day one hundred ninety: march 27, 2016
In the late afternoon we headed to the airport to catch a late night flight to Osaka, putting us in close to 2 AM. To our surprise, the immigration lines at Osaka airport were some of the worst we've experienced thus far. We didn't get our bags and exit the airport until close to 4 AM. For such a major airport, we would have expected there still to be taxis available to take us into the city, but we weren't so lucky. Our other option was to take a bus into the city and then a taxi the rest of the way to our AirBnB. At around 5 AM we arrived at our AirBnB. I went to sleep for a few hours while Jonathan went up to the rooftop to check out the sunrise with Osaka Castle across the river.
days one hundred and ninety-one thru one hundred and ninety-two: march 28, 2016 thru march 29, 2016
Today we took the train to Kyoto, dropped our bags off in a locker at the station and went to meet our friends Lindsey, Clement and Kari who were on vacation from the states. Thankfully, they were ok with us crashing their trip. For two days we cruised around Kyoto and explored temples, shrines, and ate as much food as our stomachs could bare.
When we visited Fushimi Inari Shrine, it was late in the afternoon and we intended to find a nice place to watch the sunset. Not surprisingly, there were tons of people walking thru the Torii Gates and was near impossible to escape the crowds. Jonathan had the bright idea of following a trail that wandered off the side of the hill and supposedly reconnected with the main walk path at the top of the mountain. Let's just say that we successfully escaped the crowds, but we also didn't get to see much of a sunset. We did, however, get to make our way casually down at dusk which was much more peaceful than being amongst the crowds down at the bottom of the hill.
After leaving the shrine, we were starving. Lucky for us, just nearby the train station there was a small yakitori restaurant that was still open. I think we ordered the most of anyone there.
The next morning, we headed to Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion and managed to snap a few photos with barely any people in it, quite an art form when some of these places are seen in person.
This was one of the first areas where the sakura (cherry blossoms) were starting to bloom, but many weren't open yet.
Next stop, the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and the nearby park.
Just above the bamboo forest is an area overlooking the river down below. The sakura contrasted against the green surroundings was beautiful.
That evening we went to visit Kiyomizu-dera Temple perched up on the hillside with a view of Kyoto. We had read that some of the areas were illuminated in the evening so we wanted to check it out.
Afterwards, we headed back to Gion for some dinner with the rest of the group. On our way, we came across this beautiful weeping sakura tree hanging above the walkway.
We found another small yakitori restaurant off a small side street and were told that we could wait for seats to open up. After about 5 minutes of waiting they called us in and asked if a room upstairs would be ok and if we could squeeze. To our surprise, the room was more than big enough and we even had our own little balcony area. (yes, we pretty much ordered the entire menu!)
Next stop, Osaka!