Abby and I were able to escape from our Hagwon job in Ulsan, Korea for a week long trip to Kyoto, Osaka and Nara in Japan last week. Although the weather was far too hot, on two different days reaching over 100f, we enjoyed our first visit to Japan. Kyoto especially offered a ton of incredible vegan restaurants, temples, historical sights, parks and mountains to explore, but we enjoyed all three cities for various reasons. In every city we visited one of the biggest differences we noticed was that bicycles and public transportation played a much bigger role in daily life than in either Korea or the U.S. On every street we saw people riding, and piles of bikes parked especially around supermarkets, schools and downtown areas. If the opportunity arises I would definitely jump at the opportunity to return.
Busan’s Gimhae International Airport was much smaller than we anticipated which left us eating crushed granola bars while we waited for our flight.
Straight off the bus in Kyoto we walked through Gion, the downtown area. All of the taxis were these cool Toyotas with the mirrors sticking off the hood.
Walking though Gion, Kyoto.
One of many small streets in Kyoto.
Abby in Kyoto
The common area of Suzuki Guesthouse in central Kyoto, highly recommended.
On our first full day we decided to walk around on our way to a cafe. This small street followed a river.
I can’t imagine enjoying this job on a 100f degree day.
One of many bridges spanning the shallow river along a street in Kyoto.
Chionin Temple, the first temple we went to in Kyoto. It was free, we walked through and up the stairs behind the temple into a large park.
Vegan soy milk miso ramen from Vegan’s Cafe in Kyoto. They have a large menu and we went there twice. This tasted almost like thai peanut flavored ramen, but was distinctly miso as well. It sounds weird but was delicious.
The entrance to the famous Fushimi Inari Shinto shrine.
There are a number of buildings and tourist attractions at the foot of Inari Mountain that are all painted this bright red color and are part of the shrine.
Looking back toward the street through one of the many torii gates.
This is a very famous spot at the beginning of the hike up Mt. Inari. It was actually super crowded and I had to strategically snap this photo in a very brief moment when no one was visible.
Another shot of the smaller torii gates. These gates are very close together compared to the larger ones that continue up the trail.
This is what the larger torii gates look like on the way up Fushimi Inari.
This is about halfway up the mountain where the gates stop. Seeing as it was over 95f outside we did as most others did, took some pictures, drank some water and then headed back down from here.
The next day we took a trip to Arashiyama, a neighborhood in north western Kyoto, and hiked up the trail to “Monkey Mountain.” A troop of wild Japanese Macaques call this area home and are fed regularly by tourists. They were climbing on the roof of this building and then jumping into the man made swimming hole to cool off.
This guy was practicing some mid-morning yoga.
Another Japanese Macaque, sometimes called a Snow Monkey because aside from humans, they are the northern most living primate. There’s a spot close to the northern city of Saporro where they are famous for swimming in hot springs during the snowy winter.
Ying Yang Flower Cafe near Arashiyama in western/northern Kyoto. This is a very small vegan cafe. We had an excellent lunch here and a good time talking to the woman who runs it.
Abby looking out over a river in Kyoto.
The vegan cheese plate at Choice Cafe in Kyoto.
Walking from the bus station to the start of the Philosphers Path. The route was made famous by the 20th century philosopher Nishida Kitaro who used to walk this way on his daily commute to Kyoto University.
At the beginning of the Philosophers path an artist was drawing as he sat on this bridge.
A view of the artists inspiration.
A shrine along the Philosophers Path.
Being another hot day, we found respite in the shade of bamboo trees and got to wash up in the water provided at shrines and temples along the Philosopher’s Path.
At one of the temples there was a massive garden with this bridge. Here Abby is saying hello to some giant koi fish.
This knotted up tree was just outside of a garden along the Philosopher’s Path.
Massive bamboo along the Philosopher’s Path.
Bicycles and street art somewhere in Kyoto.
The many roofs of Osaka Castle.
A bridge over one of the moats in Osaka Castle Park. Looking out over Osaka on our first day. This spot reminded me a lot of the public gardens in Boston.
Our first day in Osaka we walked almost 18 kilometers. This is looking at Osaka Castle over the main moat.
A crane hiding in the shade near a walking path in Osaka Castle Park.
This Glico running man is famous for some reason. This is the dotonburi section of Osaka, famous for being busy at night.
Walking through the night market at Dotonburi in Osaka.
Dotonburi, Osaka at night.
Even the nights were hot and uncomfortable in Osaka.
We were lucky enough to stay with this man for two nights on our trip thanks to couchsurfing!
For our one day in Nara we rented bikes to get around. Although it was over 100f, it was much more pleasant than walking. This is a shot of Abby riding through Nara park.
When we arrived at Wakamiya Shrine this guy was waiting in line to buy some biscuits. Unfortunately he forgot his wallet, but Abby was kind enough to pay his tab.
Deer standing in front of a torii gate and shrine.
Leaving the shrine.
Another shot of Abby riding through Nara park.
On the other side of the park we found some deer hanging out far from the other tourists, so we spent some time hanging out with them.
If it wasn’t so brutally hot out it would have been a great spot to spend the day.
Abby pulled out the remainder of her biscuits and immediately got chased.
A deer grabs Abby’s shirt in an attempt to get her to drop the treats.
Walking through the small streets of downtown Nara we were invited into this reconstruction of a traditional Japanese house.
A shot overlooking the garden and porch.
Back in Osaka we spent some time at the Grand Front – a massive shopping mall and technological center. The highlight was walking through the three floors of the Panasonic Center and seeing all the different things they make including three or four bicycles and a kitchen/livingroom combo completely designed around cats. Unfortunately they did not allow photographs.
Our last evening in Osaka we spent walking around Korea Town. That’s where we found this Terminator holding a massive fistful of Kimchi. Yes.
A shot of Korea Town in Osaka. The largest Korea Town in Japan.
Finally back in Busan.
The week was a much needed break from Hagwon life, but it did feel good to be back in Korea where we could speak a little more and knew our way around.