Thursday, November 17, 2016

Japan adventure from Osaka to Kyoto! Ohayo!

There is a temple for everyone in Kyoto, Japan. There is a golden pavilion, and a silver one too. Many temples have beautiful Zen gardens. There are picturesque mountain temples, that become even more stunning with the colors of fall. And there is an iconic temple with thousands of vermillion gates. In fact, there are more than 1600 temples in Kyoto.

A visit to Osaka will not be complete if you don't venture to Kyoto, once the capital of Japan, and a World Heritage Site. My Japan adventure continued as I hopped from Karaksa Hotel Osaka to Karaksa Hotel Kyoto. It was a good thing they had train directions handy, which I was easily able to follow to get to Kyoto.

As soon as I arrived in Kyoto, I went straight for the food. What I like about both hotels is that they have customized food maps that help you explore the different restaurants around the neighborhood.

Mychoice for dinner was okonomiyaki, a savoury pancake made with a flour-based batter, grated nagaimo (yam), dashi (soup stock), eggs and shredded cabbage as base ingredients. Various versions would have green onion, meat (thin pork belly), octopus, squid, shrimp, and vegetables, among other ingredients. The Kansai area is known for okonomiyaki.

Eight years ago, I got to experience the rich heritage of Kyoto, amidst a stunning backdrop of fall foliage. But I missed Fushimi Inari-taisha, which according to TripAdvisor, is Japan's top attraction. So I went straight to Fushimi Inari Shrine in the morning.

A Shinto priest walks behind the go-honden or main shrine of Fushimi Inari-taisha
The best way to get around Kyoto is by bus, especially with the ¥‎500 day passes which you can purchase from newsstands or the bus driver. There are buses that will take you to every attraction, including Fushimi Inari Shrine.

The iconic vermillion and black senbon torii (thousands of torii) of Fushimi Inari-taisha
Fushimi Inari-taisha is a Shinto shrine that serves as the head shrine for Inari Ōkami, the kami or spirit of rice. But Inari was also seen as the patron of business. And thus veneration was popular among merchants and manufacturers, who donated most of the vermillion and black gates or torii, that have been the iconic draw for visitors. Try to come as early as possible because the place can get really crowded.

Kabayaki unagi or grilled freshwater eel
Like in many major temples, hawkers line the street going to Fushimi Inari Shrine.

Nikumaki onigiri of meat-wrapped rice balls
Takoyaki or octopus balls
Kushiyaki or grilled meat
Inari sushi or deep-fried tofu pockets filled with sushi rice
With so many hawker choices, roads leading to major temples are actually great places to sample Japanese street food.

For dinner, I realized there was an interesting restaurant right beside Karaksa which served sushi, sashimi, and tempura, among other popular Japanese dishes.

Sunset at Kiyomizu-dera, a 1238-year-old temple and World Heritage Site
Aside from Fushimi Inari Temple, another interesting temple is the Kiyomizu-dera, a Buddhist temple built halfway up Mt. Otowa, one of the peaks in Kyoto’s Higashiyama mountain range. The temple is dedicated to Senju Kannon (Guanyin), the Goddess of Mercy.

Sunset is a fantastic time to view the temple. But I heard the temple lit up in the evening is also a sight to behold.

Kinkaku-ji or Temple of the Golden Pavilion
Then there's Kinkaku-ji or the Temple of the Golden Pavillion. The shariden at Rokuon-ji (the temple's official name) is the iconic Golden Pavilion.

Karaksa Hotel Kyoto, where I stayed, is walking distance from the Shijo-Omiya Station. The new interiors are clean and modern, and exude the value for money Japanese business hotel that it is. 

While many hotels of their class in Japan have really small rooms, Karaksa offers decent space at an affordable price. There is high-speed WiFi all over the hotel, including the rooms. Plus I liked it that they had power and USB outlets all over the room, including both sides of the bed. 

The toilet is compact but comfortable. And don’t you just enjoy those Japanese toilet seats?! They also have pajamas and sterilized slippers for room use. 

If you want to book your stay at Karaksa Hotel, visit www.gohotels.ph. Karaksa Hotels is a partnership of Xymax Corporation and Robinsons Land Corporation.



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