website statistics

FIVE THOUSAND MILES One Prew's adventures in Japan. April, 2014.

Day 14: Kyoto & Osaka

I got up at 8am, knowing it was okay to have a leisurely start as I wasn't due at the tea house until 11am. Unfortunately after I got ready to go down for breakfast, I found I was unable to find my breakfast tickets for that morning or the next. I was sure I'd left them on the table in my room but they were nowhere to be seen. Either I was going crazy or the cleaner had [re]moved them. It was okay though, I just went down to reception and explained the situation. The nice chap have me replacement breakfast tickets.

I went straight from reception to use that days ticket and enjoyed a slightly different buffet breakfast to the day before – more fish, no yogurt, more bread, no salad and additional juice.

After breakfast, I popped up to my room to get my bag then headed out to catch a bus. I got on bus 12 near my hotel and rode about ten stops to Ichijo Modori bashi which was near the tea house/museum, Tondaya, I'd be visiting.

I still had plenty of time to spare so I looked around the area. I visited the Seimei shrine which was practically next to the bus stop then wandered around the backstreets trying to find Tondaya.

After walking down endless nameless (even in Japanese) streets I had to ask someone. They spoke only Japanese but I had no problem understanding ‘down that way and turn right at the post box’ accompanied with hand gestures, so then I soon found it.

There was a bench outside but I thought that 45 minutes early was perhaps a bit too early so I walked further down the street and sat in a kids park-come-shrine instead. But I made sure I knew exactly how to get back to the tea house! Whilst I was in the park, I read about the place I was about to visit. It was actually more of a kimono shop that a tea house and is now a museum of traditional life in Kyoto.

Apparently I was the only one booked in for 11am which meant I got a private tour just for me. When I arrived I was greeted by a lovely young Japanese lady who spoke near-fluent English – I imagine she was assigned to me because of her English knowledge rather than the woman who ran the place (who showed the people around that arrived after me). I took my shoes off at the door and left my bag to one side but kept my camera with me, as photos inside were fine.

We wasted no time in getting me dressed in my first ever real kimono. I picked the colours for the kimono, obi and other bits (I don't know what they are called!). It took a little while, with all the different componants, but she seemed to know what she was doing, well-practised no doubt.

Once I was kitted out in my kimono she took some photos of me and then took me for a tour of the house.

The inclusion of garden spaces within the house was lovely and allowed light and air to flow in from outside. Even with my kimono on on top of my clothes, I didn't feel ridiculously warm. And it was sure warm outside!

You have to enter this roomby sliding in on your knees – I gave it a go but needed more practice to perfect the movement.

She told me the purpose of each different room and garden space and then finally took me through to the tea room used for hosting visitors – general visitors rather than super special guests.

First she talked me through the process of how a proper tea ceremony is conducted, including how to hold and turn the tea bowl. Then she prepared the green tea. As she was preparing, I ate the two sweets provided.

Soon I was trying to drink the tea in the correct manor. She said I did well and was surprised I didn't find the taste unpleasant. Clearly I've got too used to macha green tea flavoured things. She took my photo holding the tea bowl and then we went back into the main space.

I also had a bento-style lunch box provided for me which I ate next. It was mostly various pickles with rice and miso soup. But also my first taste of unagi – eel – which just tasted like, maybe, mackerel (I’m not good with fish). I ate everything, although it was only midday and not long since I'd had breakfast! Again, she was surprised I liked it all. I'm not one to waste food unless I'm really full though.

That was the end of my visit to Tondaya but the whole experience was wonderful and very insightful. From there I went to get another bus to Kyoto central train station.

Conveniently the bus turned up not long after I did – this never happens in the UK! (Not that I really take buses. Ever.)

This is the Kyoto Tower, right next to the station.

When I got to the station I went to find a train to Osaka. I booked a seat on the next train, with my JR pass but it turned out the train was delayed by 15 minutes. I thought Japanese trains were never late!

Whilst waiting I tried an actual hot coffee from a vending machine – my tour guide from the day before had explained to me how to tell which ones are hot. (They are marked with red labels rather than the standard blue – makes perfect sense.) Some were sold out though so I couldn't have just a black coffee. It wasn't great, obviously with milk and added sweetener. It didn't really taste much like coffee to be honest. But it was hot, or warm enough at least, so I can't fault it there. I didn't expect much anyway!

When my train arrived it wasn't very busy and the journey to Osaka took about 30 minutes.

By the time I arrived in Osaka it was nearly 3pm so I headed straight for the castle using my JR pass again on the loop line. The castle was really all I wanted to see anyway, given the time I had.

A model of Osaka castle.

Later, at the castle gift shop, I bought a fridge magnet of this manhole cover.

It was a little bit of a walk from the station around the outer part of the castle to the entrance but there were some good photo opportunities along the way including trees and the moat, as well as the actual castle.

First sighting of the castle.

I have no idea what this building was but it looked oddly like a European castle. Strange.

I paid to go into the castle but I wouldn't really recommend it aside from the views from the top. I was expecting it to be like Matsumoto castle inside but it was actually a modernised museum inside. Some of the information was interesting and I liked seeing the samurai armour – that I was unable to photograph due to restrictions – but generally I skimmed through most of it.

But as I said, the view from the top was pretty good. I feel I've at least seen more of Osaka from above that on foot. Lots of tall buildings but also lots of trees and a river – flows out into Osaka bay?

Here are some little samurai people that I liked inside the castle – on a floor where you were allowed to take photographs.

And a tiger decoration the same as the one on the outside of the castle.

I found this sign in the castle gift shop amusing. I assume it says something about this til being closed so use the other one, over there.

I left the inside of the castle at around 4.30 pm and wandered over to buy a green tea ice cream from one of the stands in the castle park. My third green tea ice cream of the trip, and probably the largest! I sat in the sun and ate it.

I took a few more photos before I left the inner grounds through the main gate – not where I had entered originally.

Across from the castle gate was a shrine and temple with a statue of, I can only assume, Hideyoshi Toyotomi – the founder of Osaka castle.

I headed back the the station, although I had to walk all the way back around the castle so it wasn't so quick. I stopped to take photos on the way as well, including photographing a cat that was sleeping in the park.

From the station near the castle, I took the JR loop line back to Osaka main station and went to book a seat on a train to Kyoto – I also had no idea what trains went to Kyoto. Unless where you're going is the end destination, it's hard to know what train to get just by looking at the arrivals boards. My train was at 18.12 and, as on the way there, it only took 30 minutes.

The sun was setting as I left Osaka which made a pretty view out the window.

BackDay 13: Kyoto

Day 15: HakoneNext