It’s already been half a year since this trip but I thought it was still worth writing about. My younger brothers and I decided to book a trip to Japan for the holidays. It was Manu’s first time in Japan and my first time in Osaka and Kyoto. Nior was the designated navigator since he had already been, while Manu planned out our itinerary, which also included budgeting. I quite literally just needed to show up, which is all anyone can ask for during a vacation.
We stayed in Namba and our hotel was right beside a train station. Our flight was delayed, so we got to our hotel way late. Good thing there was a Family Mart right across, so we could get some snacks before retiring for the day.
We headed to Osaka Castle after a quick breakfast at Brooklyn Roasting Company. The weather was a cool 4℃, so I had on a bunch of layers. I slowly realized I am quite warm-blooded and started shedding my layers as I perspired throughout the day. Haha!
We ended up at some random sushi place for Noche Buena. We were stuffed and sleepy but wanted to have dessert. We wandered into a tea shop and got ourselves some warm honey lemon tea that tastes like melted Halls. A delicious end to our first full day in Osaka!
Christmas Day was for Nara! Before we headed out to see the deer at Nara Park, we had breakfast at Micasadeco&Cafe (which I instantly recognized when its Kyoto branch appeared on The Makanai on Netflix). We had a long day of walking ahead of us.
There were a bunch of temples to be seen but Nior said Tōdai-ji was the only one worth seeing if we were to pick. So that’s where we went. It started drizzling as we made our way back down, so we ducked into a restaurant for some food before heading back to Osaka. We also sampled some really delicious pudding on our walk back. I took home the jars because they were too cute with the deer on the lids.
When we got back to Namba, I requested to have dinner at Gyukatsu Motomura. We must have waited almost two hours in line but we were still full from our meal in Nara. You would think we were queueing for some underground club. The meal was satisfying and the chef amused us with his Filipino spiel after finding out we were Pinoy. We ended up back at Alcyon for some more hot tea to help us digest everything we ate that day.
For boxing day, I treated my brothers to Universal Studios Japan. We reserved an entire day for this. I booked our tickets via Klook. I read that you didn’t need to buy timed tickets for Super Nintendo World, so I didn’t. What I failed to do was pick up the timed tickets as soon as we got inside. We went straight to queue for Harry Potter and ended up with timed tickets for 9:50pm at Super Nintendo World, lol. So if you’re going, make sure to get the tickets as soon as you enter the park! I’m not big on rides, so I don’t usually include theme parks in my travel itinerary but I have to say this was a lot of fun even if I didn’t ride any rollercoasters! We must have gone on every Rialto-type ride. Hahaha!
On Day 5, we went to the Osaka Aquarium and it was like Animal Crossing New Horizons irl. There were signs that had a Switch icon, so I wonder if there were interactive features that you could activate inside. It was a massive structure but I was surprised that the “main attraction” was actually a butanding. Also finally had Cremia at a cafe right outside the aquarium. We also split a tray of takoyaki after. I can’t recall if this was the same day we tried to go to Umeda Sky Tower but we were not willing to line up for it. Just took a photo of that from outside. But on this day, we did go to Tsutenkaku Tower. You can actually take a slide that takes you from the third floor to the basement. There’s also an exhibit of Billiken, a golden god (?) that supposedly brings you luck if you rub his feet. After we took a million photos of the sunset, we headed to Dotonbori for dinner. Killed the kushikatsu as evidenced by the sticks at the end of our meal.
We booked a guest house in Kyoto for an overnight trip. After getting lost trying to find the office where we could purchase a Kansai Thru Pass (were you even in Japan if you didn’t get lost at least once?), we made our way to Kyoto and deposited our bags at Guest House Itoya. The pass is really worth it because you can use it for local buses. The guest house we stayed in was walking distance to a bus stop, so it was pretty easy to get around. There were two things we wanted to visit here: Fushimi Inari for the torii and the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. We also looked for temples we could visit—we figured we could go to one each day because we knew we would be walking all day. Ended up at Higashiyama Jisho-ji, a beautiful Zen temple, right before it closed on our first day in Kyoto. We headed back to the guest house to freshen up and rest our feet. Before dinner, I wanted to make a stop at the Traveler’s Factory which was in the same building as Ace Hotel. I ended up buying a Kyoto notebook and the cutest travel colored pencil kit. We were supposed to eat at Kichi Kichi Omurice (yes, the one with the lolo who puts on a show as he serves you the omurice) but it was closed! We tried several restaurants in the Pontocho area and everything had a wait list or didn’t accept walk-ins. After several attempts, we managed to get a table at some chain restaurant and we totally over ordered.
The next day, we headed to another temple called Kinkaku-ji before heading to the bamboo forest to meet up with Manu’s officemate who’s based in Kobe. It’s the one with a golden pavilion with the entire thing covered in gold leaf. I got a video of it sparkling in the sun. This was also the day when we had a small tiff because of the amount of times we got on the wrong bus. Coupled with no breakfast/coffee yet, there was definitely some tension and rolling of eyes, lol. All was well when we stopped for a Dorayaki (kind of like a pancake ice cream sandwich) and tea at Go Go Cafe before riding the bus to Arashiyama.
There were so many people because it was the holidays but the bamboo forest wasn’t too crowded. There was not much to see though, so after a couple of minutes of walking and taking photos, we were pretty much done. Had soba at Arashiyama Yoshimura for a late lunch before heading back to our guest house to pick up our bags and head back to Namba. Had a moment of panic because our thru pass decided not to work on our last bus ride to the train station. Good thing we had coins on us and the driver was kind enough to let us take our time paying. I should have asked for a refund from Klook but ah well, I never got around to it.
We hadn’t gone around to shop yet at this point and we spent the rest of our day at the different malls, looking for pasalubong. Ended up buying a pair of Stan Smiths with hearts all over because my Dunks decided it was time to say goodbye. To be fair, I had not worn them since the pandemic and I’ve had them since 2016, I think. We couldn’t decide where to eat and ended up checking almost every stall in one of the malls’ food courts. It was some random restaurant but I loved the Salmon Ikura bowl I got that came with karaage.
Before checking out of the hotel, we went to Kuromon Ichiba Market to have our fare of fresh produce. Ended up getting a strawberry daifuku before settling into one of the stalls to have some yakisoba and okonomiyaki. I didn’t get to have a steamed sweet potato but I was too full anyway.
Headed to the nearest Donki to get some pasalubong. Then we went around Shinsaibashi to grab coffee get some more shopping done before packing. Went to Parco where there was a Snoopy store! We went back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and take the train to the airport. Caught the sunset right before we alighted the train and it couldn’t have been a more perfect close to our trip.
I feel like I’ve probably forgotten a lot of the places we visited but I wanted to write what I could remember, so I can come back to it. I can’t wait to go back and explore a different part of Japan. Where should I go next?
APA Namba -Shinsaibashi
2-7-12, Nishishinsaibashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka, 542-0086, Japan
Brooklyn Roasting Company Namba
1 Chome-1-21 Shikitsuhigashi, Naniwa Ward, Osaka, 556-0012, Japan
1-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 540-0002, Japan
Alcyon Salon de The
1 Chome-6-20 Nanba, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0076, Japan
1 Chome-2-8 Saiwaicho, Naniwa Ward, Osaka, 556-0021, Japan
Kasugano-cho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture
406-1 Zoshicho, Nara, 630-8211, Japan
Mahoroba Daibutsu Pudding
16 Kasuganocho, Nara, 630-8212, Japan
Gyukatsu Motomura Namba
3 Chome−3−1 Nanba, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0076, Japan
Universal Studios Japan
2 Chome-1-33 Sakurajima, Konohana Ward, Osaka, 554-0031, Japan
9 Borden Cafe
3 Chome-7-15 Chikko, Minato Ward, Osaka, 552-0021, Japan
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
1 Chome-1-10 Kaigandori, Minato Ward, Osaka, 552-0022, Japan
1 Chome-18-6 Ebisuhigashi, Naniwa Ward, Osaka, 556-0002, Japan
Guest House Itoya
202 Arimacho, Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto, 602-8472, Japan
68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, 612-0882, Japan
2 Ginkakujicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8402, Japan
Traveler’s Factory Kyoto
1F 586-2 Banocho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8185, Japan
1 Kinkakujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8361, Japan
Go Go Cafe
13 Kinugasa Kaidocho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8372, Japan
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8394, Japan
3 Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8385, Japan
Kuromon Ichiba Market
2 Chome Nipponbashi, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0073, Japan
Streamer Coffee Company
1 Chome-10-19 Nishishinsaibashi, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0086, Japan
1 Chome-8-3 Shinsaibashisuji, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0085, Japan