Day 1 & 2 Honolulu – Kansai – Kyoto
Traveled to Kansai via Hawaiian Airlines. We met at the Interisland Airport (now terminal 3) but there were so many people since the 1stof June was the first day of summer. Because it was so crowded I was worried if we all can make it to the flight but we were early enough so we were at the gate on time. Our flight time was about 9 hours. We all enjoyed watching movies on the plane. We landed in Kansai on time. It was already little after 8pm so it was dark but at least it wasn’t raining. We finally arrived at Shin Miyako Hotel around 9:30pm. We all checked in to nice rooms. It was little late for dinner but our hotel location was right in front of Kyoto Station so some restaurants were still open. Of course we enjoyed the convenience store for musubi and bento.
Day 3 Kyoto – Nara – Kyoto
There were two buffets and one Japanese restaurant to enjoy our breakfast. Most of us were still on Hawaii time so we woke up early enough to enjoy a good breakfast. It was a very nice day to start our Kyoto tour. We met our English speaking guide at hotel lobby and started our Kyoto and Nara excursion. First visit was Kinkakuji – Golden Pavilion.
Kinkakuji is a Zen Temple in northern Kyoto whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. This temple was the retirement villa of the shogun Yoshimitsu Ashikaga, and according to his will it became a Zen temple of the Rinzai sect after his death in 1408. Many people visit this pavilion which has been popular for a long time.
The next stop was Nijo Castle. It was already starting to become very hot. Nijo Castle was built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of Ieyasu Tokugawa, the first shogun of the Edo Era. His grandson Iemitsu completed the castle’s buildings 23 years later and further expanded it. After the Tokugawa Shogunate fell in 1867, Nijo Castle was used as an Imperial palace for a while before being donated to the city and opened up to the public as a historic site. Its palace buildings are one of the best surviving examples of castle palace architecture of Japan’s history and the castle was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994.
After Nijo Castle, we went to Nishiki Market where there is a narrow, five block long shopping street lined with more than one hundred shops and restaurants. Known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen”, this lively retail market specializes in all things food related, like fresh seafood, produce, knives and cookware, and is a great place to find seasonal foods and Kyoto specialties, such as Japanese sweets, pickles, dried seafood and sushi.
After Nishiki Market, we headed to Nara for lunch and sightseeing. It took about one hour and 10 minutes to get to Nara.
We had a nice buffet lunch then we went to Todaiji Temple & Deer Park.
Todaiji is one of Japan’s most famous and historically significant temples, a landmark of Nara. The temple was constructed in 752 as the head temple of all provincial Buddhist temples of Japan and grew so powerful that the capital was moved. Todaiji’s main hall, the Daibutsuden is the world’s largest wooden building, despite the fact that the present reconstruction of 1692 is only two thirds of the original temple hall’s. The massive building houses one of Japan’s largest bronze statues of Buddha. About 50 feet tall, the seated Buddha represents Vairocana and is flanked by two Bodhisattvas. There are many deer from Nara Park which come right up to you as you feed them.
After Nara, we headed back to the Kyoto hotel. There are many places to shop and restaurants near our hotel. Aeon shopping mall is only 5 minutes away and the department store near Kyoto station is also 8 minutes away. Everyone seemed to enjoy their own dinner.
Day4 Kyoto – Free day
We had a nice breakfast and we all had the Icoca card, used to ride the trains, so we could spend our own time in Kyoto. Yes, it was a challenging day for everyone. Some took a guided taxi for sight seeing. Some went shopping on their own. I took about 16 people on a train excursion. Our first visit was at Fushimi Inari Shrine. It is an important Shinto Shrine in southern Kyoto. It is famous for its thousands of vermilion Torii gates, which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at about 764 feets and belongs to the shrine grounds. Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Foxes are thought to be Inari’s messengers, resulting in many fox statues across the shrine grounds. Fushimi Inari Shrine has ancient origins, predating the capital’s move to Kyoto in 794.
Then we visited Arashiyama where the famous bamboo forest is. You may have seen this bamboo forest in many famous movies. It gained popularity after being seen in movies. You can enter directly from the main street of Arashiyama. There’s just one main path through the grove, which leads slowly uphill. After a little bit of walking, we were at Nonomiya Shrine. Despite being a small shrine, this shrine is very popular, especially amongst women. It is believed that a visit to this temple can help single women with the matchmaking processes, and also ease child delivery for mothers-to-be.
We separated from 2 other families and 5 of us went to Gion which is Kyoto’s most famous geisha district, located around Shijo Avenue between Yasaka Shrine in the east and the Kamo River in the west. It is filled with shops, restaurants and Ochaya, where geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha) and maiko (geiko apprentices) entertain. Gion attracts tourists with its high concentration of traditional wooden machine houses. We had lunch and I enjoyed my sweets (Wasabi mochi, bracken root starch jelly covered with soy bean powder) at Komori, Kanmiya.
Day 5 Kyoto – Osaka
We had to pack during the previous evening so we could send our bigger suitcase to Tokyo. Then we headed to Universal Studio. It turned out to be a very nice day again so everyone enjoyed a full Universal Studio Day. I helped with fast pass purchase and everyone was so ready for the adventure! After a fun day, we stayed at the hotel which was only 5 minutes walk from the park. There were many shopping areas and restaurants near our hotel.
Day 6 Osaka – Tokyo
After checking out of our Osaka hotel, we headed to Shin Osaka Station to ride the Bullet train. We had to catch our 10:10 Nozomi Shinkansen to Tokyo which only took 2 hours and 30 minutes for the 312 mile trip. We all purchased our ekiben (bento lunch) at Shin Osaka and got into the Shinkansen. It started raining so we couldn’t see Mt. Fuji on the way. Our trip to Tokyo was fast.
Our English speaking guide was waiting for us at platform of Tokyo Station. We headed to Asakusa Shrine (Sensoji) whichis a Buddhist temple. It is one of Tokyo’s most colorful and popular temples. The legend says that in the year 628, two brothers fished a statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, out of the Sumida River, and even though they put the statue back into the river, it always returned to them. Consequently, Sensoji was built nearby for the goddess of Kannon. The temple was completed in 645, making it Tokyo’s oldest temple. It was raining but we enjoyed walking through the shopping arcade.
We checked in to our Tokyo hotel.
Day 7 Tokyo – Tokyo Disney Sea
The weather was nice again and everyone was ready for new adventures the day would bring. Some didn’t go to Disneys. The shuttle bus to Disney Sea departed at 8:20am. It took less than 40 minutes to get there. I informed everyone of the bus pick up location for the return shuttle. Each family had a bus confirmation sheet so there was nothing to worry about. I said good bye and good luck to all of them and I had to take a train back to hotel. Some came back to hotel early while others stayed as scheduled. After Disney Sea, many told me that they really enjoyed the rides, shops, and food.
Day 8 Tokyo – Haneda Airport – Honolulu
We had breakfast at the hotel and had a free day until departing for the airport. Two families extended their Tokyo stay so only 20 of us needed to go home. We stored our luggage and explored our last day in Tokyo. Many of us went shopping again. Our hotel was not too far from Tokyo Skytree which some of visited the night before. I visited Skytree and shopped at Soramachi.
Our bus to Haneda airport departed at 5:30pm. We were tired so we relaxed in the lobby while waiting to be picked up. We all reminisced about our trip while waiting. We arrived at Haneda airport and spread out for final shopping and dinner. Our flight was on time and we came home safely. It was a memorable summer trip for everyone. Thank you so much for coming on JTB tour! Hope to see you all soon on other JTB tour!
Posted by Anne Clausen
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Honolulu HI 96814
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