeo is offline  
May 16th, 2019, 10:57 AM
Join Date: Sep 2014
Posts: 273
I hope you were able to see the gardens in Nara Park - Isuien & Yoshikien (Isuien is by far the better of the two). They are some of the highlights of the area, though Todaiji is naturally the crown jewel. Great that you saw Otagi Nenbutsuji - some people don't make it up there and miss it. Most of the other places in Arashiyama aren't worth the time and trouble of going all the way there for one place alone, but collectively together it makes a fantastic outing. I'll have to look for the Kyoto Beer Lab next time I'm there.
Adastra2200 is offline  
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