Sunday, May 18, 2014

Discovering Fushimi Inari Shrine and Nara

The final run of Kyoto before landing ourselves to the retreat of Nanten En Ryokan, Osaka (read here), we managed to visit several places within Kyoto vicinity, which include the Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社) located in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, Japan. 

Getting here from Kyoto Station is easy, just follow the JR Line to Inari Station and you will arrive to the shrine. This Shinto shrine is at the base of the sacred Mount. Inari and is most famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, that trails up to the 233m high mountain. Fushimi Inari is dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Foxes, perceived as the divine Inari's messengers, can be seen in forms of statues here.

The torii gates along the entire trail are donations by individuals and companies. Minimum donation can reach up to 400,000 yen :O

This place is constantly dense with visitors and getting that lone shot at the shrine is really challenging. Shutterbugs and models alike have to be quick, really quick. And of course, a few restaurants here offer locally themed dishes such as Inari Sushi and Kitsune Udon ("Fox Udon"). The hike up may take up to 2 hours, a time luxury we did not afford because of we wanted to visit Nara next.

Nara (奈良市) is the capital city of Nara Prefecture located in the Kansai region of Japan. Getting to Nara from Kyoto station costs approximately ¥710 via the JR Nara Line. Nara, most famous for its roaming, tame Sika deer, especially in Nara Park. It is said that the mythological god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital of Heijo-kyo. The deer is regarded as heavenly animals, protecting the city and the country, and they are protected creatures in this prefecture. You may purchase "shika sembei" (deer biscuits) for ¥150 to feed the deer. 


Though the deer are tame, be advised that they are animal, and they do have the tendency to go wild sometimes. :P
Autumn View near Todaiji
Tōdai-ji (東大寺, Eastern Great Temple),is a Buddhist temple complex located in the city of Nara, Japan. The Great Buddha Hall/ Daibutsuden (大仏殿), houses the world's largest bronze statue of the Buddha. This is one of the few temples where they actually allow photography within the temple itself. 

Don't miss the Binzuru at the entrance of the Todaiji. The common belief that if you rub a sick part of your body against the corresponding part of it on the Binzuru statue he will cure you. *Rubs soul*

Le Binzuru
It was indeed worthwhile to drop by Nara. Aside from Todaiji, you can explore Nara more with Kasuga Taisha and the Kofukuji Temple (Read some of them here), both of which we did not manage to visit due to the rush we had to get to Osaka.

Nara is quite a dainty place to visit, and we then proceeded to our next stop Osaka next. I wouldn't mind visit Nara again :)

Discovering Tokyo : Part 2

Continuing the adventure of the day before (read here), we continued our Tokyo stay and dedicated half of the day in Odaiba  (お台場), located at Tokyo Bay. Primary reason to visit here is to pay a visit to the gigantic Gundam located there.

Fan or otherwise, you gotta admit that this is quite a sight. :)
We started the day with the breakfast provided by our hostel, an extensive selection of tea, black coffee, toasts and hot miso soup. Moderation at it best, we were satisfied with the 'free' breakfast, you can opt for further variety (charged separately). We checked out after breakfast since we would be spending the whole day out. 

NOT provided by the hostel, but bought at the nearest 7-11, love the takeaways there :)
Our first stop was the Shinjuku Sumitomo Building (新宿住友ビルディング), mainly because our bus to Kyoto that night leaves from the Willer bus terminal there. It is 5 minutes away by walking from the The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (東京都庁) in Shinjuku, where we can have a skyscraper height view of the city. Utilizing the lockers there at the Sumitomo Building, we then ascended the Metropolitan Government Building. The two panoramic observation decks, one in each tower on floor 45 (202 meters high), are free of charge to the public (good for freebies tourists and locals alike) and contain gift shops and cafes (though the cafe are not exactly to shout about).

Still my favorite profile shot by far.
Cute capsule machine. Yes, I am a sucker for such things haha

Getting to Odaiba from the Shinjuku Sumitomo Building, requires about an hour (quick 350m walk to Tochomae Station, take the Oedo Line towards Roppongi/Daimon, alight at Shiodome Station to take the train at Tokyo Waterfront New Transit Yurikamome towards Toyosu. To get to Odaiba, alight at the Daiba Station, this should cost about ¥580).

Rainbow Bridge from the passenger's perspective
Arriving at Odaiba, the first thing we looked for was lunch. We settled for Pomu no Ki (Aqua City), for some Omurice, the Japanese take on Pattaya Fried Rice, the fried rice wrapped with omelette and drenched with either curry or demi-glace sauce. The Omurice is normally quite filling, and it was quite a sumptuous lunch I may add.

Happy camper with his omurice.
Among the attractions in Odaiba include the famous malls here, Aqua City, Diver City and Decks. We only focused on Aqua City and Diver City as we only had half a day to spare here if we would want to get back to Shinjuku to catch our night bus on time. Of course, you wouldn't miss the replica of the Statue of Liberty and the Rainbow Bridge, another two notable landmarks in Odaiba.

Rainbow Bridge that connects Tokyo Bay to the City
New York, New York.... oh wait!
If you have the time, do venture further to Fuji Station, as well as Palette Town (that homes the Ferris Wheel Daikanransha and Megaweb, the exhibition hall of Toyota). 

Aqua City
Fuji Station
Right in front of the entrance of Diver City is the oh so awesome 18m high Gundam model, which is kind of synonymous with the main reason why anyone would come here. Here we can find the Gundam Cafe as well as the one stop for all Gundam fans, the Gundam Front Tokyo. From exhibition to model purchasing, if you are into Gundam, you definitely need to get here.

Even the back is impressive. LOL

After the 'Gundam Tour', we then made our way to Sensoji (金龍山浅草寺), the ancient and probably the most well known temple in Asakusa, Tokyo. People flock to this Buddhist Temple (dedicated to bodhisattva Kannon, Avalokitesvara) and the Asakusa Shrine, the Shinto shrine adjacent to Sensoji. The nearest station is the Asakusa station, which is about 5 minutes walk to the Sensoji. Like many of the temples in Japan, there are omikuji stalls, whereby you can get your fortune told by the oracle (with donation to the temple in return) and purchase souvenirs and amulets.

For some weird reason, I couldn't spot the famous Kanimarimon (Thunder Gate) when I was there, and all we got was this weird poster. LOL

Oh, they said getting the incense smoke on your body gives you good luck. 

The Nakamise-dōri (仲見世通り) is a street on the approach to the temple, abundant with street food and souvenirs. It is more vibrant towards the evening/night, that's the best time actually to visit :)

We actually found a little more time, just to visit the Hard Rock Cafe in Roppongi, Tokyo and passed by the infamous Golden Turd of the Asahi Beer Hall. And oh, the Tokyo Station as well.

It's the globally misunderstood Golden Flame of The Asahi Beer Hall

If I can master the train route of Japan, I can do anything in life.

Hard Rock Cafe, Roppongi. Stopped by here just for souvenir.
Returning back to Shinjuku, we had an udon dinner, and while waiting for the time to board the bus, we kinda managed to ascend the Metropolitan Building again for the night view. 

That concluded our Tokyo trip (for now). We then boarded our night bus all the way to Kyoto, it is considered a budget way of saving by merging accommodation and travel. I personally felt I have more to explore in Tokyo, and if there is a chance, I would actually spend a week here rather than splitting the week to Osaka - Tokyo - Kyoto. That is traveling, and it is the adventure (and/or misadventures) and experience that makes it exciting and makes us crave for more. :D