Day trips from Kyoto

Kyoto Station is an effective hub for the Japan Rail network. The bullet trains (新幹線(しんかんせん)) allow day trips across distances that would not be feasible in most other countries without flying.

Hakone National Park

The National park in Hakone affords views of mount Fuji on a good day.

From Kyoto or Tokyo a Japan Rail trip to Odawara gets you close to the park. Odawara is about two hours journey from Kyoto and around one hour from Tokyo.

At Odawara station it is possible to buy a Hakone Free Pass, which allows a wide range of travel in the Hakone area. The pass includes trips on a funicular railway (which much of the Japanese literature translates as a cable car), cable cars (which the Japanese literature call a ropeway), a boat trip across Lake Ashi and travel on the local buses.

Maps and suggested itineraries are provided with the Hakone free pass.

The entire park provides fantastic views of forested mountains at all times.

The cable cars travel high above the forests and at appropriate times give views of some of the beautiful lakes of Hakone.

The cable car has a stop on a smoking volcano that belches sulphurous fumes and is a source of the local delicacy "black eggs". Notices advise that it is unhealthy to breathe the vile smelling sulphur fumes for too long. Sometimes whole areas of the volcano are closed off when the air becomes poisonous with the vapours. It is possible to see the yellow stains of sulphur streaking parts of the side of the volcano while workings for sulphur mines are clearly visible from the cable car.

At the end of the boat trip across lake Ashi, there is time to stroll through a famous Cedar walk. The cedar trees are unbelievably tall and straight while between them beautiful flowers, such as the passionflower, grow wild.

The buses and some of the trains necessarily take very winding paths through the mountains in Hakone, so if you suffer from travel sickness, it would be advisable to take appropriate precautions.

Osaka

Osaka is famous for its castle, but is also a fantastic place for electronics shopping. It is easily accessible by frequent bullet trains (新幹線(しんかんせん)) or commuter trains from Kyoto station.

Osaka is famous, in Japan, for its delicacy of fried octopus balls, which our friend Hitomi was kind enough to introduce me to while she took us on a shopping and sightseeing trip around Osaka.

Osaka Castle

In 1997 Osaka castle was refurbished. The exterior of the castle has the appearance of a beautiful 17th Century castle. The interior however has been gutted to house a museum of the life, times and exploits of Toyotomi Hideyoshi as he rose from apprentice thief and sandal carrier to become shogun.

Shopping in Osaka

Crowded billboard covered Shops in OsakaLike all towns in Japan, Osaka has a wide range of shops. It is best known for its electronic good. When I was planning my first trip to Japan I wanted to purchase an electronic Japanese/English dictionary and a new digital camera. I had expected to buy the Japanese dictionary almost as soon as I arrived, but several Japanese friends convinced me to wait until I visited Osaka. It was very good advice. Osaka seems to have a wider range of electronics at lower prices than anywhere else that I visited in Japan.

For foreign visitors most big shops will sell goods of above £50 tax free; To purchase tax free, just ask; You must be able to provide your passport and do a little paperwork for the saving.

At Umeda in central Osaka, near the Osaka JR railway station, there is a fantastic shop. It has individual floors that would pass for shopping centres in many other countries. Be warned though, not everything is cheaper in Umeda. I found that the memory cards were much more expensive in Japan than ordering them from Amazon UK

  • The basement has all of the electronic peripherals for computers.
  • The ground floor is stacked with digital cameras, cases and electronic dictionaries. Some of the personnel speak very good English. When I bought my Konica-Minolta Digimage camera there, they even gave me an English edition of the manual.
  • The first floor of the Umeda shop has everything needed for film photography.
  • The second floor has children's goods, including Gameboys and the latest handheld computer games, which haven't been released in the UK. Although these may be cheaper than their UK prices, be aware that there are extra costs involved, such as obtaining non-Japanese power supplies; these may eliminate any cost saving.
  • … so it goes on with designer clothes, bicycles, shoes and all manner of other goods.
  • Eighth floor: sweet and cake restaurants. Cakes, sweets and a sweets museum cover a complete floor of the shop in Umeda. The cakes are made with fresh fruit. They are delicious and the menus comprise of a photograph album of the cakes, with explanations in English and Japanese.

Himeji

Himeji is famous for its castle, but also large shopping arcades. It is easily accessible by frequent bullet trains (新幹線(しんかんせん)) from Kyoto station.

Himeji is also a centre of leather working and produces some very fine white leather. White Himeji leather goods seem to only be sold in Himeji town and does not seem to be available elsewhere in Japan.

Directly opposite Himeji railway station is a wide boulevard leading to the castle. To either side of the castle are large shopping arcades.

Himeji Castle

Himeji CastleHimeji castle is a UNESCO world heritage site. It is an early seventeenth century castle that was never besieged.

The fortification dates from the early Shogun period and comprises of a complex of over 80 buildings including the main fortress, granaries and living quarters. Himeji castle complex has a vast selection of unique defensive features. Most areas are accessible to tourists.

Since the castle was never besieged, the buildings are in excellent condition. Inside there are original fittings and explanations of them in English. There are also some architectural features, the purpose of which modern historians are unclear. These are also marked.

The interior of the main castle has many steep and narrow stairs. Some of the original weapons are displayed, as they would have originally been stored.

The entry and exit are separate, so be prepared to carry shoes with you throughout.

Himeji is one of the best-preserved and most beautiful castles in Japan.

Nara

Nara was the capitol of Japan between the years 710 and 784 before it was moved to Kyoto. Although it is a small town, by modern Japanese standards, Nara contains 8 UNESCO world heritage locations.

Nara is easily accessible by frequent bullet trains (新幹線(しんかんせん)) or commuter trains from Kyoto station.

The town is was laid out in a grid pattern, based on Chinese city design, and the grid is still visible in the street layout of modern Nara.

Nara Deer Park

Deer Shrine in NaraFor over a thousand years, Nara has been renowned in Japan for its deer park.

The Nara deer used to be considered sacred and there are Shinto shrines dedicated to them.

When I visited Nara I was surprised to find that the deer park includes the town and that tame deer walk around the streets and even into some shops. Tourists are particularly popular with the deer, as they provide a source of deer biscuits via the local stalls.

Todaiji Temple

The Todaiji temple was built in 743 to enshrine the largest gilded bronze statue of the Buddha. It is the largest wooden structure in the world, despite having been reduced in size when it was rebuilt after a fire in 1709.

The figure of the Buddha is almost 15 metres tall, but is dwarfed by the wooden building which shelters it.

Eight of the temple buildings are Japanese national treasures while a further eighteen are regarded as important cultural properties.

Apart from the immense Buddha that sits surrounded by giant Lotus petals, there are many other significant relics in the pavilion.

Despite huge numbers of tourists, the statue of the Buddha in Todaiji seems to radiate a sense of calm and well-being.

Five Storey Pagoda

The five-storey pagoda is part of the Yakushi-ji Temple that was built in 640. It was moved to Nara when the capitol was transferred there.

Two of the temple buildings are Japanese national treasures while another is regarded as an important cultural property.

Past excursions

From March 2005 to September 2005 there was an international Expo in Aichi. The expo has since closed, but for you can still get a quick idea of my personal opinions of Expo 2005.

All material on this page is copyright (c) 2006 David Clarke, of dragonthoughts.com Sightseeing in Kyoto