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Osaka or Kyoto - tips and things to do

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I just returned from taking a group of 29 clients on a Diamond Princess Southeast Asia & Japan cruise. Below is information from a web site I set up for the group, to provide them with information. Now that the trip is over, I wanted to pass this information along, in case it is of help to other travelers. 

 Visa: no visa needed for Japan for US citizens.

Money: Japanese Yen JPY and some credit cards, but is mostly a cash society.

Average temperatures in January: 35-48 degrees.

Arrival: the ship will dock at Tempozan Passenger Terminal, which is a couple of blocks north of the nearest subway stop, which is Osakako Station, C11, on the Chuo (Green) Line. The Metro has a very helpful web site at Osaka Metro

Seeing the sights: you will either want to focus on Kyoto, which is more traditional "Old World" Japan, about 50 minutes away from the port by subway and train, or focus on Osaka, which is like a mini Tokyo, a 10 minute subway ride from the port. I have information below on both. They can easily be done on your own, or there are many tours available both privately or through the ship. If you want to arrange a private tour, I can highly recommend Japan Wonder Travel, they are very helpful and well rated.  Consider buying a train and/or metro day pass.

Tour Option:

I have organized a small group tour to visit old world Kyoto through Green Tomato Travel.  We will picked be up outside the port gates in Osaka and driven to Kyoto. The tour will visit Fushimi Inari Shrine and see the hundreds of tori gates and the lovely park here. We will continue to Nishiki Market, a giant local food and wares market. We will have a full Kyoto Style Japanese Food Buffet lunch. We will continue on to the very traditional Gion District, with its lovely wooden bridges, paper walled homes and zen feel, in the hopes of spotting a Geisha.  

If you 'd like to DIY in this port, here are some helpful tips: 

Kyoto - Walk to Osakako station, and take subway to Hommachi station on green line, then swap to red line to Shin-Osaka station (about 30 minutes total), then take Shinkansen (bullet) train from Shin-Osaka to Kyoto station (about 15 minutes). Take a taxi to the Gojo-Kawaramachi intersection, or a bus to the Gojozaka stop. Walk up Gojo-zaka, which is the main street that leads east, up the hill, to Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Most likely, you can just follow the people. Halfway up, you can bear right up Chawan-zaka, which gets you away from most of the cars and buses. Enter the temple and fully explore the temple. Don’t forget to visit the wonderful Tainai-Meguri. After exploring Kiyomizu-dera, exit via the front of the temple and walk down Matsubara-dori Street (lined with shops) to reach the lovely preserved district of Sannen-zaka Hill. Continue down the street to where it flattens out and then go a bit further and take a right down into Ninnen-zaka, another lovely preserved district. You will come to a larger cross street with cars. Go left down the hill then quickly turn right into Nene-no-Michi, which is mostly free from cars. Follow this north, with one quick right-left jog to reach Maruyama-koen Park. Exit the north side of Maruyama-koen and follow the street north to the impressive main gate of Chion-in Temple. Climb the steep steps and enter the wide courtyard of Chion-in. Return down the steps and continue north. You’ll soon pass the enormous camphor trees in front of Shoren-in Temple. Enter the temple and enjoy a nice cup of green tea and a sweet while looking out over the garden. Walk south down west side of park, keeping park on your left, to Chion-in-michi Street and turn right. Continue walking and walk through Gion Shirakawa area keeping a lookout for Geishas. When you come to the large Kamo-gawa River, turn left to head towards  Shijo-dori Street and cross over on this bridge. Note: If you want to use the metro to get here, get off at Shiyakushomae station on Tozai (east-west)) line. Follow map to Nishiki Market, to east end where it joins the Teramachi Shopping Arcade, and walk through market. After you emerge from the west end of Nishiki, continue straight for a block and you’ll see Daimaru Department Store on your left. Go down the stairs in front of the entrance and enter the food floor. Explore the food floor and be sure to check out the Japanese sweets and tea section, it should be about 2:30p now. Exit Daimaru via the main entrance onto Shijo-dori Street. Walk east on Shijo-dori, across the Kamo-gawa River, and walk downstairs into Gion-Shijo Station. Take the private Keihan Electric Railway Line south to Fushimi-Inari Station (all trains EXCEPT the limited express stop at Fushimi-Inari). The way to Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine is clearly marked from the station. Walk out of the station, take a left and walk up the hill, crossing the JR tracks. After crossing one relatively major street, you will see the first torii (gate) of the shrine. Walk up through this and you’ll shortly get to the main precinct of the shrine. Stroll up to the Shin-ike Pond. Walk over to the JR Inari station on the JR Nara line, and take the train 2 stops north to Kyoto station, and then take bullet train back to Shin-Osaka station, then take metro retracing route back to the port. If time allows, after Nishiki Market and the department store, see Nijo Castle and/or Kyoto Imperial Palace. Very popular sights that are worth seeing but located on the edges of the city center are the Golden Pavilion, and the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Feel free to use this map of a walking route I put together, it is about 3 miles, Kyoto Walk

Osaka - Consider buying Osaka Amazing Pass (approx. $23, unlimited subway and some free entries), or consider Osaka Wonder Loop with subway & boat (Hop On/Hop Off with great web site and good value). Visit Osaka Castle, walk around park, consider visit to Castle Museum (approx. $6), lots of walking. Visit Maysuyamachi area, street of samurai with armor, old shops, candy stores. Then go to Shinsaibashi station (exit 6 from station) and explore and wander, lots of covered alleyway shopping, heading towards Namba, where there are several luxury purse re-sale shops, and many other stores. Visit Dotonbori Riverwalk area, great for food, but best in evening. Consider visiting tiny Hozenji Yokocho Shrine nearby. Other places you may find worthwhile are Umeda Sky Building, a very tall tower in the north of the city, or a Tambori River Cruise. Feel free to use this map of a walking route I put together, it is about 3 miles, Osaka Walk  The Japan National Tourism Organization has a great pamphlet on all the sights with maps and explanations, you can access it here Osaka Tourist Information

Return to port area and ride Tempozan Ferris Wheel or visit Tempozan Marketplace.



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