I’m glad we went back to Japan. Our previous trip in February was fun, and we got to see much of Tokyo, but this time we got to experience springtime in Japan (including the beautiful cherry blossoms) and I was able to visit Osaka, Kyoto and Nara for the first time. Truly a trip to remember! Not to mention our smooth ride on the Shinkansen bullet train.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I have many photos to share with you, so I’ll split this into a couple posts and try to keep them brief — unlike last time!
First, we had a day in Tokyo (well, I did. Will had to work.) I revisited the Imperial Palace grounds, including the Imperial Palace East Gardens, where I got my first glimpse of Japan’s world-renowned cherry blossoms. It was late March, so it was still fairly early in the season, but I lucked out and managed to see numerous trees that were slightly full. The weather was great for a stroll.
Yes, be warned! You’re going to see LOTS of cherry blossom pictures in the next couple of posts. 🙂 How can I resist?
Next, I headed to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, which is a huge and wonderful place to spend hours walking, picnicking, reading a book under a tree, whatever pleases you. The 144-acre park is divided into three different styles of gardens — French formal garden, English landscape garden and Japanese traditional garden. I loved it. I wanted to see as much of it as I could, so I kind of power walked it, but I would’ve loved to have stayed longer.
My feet were killing me. But I found myself walking down to Harajuku to see what the area is like in the evening. Saw a few new things from last time, including a Kiddy Land store that had an entire floor dedicated to Snoopy/Peanuts merchandise! My mom would’ve loved that.
Cat sushi. I know, random! Ok anyway, the next day we took the Shinkansen bullet train down to Osaka. Definitely an incredible experience! The train is really nice inside, much more spacious and comfortable than an airplane. It goes crazy fast and yet the ride is very smooth, though you can only look out the window at the scenery for a few seconds before you start getting dizzy. Oh, and it passes fairly close to Mt. Fuji, so that was cool to get to see it again. (These pics and videos are a mix of both the trip there and the return.)
Once we arrived in Osaka, we met up with our friend, who showed us around the Shinsekai neighborhood, known for its giant blowfish and Billiken statues, and took us to eat kushikatsu for lunch. Kushikatsu are basically deep-fried, skewered meats and vegetables that you dip into a Worcestershire-type sauce (I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but the sauce tin gets reused from customer to customer, which is why they have a no-double-dipping rule!). It’s a small but nice area with many retail stands and eateries. There’s also the Tsutenkaku Tower and a zoo, hence the animal butt pictures plastered all over the subway station. Haha.
We spent the rest of our first day in Osaka exploring places like the Hankyu HEP Five mall and the Dotonbori area, which is a popular, pedestrian friendly waterfront area known for its giant crab, Glico running man sign and many eateries. It gets super busy at night, but the views are great from the bridges and walking along the river is relaxing.
Up next: The amazing temples of Kyoto and Nara.