Japan Travels – Kyoto and Osaka in Autumn

I do regret choosing to explore Kyoto on the weekend. I didn’t expect it to be bursting from the crowd. One could barely move through the throngs of people within a scenic location, with many sight-seekers pausing to snap pictures of a torii gate or a temple framed with fiery red maple leaves, stopping the human traffic like a red light. Everything would halt at that moment, as the people at the very front witnessed the awkward poses struck by their fellow tourists, and people towards the back, left with nothing to do, raise their cameras or phones to capture an artistic shot of the scenery around them. I was, doubtless, one of those irritating tourists, but left very unsatisfied with most of my pictures dotted with human heads.

Trying to capture a nice #ootd in Kyoto is near impossible with all the crowd. So I mostly played around with introducing the sights on Instastories, and snacking along the touristy stalls down the streets.

A once serene Kyoto is now bustling with tourists.

Fushimi Inari Shrine

My first stop was at Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社, Fushimi Inari Taisha).

Fushimi Inari Shrine is a shrine dedicated to Inari, the god of rice and sake. It is most famous for its thousands of vermillion torii gates that line up to Mount Inari, and was bursting in the seams with seemingly millions of tourists. There wasn’t a place within the gates where you wouldn’t be photobombed by a sea of heads.

Me standing in front of Fushimi Inari Shrine vermillion torii entrance flanked by red maple leaves.
Stone fox statues perched on both sides of Fushimi Inari Shrine torii gate.
Kitsune, or foxes. The messengers of the Fushimi Inari Shrine.I love how poised these kitsune statues look.
Me standing in front of Fushimi Inari Shrine garden adorned with yellow and red leaves.
People walking through the orange torii gates in Senbon Torii of Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Going through the Senbon Torii (Thousands of Torii Gates) In reality I think I only went through 50. Too many people. I had to get to my next destination!

Kiyomizudera

My next stop was Kiyomizudera (清水寺, “Pure Water Temple”). It was a long walk from the station to the temple, and people were all literally lining up along the path toward the temple, making the walk slow and tedious. Once I reached the temple, I found the place to be inundated with people! Perhaps not just because it was the weekend, but also maybe due to the fact that Kiyomizudera’s main hall will be undergoing construction in 2017, as well as the autumn illumination which was scheduled to be held from mid November to early December, Kiyomizudera was too bursting with a horde of tourists and locals. There was nowhere for me to take fanciful #ootds. I could hardly get a good shot of the temple itself.

Kiyomizudera surrounded by autumn foliage in the evening.
Look at the mass of bodies. I gave up entering further. I personally loathe being squeezed like a sardine. I don’t think anyone can get any good pictures or really savour the scenery with strangers pressed on them.
Vermillion pagoda next to an autumn red tree.
Overview of fall foliage in the mountains.
Still, these are pretty breathtaking autumn trees.
Bird's eye view of historic street glowing in the dark.
These streets are gorgeous from top-down. The ancient roofing really brings one back in time.

The vibrant shotengai of Osaka

Since there isn’t much to talk about the sights, I shall move on to the mouth-watering food in Osaka. First, a stroll down the fascinating shotengai (shopping street) of Osaka. So vibrant and alive.

Covered shotengai with colourful signs, posters and lamps decorating the shopping street.
The cool dragon figure is actually the entrance of a Karaoke place!
An brightly lit alleyway filled with izakaya shops.
A really Japanese alleyway. I love the cobblestone streets.

Osaka Delicacies

Okonomiyaki

And my first meal has got to be okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is a savoury pancake made with a selection of ingredients spanning from seafood to pork and topped with mayonnaise, okonomiyaki sauce, aonori (green nori flakes) and katsuobushi (bonito flakes). It is my favourite dish from Osaka. When I first tried it, I fell in love with it. That simple. And since then I have been craving for an authentic okonomiyaki. When I finally had to chance to sink my jaws into this inviting pancake loaded with cabbage and seafood, I felt sheer felicity and contentment. I was in okonomiyaki heaven.

Okonomiyaki on a grill.

Kushikatsu

Next, another traditional Osaka delicacy. Kushikatsu. “kushi” means skewer, “katsu” is a method of deep-frying food by breadcrumbing them. It is said to originate from Shinsekai in Osaka.

Four sticks of kushikatsu on a plate, with a side of dipping in three flavours - dark sauce, ponzu sauce and salt.
I can’t quite remember what was it I ordered, but there were definitely quail eggs, pork and prawn in this mix.
Purple berry calpis chuhai served chilled.
Berry Calpis Chuhai (Chuhai is also known as Sour, as I mentioned in my previous post I have taken a liking to this sweet alcoholic drink in this trip) Calpis is a drink similar in taste to Yakult, just thinner in consistency.

Takoyaki

Finally, another traditional dish from Osaka. Takoyaki, a fabulous ball-shaped snack made with batter and typically filled with tako (diced octopus). Who hasn’t heard of it? But I never knew that it originated from Osaka. It was invented by a street vendor in Osaka in 1935, and since then its popularity has spread across the world.

I went to this shop called Takoya Dotonburi Kukuru (たこ家道頓堀くくる), one of the famous takoyaki shops in Japan. But I wasn’t at the main shop, unfortunately, so there wasn’t any Bikuri Takoyaki (jumbo-sized takoyaki with octopus tentacles pushing out of the ball). And I didn’t have time to eat the akashiyaki (octopus balls dipped in dashi) as I was rushing for the next shinkansen. I was looking forward to akashiyaki, as the dumpling is not made of flour, like takoyaki, rather it is made from eggs. Pity. Next time I definitely want to try these two.

A plate of takoyaki.
Piping hot and yummilicious.
Me posing with a kushikatsu stick before eating.
Enjoying the quail egg kushikatsu! My next and final post on my Japan travel will be on Nara!

Osaka Special Souvenir Snack

On a separate, funny note, I’m sure everyone knows about Shiroi Koibito (白い恋人). But have you heard of Omoshiroi Koibito (面白い恋人)? Shiroi Koibito means white lovers, while Omoshiroi Koibito means funny lover! It is a perfect representation of Osaka people. Just like them to come up with the idea of this souvenir as a parody of Shiroi Koibito. In case you don’t know, Osaka people are known for their comedic side. Many famous comedians come from Osaka. I love Osaka for its people, its culture, its slang, its food. ❤ But well, I didn’t buy it, so I don’t really know how it tastes like, but I heard the cream tastes rather like mitarashi dango, which is pretty good.

Omoshiroi Koibito in white and blue box on display.

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Beauty- and Travel-holic who loves to play and dream, and recording her life moments.

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