From Kyoto to Tokyo, Tokyo to Kuala Lumpur, Then Back Home

Since it was our last day in Japan, we decided to sleep more. We had late breakfast and followed by checking out. Then we took bus to Kinkakuji temple. However there was no direct bus, we had to change many buses, and the waiting time for bus was too long, and there was a lot of traffic on that day. So, 5 stops before Kinkakuji, I decided to make a turn back because I calculated the remaining time and felt that we didn’t have time to visit the temple anymore. So we took bus to Shijo Kawaramachi and had lunch there. After lunch, we went back to hotel to get our luggage. We then took bus to Kyoto Station to catch our 2.59 pm shinkansen train to Tokyo. We arrived at the platform 1 hour earlier, so we just sit on the bench and waited for our train. It was almost 4 hour journey to Tokyo. We alighted at Shinagawa station instead of Tokyo station because the ticket allowed us to alight at either Shinagawa or Tokyo station. I chose to alight at Shinagawa because it’s closer to airport and we could take Keikyu Line that goes direct to Haneda airport. Even though it’s direct, it’s still a long way to reach airport.

Kyoto Station
Steel tusses that makes the arc roof of Kyoto Station
Platform at Kyoto Station
Shinkansen (Japanese bullet train)
Shinkansen (Japanese bullet train)

We then had dinner at Haneda Airport, international terminal. After dinner, we checked in our flight and went inside to the gate. Our flight departed about 20 mins late, but fortunately it arrived early in Kuala Lumpur, slightly before 6am. At Kuala Lumpur, I sent my mom to transit area and then quickly went to immigration, exited the arrival hall, take KLIA transit train to KLIA, and checked in my flight to go back to Singapore. Good to have met you, Japan! Sayonara!

Date visited: 25-26 July 2014

Missed Gion Matsuri Festival, Ginkakuji Temple, Path of Philosophy, Nanzenji Temple, Fushimi Inari Shrine Kyoto

I was fully aware that 24 July is the day for Gion Matsuri Festival. However, I was not aware at all of the timing. I read from Japan Guide under main events, that the exciting part is happening on 18.00-23.00 when the streets are closed for traffic. I immediately assume that the Festival is happening on that time. And the next paragraph said the procession happens on 9.00-11.30, so I misunderstood it by thinking that the procession is at 9.00 at night! They need to revise the wordings in the website!! So in the morning, after breakfast in hotel, my mom wanted to go out but I wanted to sleep more because I feel sick. So I sent my mom to Shijo Kawaramachi. When I wanted to take bus back to hotel, it was around 9.15 am and I saw many crowds sitting on the roadside, and plenty of police officers. I thought that the people were already hogging the place to watch festival which would only happen at night. So I went back to hotel happily and take a nap until 11.

I mistakenly thought that this crowd was for the festival at night

Upon waking up and taking bath, I went to bus stop to take bus but there is notice in Japanese that has “9.00-11.30” in it, and I saw police officer was signaling to buses to avoid bus stop, so I understand that bus will not be operating from 9.00-11.30. Hence I walked to Shijo Kawaramachi (which is only 2 bus stops away). Once I arrived there, it hit me really hard! I just missed Gion Matsuri Festival because I chose to sleep!! I’m so disappointed of myself! But I had to let go and move on.. The festival was bigger on 17th July, not 24th July anyway! Lol.

Before I left the place, I snapped this photo as I mistakenly thought this is rehearsal for the festival at night

My mom and I planned to meet at 0101 building at the junction of shijo kawaramachi at 12 noon. However I was 15 mins late because I walked and not by bus. But when I reached 0101 building, she was not there. I was in panic and I thought she either got lost, or she did it on purpose. Whatever it is, I was confused and panic. I walked around frantically and then decided sit down at the appointment area. Eventually at 1pm she appeared. She said she was lost. It was a hectic day for me.

So we decided to have lunch at one of the restaurant in Shijo Kawaramachi. We had unagi rice. Then we took bus to Ginkakuji temple, and we walked through the Path of Philosophy before arriving at the temple. We visited the garden in Ginkakuji as well. From Ginkakuji temple, we followed the walking tour again towards Nanzenji temple by walking through the Path of Philosophy.

The Path of Philosophy signboard
The start of path of philosophy
View along the path of philosophy
“Moon Viewing Platform”
Ginkakuji Temple (Silver Pavilion)
The sand garden
Top of Ginkakuji temple
Continuing our journey at Philosopher’s path, canal along the path
Fish on the canal along philosopher’s path
Sanmon gate at Nanzenji temple
To the Dhamma Hall
The Dhamma Hall (Hatto) in Nanzenji temple
The ticket counter for rock garden (Hojo)

Afterwards, we took bus and train to Fushimi Inari Shrine. It was getting dark when we reach the shrine. Fortunately the shrine is always open. There’s a long row of torii gate towards the peak. We didn’t climb to the peak. Then we had ramen near the train station. After dinner, we went back to hotel to rest.

Pedestrians and vehicle drivers stopped for the train to pass
Entrance area of Fushimi Inari Shrine
One of the torii gate in Fushimi Inari
Row of torii gates in Fushimi Inari
Row of torii gates in Fushimi Inari
Row of torii gates in Fushimi Inari
Big banner to showcase their pride of being the first in one of Trip Advisor category
Flag showing pride of being Trip Advisor’s No. 1
Ramen near Fushimi Inari Shrine for dinner
Things to do in Kyoto - Path of Philosophy, Ginkakuji, Nanzenji, Fushimi Inari
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Date visited: 24 July 2014

Kyoto’s Kiyomizu-dera, Chion-in, Heian-jingu Shrine, Shijio Kawaramachi

We arrived in Kyoto on time, at 6.30 am. The bus dropped us in front of Kyoto Station. We took the metro to Gojo. It was difficult to travel on subway with big luggage. Upon exiting the station, we saw McDonald and decided to have breakfast there. After breakfast, we walked to Econo-Inn with the help of Google Maps. Upon reaching the hotel, we kept our luggage with the receptionist and used the hotel wifi to plan for the day’s activity. It was a nice hotel because it provides free bread and drinks from 7am-11pm. Also, there are microwave and fridge for us to use. I really like the hotel.

Our first stop was Kiyomizu-dera Temple. We bought bus pass for JPY 500 and took city bus to the temple. It was a hike to reach the temples, and the road leading to the temple are full of souvenir shops.

Entrance of Kiyomizudera temple
Steps to Kiyomizudera temple
This is a love stone. If you close your eyes and walk successfully to the other stone, you will meet your lover soon.
At far end is the other love stone
Kiyomizudera Temple
View of city from Kiyomizudera Temple
Pagoda at Kiyomizudera
Birds

After exploring the temple, my mom went for shopping along the road we came from, while I decided to sit at the bench at Sannenzaka Slope.

This is either Sannenzaka or Ninenzeka Slope

About 2 hours later, we followed Kyoto walking routes and walked through Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka Slope, visited Yasaka Shrine, Chion-in Temple, and all the way to Heian-jingu Shrine. In Heian-jingu Shrine, we visited Heian-Shrine garden with hope of seeing some flowers, however we only saw green trees throughout the garden.

Entrance of Yasaka Shrine
At Yasaka Shrine
At Yasaka Shrine
Wishes
Chion in Temple
Heian Shrine’s Torii Gate
Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art near Heian Shrine
Entrance of Heian Shrine
The vast complex of Heian Shrine
Another angle of massive complex of Heian Shrine
Heian Shrine Garden
Heian Shrine Garden
Heian Shrine Garden
Heian Shrine Garden

From Heian-jingu shrine, we took bus back to kiyomizu-dera and had late lunch from one of the restaurants on the road leading to the temple.

Lunch
Lunch

After lunch, we went back to hotel to check in. The staff had cleaned our room and even moved in our luggage, that’s a very good service. Then we took bath and took a rest. At night, we decided to explore Shijo Kawaramachi. I had dinner at a cafe there. Then we took bus to Shijo Karasuma, and we follow the crowds into an alley to see the exhibition of a cart for Gion Matsuri festival. Too bad I didn’t bring camera and phone! Then we went back hotel to rest.

Temples to visit in Kyoto: Kiyomizu-dera, Chion-In, Heian-Jingu Shrine
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Date visited: 23 July 2014

Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market, Sensoji Temple Again, Imperial Palace, Overnight Bus to Kyoto

We started our day by visiting Tsukiji Fish Market again, but this time we weren’t too ambitious to catch the chance to see tuna action. It was a busy market, especially the inner market. The officer who was supposed to stop visitors from visiting inner market, didn’t notice us because he was talking to other people. Therefore we entered the inner market and were almost being hit by so many vehicles that were used to transport seafood. Then we decided to exit inner market and went to outer market instead. On our way out, the officer came to us and told us not to visit inner market before 9 am. At outer market, I had my breakfast of salmon and fish roe with rice. My mom wasn’t used to sashimi so she passed the breakfast.

Salmon with rice at Tsukiji Fish Market

From Tsukiji, we went back hotel to rest and then check out. After checking out and keeping our luggage with the receptionist, we went to Sensoji Temple again because my mom wanted to buy more souvenirs. While she was shopping, I decided to take a rest at McDonald. It has been pretty tiring travel for the past 3 days and my legs was aching, and my body was protesting my showing fever and headache. We had lunch at McDonald. After that, we decided to go to Imperial Palace. After seeing the Palace from outside, we didn’t know what to do next. We were tired but we couldn’t rest in hotel because we have checked out, and our overnight bus to Kyoto will depart only at 11.25 pm. So we decided to go back to Sensoji Temple again. This time, I rest in Starbucks while my mom went shopping.

Street view from Imperial Palace
Tokyo Imperial Palace
Tokyo Imperial Palace
Street view from Imperial Palace

Afterwards, we went back to hotel to collect our luggage and went to Ikebukuro where we were supposed to wait for our Willer Express overnight bus. We had our dinner at a restaurant nearby. We couldn’t finish our food so we requested for it to be packed. We then took the bus at 11.25 pm from bus stop no. 8.

The chicken that we didn’t finish

Date visited: 22 July 2014

Tokyo Meiji Shrine, Shibuya,Odaiba

We started our day very early as we wished to see the tuna auction in Tsukiji Fish Market. So we took the first subway at 5am to Tsukiji-shijo. It was already so bright at 5am, I guess it’s because it’s summer. Unfortunately, upon reaching the station, there was a notice that the market is closed for the day. We tried to walk around the market just to check the situation. It was quite quiet, but still there were people working at the market. Since there were really no sign of lively market, we took subway to Harajuku. Most of the shops were still closed because we were too early, eventually we bought food from 7-11 for early snacks, and then went to a 24-hour restaurant to have soba. Then we walked to Meiji Shrine.

Cold Soba from 24-hour restaurant

Meiji Shrine was a peaceful shrine in the middle of huge park. It takes quite some walking distance to reach the shrine. We entered the shrine from south near Harajuku Station and exited at north near Yoyogi Station. After visiting the shrine, we walked to Yoyogi Station and took it to Shibuya. I was determined to look for the famous busy Shibuya crossing. Once we found it, we spend some time to do people-watching while sipping canned coffee from vending machine. It was already a busy crossing at 9 am. Then we explored the area for a while, and had proper breakfast from a ramen place.

Meiji shrine entrance near Harajuku Station
Long walk to the main complex of Meiji Shrine
At the main complex of Meiji Shrine
At the main complex of Meiji Shrine
The road leading to north entrance of Meiji Shrine
Barrels of sake along the road leading to north entrance at Meiji Shrine
Busy Shibuya crossing
In front of Shibuya Station – where we do people-watching
Busy Shibuya crossing
Roads in Shibuya
Vending machines for drinks
Ramen for proper breakfast

From Shibuya, we went to Tokyo Skytree again, with the hope of lesser crowds. To our surprise, the crowd size was the same as the day before, the waiting time was 2 hours and the queue at ticketing counter was extremely long. We decided to give up. We went back to hotel to rest because we have had a long day even though it was only afternoon.

At late afternoon, we had lunch at Yoshinoya near our hotel. Then we took subway to Shimbashi, then took Yurikamome. line to Toyosu in Odaiba. Yurikamome line is not included in our Tokyo Subway Pass so we had to pay for the tickets. The journey took about 40 minutes to Toyosu, it was a scenic ride, we passed the rainbow bridge, fairies wheel, and all of the stations of Odaiba, because Toyosu is the last station of Yurikamome line. In Toyosu, we visited a supermarket, and then had dinner. I didn’t really like the spicy ramen that I ordered. After dinner, we went back to hotel.

Yoshinoya beef rice for lunch
Blurry view from train of Yurikamome Line
Blurry view from train of Yurikamome Line
Supermarket in Toyosu
Puppy for sale in supermarket
Puppy for sale in supermarket
Streets at Toyosu
Spicy ramen for dinner
Things to do in Tokyo: Meiji Shrine, Shibuya, Odaiba
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Date visited: 21 July 2014

Sensoji Temple, Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

We started our day by visiting the famous Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. On Nakamise road between the Thunder Gate and Sensoji Temple, there are so many souvenir shops as well as restaurants. We grabbed a quick lunch of curry pork rice, followed by shopping on Nakamise road. My mom did most of the shopping while I did the documenting of the surrounding. Then we went to Sensoji temple, paid respect to the god, and went for a walk towards Tokyo Skytree. It was quite a walking distance across the bridge over Sumida river. Fortunately there are plenty of vending machine around, so we bought drinks to quench our thirst.

Performance in front of Thunder Gate
Nakamise road leading to Sensoji temple
Sensoji Temple
On the way to Tokyo Skytree
On the way to Tokyo Skytree
View on the bridge across Sumida River
Sumida River

Upon reaching Tokyo Skytree, we were told that we need to first obtain the available timing slot, then we need buy the tickets from ticketing counter. And after that, we can go up to the observation deck for 30 minutes only. We were told the next available timing slot is about 2.5 hours later. I feel that it’s not worth the price of JPY 3000 to wait for 2.5 hours and then spend only 30 minutes on the observation deck. Since it was Sunday, I decided to give it a pass and to come back the next day with hope that the crowd would be less on Monday, the waiting time would be less, and the allowed time on observation will not be restricted to 30 minutes only.

Tokyo Skytree

So we went to alternative observation deck in Tokyo that is free of charge: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. We took subway to Shinjuku station. From Shinjuku station, we walked along the very long underground walkway. On the way to TMG, we walked passed an area where there are many old people setting up camps and mattress on the floor. We suspect they are homeless people, it was a pitiful scene. Upon reaching TMG, there are 2 lines: South Tower and North Tower. We went to South first, then North. The scenes are almost the same. Inside the Observation Deck, there are restaurants, souvenir shops, and some exhibition about nuclear weapon.

Meiji Shrine forest – view from TMG Building
View from TMG Building

After being done with observation deck, we visited an information counter at 1st storey to enquire about where to buy Shinkansen ticket for our trip from Kyoto to Tokyo. The friendly staff gave us a map and told us to go to Subaru building and find JTB Travel Agent. So we crossed the road and followed the map to Subaru building. We had our late lunch at a pasta chain. Then we went to JTB Travel to purchase Puratto Kodama ticket, the cheapest Shinkansen train for our Kyoto-Tokyo trip. Then we went back to hotel and called it a day after having dinner near our hotel.

Pasta for lunch, at Subaru Building
Fried Pork near our hotel
Things to do in Tokyo: visit Sensoji temple, Tokyo skytree, Tokyo Metropolitan Govt Building
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Date visited: 20 July 2014

Tokyo, Haneda Airport, Toyocho Station

I’m visiting Japan for the first time!

I stayed overnight at Changi Airport on Friday 18 July 2014, in order to catch early morning flight at 7.10am to Kuala Lumpur. I took Jetstar flight from Singapore, therefore I landed in KLIA at 8.15am. It took me 1 hour to get off the plane, cleared immigration, and took KLIA transit train to KLIA2. Upon reaching KLIA2, I had breakfast at Hometown Hainan Coffee, which has quite expensive food. After breakfast, I met my mom who flew from Medan, Indonesia. While walking around terminal, I notice that Air Asia was giving out SIM card (with free 50mb data) for people who travel to Japan, therefore I registered for 2 sim cards. The staff said that the basic sim card would not be very reliable therefore he suggested us to upgrade to dedicated plan by paying RM30. We agreed to upgrade only 1 sim card. It turns out that there was no need to upgrade the card, there was no difference in data speed in Japan.

View from KLIA2 departure hall

Then we proceeded to check in and wait in the departure hall for our flight to Tokyo Haneda Airport. Eventually our flight departed slightly late, about 20-30 mins late from the scheduled departure (scheduled departure 2.30pm). Similarly, we landed slightly later than our scheduled arrival time (scheduled arrival 10.30pm). After clearing immigration and collecting baggage, we went to Tourist information to buy 3 days Tokyo Subway pass for 1500 yen per person. The pass can only be used for Tokyo Metro and Toei Trains. We took monorail from airport to Hamamatsucho station, then we walked to Daimon stn and took the train to Monzen-nakacho. At Monzen-nakacho, we could not change line to Toyocho station (our hotel location) because there was no more train, it was already 1am. So we exited the station. We saw a ramen shop that was still open, so we had our first meal in Japan at that ramen shop. With full belly, we then took cab to our hotel at Sotetsu Fresa Inn. It was difficult to search for the first time, actually it’s just beside Mcdonald’s. Upon checking in, we called it a day and rest.

First meal in Japan, ramen near Monzen-nakacho station; with Airasia free sim card for data

Date visited: 19 July 2014