It has always been my dream to explore Japan and all its beauty. Having already done Tokyo and Hakone, most of the other places on my list were close to Kyoto. At the top of my list were Nara, Osaka, and Nagoya.
Just to add really quickly: this was only made possible because of our JR railway passes, which I highly recommend to those wanting to gallivant around Japan freely.
One thing to keep in mind is that you can only get these outside of the country, so make sure you get yours early. Missing out means you’ll be paying a lot more for your travels.
At just under an hour away, Nara is one of the easiest places to access from Kyoto. It’s best known for its incredible deer population, which you’ll find walking casually through the city.
It’s a unique experience where you’re able to get your wildlife on!
Don't get too friendly though. I found myself being surrounded by a flock of deer every time I went to get wafer biscuits from the park vendors.
At one point, I thought I’d lure them in with the treats at the ready for that epic selfie, but before I was even ready, I had slobber all over my hand.
After the deer park, we found ourselves slowly making our way towards Todaji Temple, where everything felt a lot more dated. It was a flashback into the olden times of Japan.
As we entered the premises, we’re greeted by a large Buddha Statue, which gave a real sense of how big this place really was.
Since we were so close from Kyoto, we decided to pay a visit to Osaka.
No plans were made and nothing was researched. In the same spontaneous manner that I handled my first 24 hours in Kyoto, I thought: “why not hop on a train and see how the day shapes up”.
We weren’t prepared for what followed. In just a few hours, our arms were loaded with shopping bags. Luckily for us, we were tax-except due to our glorious tourist passports, which by the way, I highly recommend carrying with you at all times, as you’ll most probably qualify for an 8% discount in most of your purchases.
We were so overwhelmed by the incredible shopping scene that after wondering around through the long strips of shopping arcades, we realized that it was almost nighttime. We hadn’t even visited any of the sights we’d planned for.
If you feel like absorbing the neon lights while you shop, make sure you visit Dotonburi, Osaka.
By the end of the night, we were on our last pennies. Nonetheless, that didn’t stop us from indulging in some tasty Okonomiyaki – Japanese pancakes for which Osaka is widely known for.
At just an hour and a half away from Kyoto, Nagoya is the perfect destination for a day trip.
We wanted something off-the-beaten-path – something to catch us off guard.
Nagoya has a modern touch, similar to the look and feel of Tokyo, but with traditional Japanese scenes once you get out of the popular areas.
To adapt to the city, I went off to wander the streets and see what Nagoya has to offer. In no time, I stumbled upon Osu Kannon, one of Nagoya’s most popular temples.
With beautiful high staircases and traditional Japanese architecture to admire, I couldn’t help but take the opportunity to run up the stairs and capture a moment for Instagram. What can I say? I’m always on the lookout for that perfect scene.
Close to this location is also a market, where I finally found the treat I was looking for. It was in the shape of a fish (random I know!).
I had finally got my hands on a Taiyaki snack, and it was time for me to have a taste. What’s inside you ask? Simple! A red bean paste, which is surprisingly sweet and rather interesting. I’m not exactly sure the origin of the chosen fish design, but just like all other Japanese treats, you don't ask questions: just enjoy it for what it is.
To me, Nagoya was a mini version of Tokyo. If you’re looking for a place with less people, less tourism, cheaper prices for food, and all types of shopping – add Nagoya to your list.
Join travel blogger and photographer, Christian Escobar, as he hops on the Shinkansen and explores Kyoto on a whirlwind 24h trip.
Whether you’re a foodie, karaoke star, drinking on the cheap or looking for some intellectual stimulation, Tokyo has something for you.