Japan: Nikko & Kyoto
Our 2nd week in Japan and this time a bit or better completely off the beaten path! Thanks to our friend Eiji, we discovered a totally different Japan with the Northern countryside and the Onsens, traditional Japanese baths which are more like a religion in the entire country.
Did we already say we love Japan? We do indeed and you will soon understand why watching our video and reading the lines below.
Nikko: day 1
We left our hotel early in the morning to meet Eiji further North of Tokyo. Traffic jam can be very bad in the city and he suggested to meet a bit out of the way to avoid wasting time in transportation. We then hit the road to the Nikko prefecture and the site of Nikkō Tōshō-gū, a shrine and a temple, dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu the first shogun of the Edo era, amongst the most visited sites in Japan. Eiji had booked in an old Ryokan in Itamuro to spend the night and have our first Onsen, Japanese bath, experience. We got a very good dinner and got to bed early to be ready for the next day.
Nikko: day 2 & 3
We visited the Nikko National Park and took several little walks, in swamp area and close to the sleeping volcano. The scenery was fantastic and the fall foliage beautiful. It was chilly due to the altitude but the scenery was so great that we forgot about the cold. Eiji arranged our overnight in another Ryokan for the next two nights, the Kita Onsen. The guest house is divided in several old buildings all connected from the inside. The structure is 350 years old. It was very chilly when we arrived at Kita Onsen and Eiji teached us how to use the “Kotatsu”, the famous and unique, heating table to warm up the room. Then we went to the baths, really hot ones, to get warm. Wow it was a great experience! We kept going and returning to the baths during the two days at Kita Onsen. We loved the Japanese bath way and we will never forget about this, thanks to Eiji.
We left the Kita Onsen in the morning and made a last stop in the public bath close by. Another very interesting experience. Magali being the only Westerner in the room got the full attention of the Japanese ladies. It was very much fun. Then back to Tokyo to take a train to Kyoto. We arrived in the afternoon and had time to explore the train station and its surrounding. We did some shopping and had early dinner before taking the Subway to meet our AirBnB host, Mika, a nice Japanese lady who speaks several languages and who’s been travelling extensively. We had a nice tatami room to ourselves in Northern Kyoto.
Kyoto: day 1
After a good night rest, we decided to go to the Northern Western part of Kyoto to visit the Gingaku-Ji, the Golden Temple, first and then the Ninna-ji Temple to finish with the Gion district, to see the Yasaka Jin-Ja Park and with some luck spot a Maiko, entertainment lady. Unfortunately no Maiko around but a very good day walking and enjoying Kyoto, a lot!
Kyoto: day 2
Head to the South West to visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine! One of the most photographed site in Kyoto. This is the famous park with hundreds of “Torii” red door used in sacred sites. Being a Sunday the site was very packed with tourists but as soon as we started hiking uphill the crowd was less and less. Daniel fell literally in love with the site and all the red doors. Magali visited the site 6 years ago and apart from the Torii nothing was the same. A new direct path from the station had been set up, English sign boards were every where! And most of all, when she did visit the site at that time, she was almost the only tourist around, she had to ask for directions from the train station as there was nearly no information! What a change! Being on the pole position of the Kyoto Activities on Tripadvisor.com must have helped (!) Back to Kyoto station we walked to the Toji Temple to see the highest 5 storey pagoda of Japan. The pagoda and the two other halls of Toji including golden Buddhas and war kings images were absolutely stunning!
Kyoto/Nara: day 3
We took a train early to Nara, another Imperial city, 40 min. from Kyoto. We walked around and visited the major Temple Todai-Ji and a few shrines. The main attraction here are the deers that roam freely around. We bought special deer biscuits and had fun feeding the cute beasts. Another beautiful day in the fresh air for us!
we specifically enjoy
- Every bath in the Onsen, every temple, every shrine, every garden, every leave falling from the trees, every deer that approached us searching for biscuits, absolutely everything!
- Nikko Region: Onsen Itamuro 加登屋旅館別館 & Kita Onsen 北温泉旅館