4 Days in Japan

After about 13 hours onboard our Japan Airlines Dreamliner we touch down at KIX – Kansai International Airport, 24 miles southwest of central Osaka and built on a man-made island in Osaka Bay.  After clearing immigration and customs, we are met and shuttled to an awaiting mini-van for the 70 minute trip to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Kyoto.  Japan Rail runs a 75 minute direct service train from the airport to Kyoto Station for about $30/person.  With two passengers, each with luggage, the comparably priced, door-to-door shuttle service is undoubtedly easier and more convenient.  The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is on the western bank of the Kamogawa River which dissects Kyoto, and just north of an interesting walking district of funky bars, restaurants and night clubs.

We’ll be packing as much sightseeing as possible into our 4 Days in Japan, our first day is out and about Kyoto.  Public transportation is a priority for speed and ease of movement, and by the end of the day we’ve traveled around the city via subway, city bus and cab.  We visited Nijo Castle, Ryoanji with its famous rock garden, the golden temple of Kinkaku-ji and the mountain side UNESCO World Heritage site of Klyomizu-dera.  To optimize the sunlight, viewing at Klyomizu-dera would be better planned early in the day – along with cooler temps for the long uphill walks.  With a busy schedule, Ryoanji could easily be skipped unless you are particularly interested in the 15 rocks in the sand.

Our second day is planned around sites in Osaka and begins with a train trip to central Osaka.  Here we visit the Osaka Castle and the Umeda Sky building.  We also walk through many of the central markets of Osaka.  If time is tight, this could easily be a “missed” day – the travel distances are fairly long and after nearly 8 hours of walking, we’re exhausted by the time we arrive back at the Ritz.  Due to room availability, we transfer across town to the Hyatt Regency for our last 2 nights.  The Hyatt Regency is exactly what you’d expect in an business hotel.  Great professional service, friendly staff and a comfortable room.  This hotel has a number of bars and restaurants nearby, but not nearly as many as the Ritz-Carlton.

On day 3 we’re off to Nara.  Much smaller and more manageable than Kyoto or Osaka, our walking tour of Nara includes the Todaji Buddist Temple, home of the largest bronze  Buddha in the world.  We also walk to the Kasuga Shrine, known for the thousands of stone lanterns that line the foot paths throughout the forest.  Returning to Kyoto, we’re off to a Japanese cooking class.  Our guide shows us through the huge, sprawling food market of Kyoto followed by a hands-on cooking demonstration featuring a spinach sesame salad, miso soup, sushi rolls (that we hand rolled ourselves) and a tasty ice cream to finish.  Overall, this was a great day – not too much walking/traveling and a unique food experience at the end.  A terrific way to top off our short trip to Japan!

Though a bit rushed, these last 4 days in Japan have been great.  Tomorrow we’re off to Beijing, China – more from there…

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