Day 10: January 27
In the morning, we checked out and took an early (for us) shinkansen, leaving the island of Kyushu and heading to the main island of Honshu. We would be making out first pit stop in Kyoto. The shinkansen from Hakata station to Kyoto station was just over three hours via Shin-Kobe.
In Kyoto, we stayed at ibis Styles Kyoto Station, which is right across the road from Kyoto station (one of its entrances), so it was so convenient for all our day trips out of Kyoto. The hotel was actually really cheap and pretty good. After dropping off our bags, we headed back to Kyoto station and had kaiten-zushi/sushi train at Musashi Sushi.
Then we took a train to Inari station to visit Fushimi Inari-taisha/Fushimi Inari Shrine (my second time). We ate some takoyaki before starting the hike. At the start of the hike, there were huge crowds and a lot of congestion, but the number of people dropped drastically after just 15-20 minutes of walking and soon there are very few people. Most people do not seem to walk to the summit.
As I hadn’t planned much else for the rest of the day (planned free time!), we decided to go to Osaka for the evening since Kyoto is honestly a bit boring in terms of shopping and eating (especially at night) and Osaka is just as bustling as Tokyo. We took the train back to Kyoto station and then to Osaka station. We spent some time shopping and browsing souvenirs. T picked up some Japanese Kit Kat Chocolatory chocolates he hadn’t gotten on eBay yet. He was super happy. (We collect Japanese Kit Kats…)
We decided to eat at Kiji Okonomiyaki, an okonomiyaki restaurant that was (might still be) highly rate online. We ended up in some office building and a security man told me that I, like many others before me, was definitely in the wrong place. For some reason Google Maps had the wrong address or pinned it wrong? We had to head back in the opposite direction to the station and doubled our walk (it was really far). It was in the restaurant level of a building, and there was quite a line. We waited around 45 minutes. Unfortunately I cannot recommend this place at all! It’s over-hyped by tourists (there wasn’t a single Japanese person) who were probably all visiting the online top hit okonomiyaki restaurant and everyone just keeps reviewing and recommending it, even though it was a thoroughly below average. Not to say a restaurant can’t be good if it’s visited by lots of tourists, but this was more of a tourist trap and had probably lost its charm. Such a shame that we wasted the time and effort to eat there. Oh well, after that we learned our lesson and no longer read restaurant recommendations from Tripadvisor anymore since they’re mostly tourists’ reviews.
After dinner, we walked to the Umeda Sky Building‘s Floating Garden Observatory (second visit!). This is my favourite night-time observatory in Japan (unlikely to be beaten, I think), because it is open-air and just stunning with the glow-in-the-dark “starry sky” ground. It was a lot more packed than the previous time I visited, but it was still amazing!
We returned to Osaka station and headed back to Kyoto station and our hotel.
Day 11: January 28
Today we would be making a day trip (just like my previous Japan trip) to Miyajima via Hiroshima. We took the shinkansen from Kyoto station around 9am and arrived two hours later around 11am. We then took a train to Shin-Hakushima station to walk by Hiroshima castle and the Peace Memorial Park. We got some hot snacks and also picked up an umbrella from the a conbini since it was raining. Then we took the tram (50 minutes) to Miyajima-guchi station, where the ferries to Miyajima depart frequently on the 10-minute journey. There are two ferry companies and the JR pass covers the JR ferry.
Miyajima is an island near Hiroshima and is one of the Nihon senkei (three most scenic places in Japan) and is still one of my favourite places in Japan. It is important to check the tide forecast for the day, which can be looked up many months in advance (maybe even a year?), which I always do before planning the itinerary in order to try and find the best possible day(s) so the visit can coincide as best as possible with the high and low tide. The high and low tides allow you to enjoy the island’s iconic attractions in different ways. On this day, the low tide was at 5:45am and 6:20pm while the high tide was at 12:15pm. When the tide is below 100m, it is possible to walk up to the famous torii gate.
When we arrived on the island, it was already after midday. We quickly had some lunch and then visited Itsukushima-jinja/Itsukushima Shrine around 2:30pm when the tide was already receding drastically. Well, I knew the tide times so this wasn’t surprising. (On another note, I really REALLY wish I had remembered to start my goshuin collection here since getting my first book from Itsukushima-jinja would have been so special, BUT I FORGOT UNTIL THE NEXT DAY!)
Since it was drizzling all day, we didn’t visit Misen/Mt Misen because there wouldn’t be much to see. I had visited before though, and it is worth going! We wandered around the town, and I noticed that there were significantly less deer than three years ago. Compared to before, there also weren’t many visitors and a lot of stores were quiet or closed in the late afternoon, probably because of the weather and the time of year. We rested in a cafe and had some cake before walking out to the torii gate around 5pm when the tide was just low enough that it could be reached.
It was also dark now. We took the ferry back to the main island and a direct train back to Hiroshima station. We had some delicious Hiroshima okonomiyaki in the station, picked up some local snack souvenirs and took the shinkansen back to Kyoto station.