Friday 3 April 2020

Japan Journeys: Osaka

Disclaimer: There is a currently a travel advisory issued against all non-essential travel due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Government of Canada and the State Department have advised all Canadians and Americans to avoid all non-essential travel due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. In addition, all major cruise lines have suspended operations around the world until mid-May. I am not promoting any travel during this time. Please do not travel. I am just sharing my past travels and continuing to work on my blog while we are all staying at home, practicing social distancing. If you are reading this, stay safe and healthy out there. Take care of yourself and each other. 

Aside from the low price of this sailing, the itinerary was the other reason why we chose this cruise. Japan was on my wish list for a long time, so this cruise would give me a taste of Japan. Our three ports of call were Osaka, Kobe and Yokohama.

Our first stop was Osaka. We had over twelve hours in Osaka but we also wanted to see Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyoto, so we booked a tour with Royal Caribbean. When you're travelling to an area that's far away from the port, we always recommend booking an excursion with the ship. By doing so, it is guaranteed that the ship will wait for you should the excursion run late. Our excursion left first thing upon arrival, which was around mid-morning. It took over three hours to get to Kyoto by bus.

Upon arrival in Kyoto, our tour group went straight to Fushimi Inari-taisha, Kyoto's most important Shinto shrine. It is best known for its thousands of vermilion torii shrine gates. The gates lead into Mount Inari, which is 233 metres above sea level. The challenging hike up the mountain takes about two hours. Fushimi Inari is dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. There are also many fox statues across the shrine grounds, as they were thought to be Inari's messengers.

It was a particularly hot day in Kyoto (over 30°C), and it was extremely crowded. There were a lot of people at the shrine. The combination of crowds and heat didn't exactly make it a pleasant visit. The best time to visit would be first thing in the morning when the crowds are still light and the temperature is still mild. Of course, due to our constraints, we didn't have a choice in the matter. (Note: Fushimi Inari is opened 24 hours, and has no admission fee. It is lit up at night so visitors can see the trails.) My husband was a saint, and had a ton of patience taking photos of me in front of the torii gates. It was a difficult shot because there are always tourists walking by. We didn't have a lot of time at Fushimi Inari. Before we knew it, it was time to go. As with any excursions, there is a sell before you get back to the ship. In our case, we stopped at a high end Japanese craft shop. We were given some free time, but we weren't interested in purchasing any art. Instead, we walked down the block and stumbled upon a pharmacy, and stopped to buy some snacks.

Our excursion ended with a drop off back at our ship. Since we had such a long stop in Osaka, we decided to head back out to Dotonbori for dinner. From the port, we took a taxi to Dotonbori. Japanese taxis have a high rate. We paid a fairly expensive fare for a twenty minute ride. Dotonbori is a tourist area that runs along the Dotonbori canal in the Namba district. It is a popular area for shopping and eating. The area is lit up brightly at night, with prominent billboards that illuminate the streets. The best known billboard is the Glico display of a runner crossing a finishing line.

We went on our own mini food tour in Dotonburi, eating as much food as we possibly could within three hours. We stopped by the food stands along the canal and had freshly grilled scallops, takoyaki (not pictured), and melonpan. We also stopped in a ramen shop for a bowl of ramen. By then, we were stuffed. Getting around in Osaka was easy, and we felt safe in the area even though it was late at night. Our ship left at 1 in the morning, but we were back onboard well before midnight. We had a long day, and another one ahead of us! Next up: Kobe, Japan.

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