10 October 2013

Osaka Travel Trip 2013 @ Part 1 (Himeji Castle & Tea Ceremony)

First of all, my apologies for the late postings as I was away from Malaysia. As I was lucky to obtained a study opportunity in Japan, I would also like to share my wonderful 3 week experience with my readers on my visits to Himeji, Kyoto, Nara, Mt Koya, & Osaka. Additionally, I will try to include some general tips for Malaysians coming to Osaka Prefecture!

Nankai Rapi:t
Although a shuttle bus was provided for us from Kansai to my study place, I will still include some general tips on the train ride down to Osaka. Basically, there are 3 routes you can take down to Osaka; JR Haruka, Nankai Express, and Nankai Rapi:t. It depends on which area are you going :
  • JR Haruka to go to Shin-Osaka for the Shinkansen line.
  • Nankai Express which would cost about Y890 to Namba using a normal commuter train. You dont have to worry about seats as Kansai Airport is the first station to take off.
  • However, you can add an additional Y500 (normal seats) for the Nankai Rapid:t in which your seats are reserved in a 2-2 seater layout. This ride is more comfortable and I would recommend to use this during peak hours in Osaka as the commuter trains can get really packed & stuffy. 
Osaka Unlimited Pass & Kansai Thru Pass (KTP) 3 days
Dont forget, if you are planning to get travel passes, you can get it in Kansai Airport Information Centre before leaving. Some of the passes I recommend:
  1. Osaka Unlimited Pass - Suitable for travellers to visit Osaka City tourists spots such as Osaka Castle, Umeda Sky Building. This pass covers your subway/train rides (except JR lines), and admission tickets to the tourist spots. Y2000 for 1 day, Y2800 for 2 day. Osaka Unlimited Pass Info
  2. Kansai Thru Pass (KTP) - Suitable for travellers who wants to make day trips to Kobe, Nara, Mt Koya, or Himeji. Covers train/subway ride (except JR lines) and discount on selected spots.Y3800 for 2 day, Y5000 for 3 days Kansai Thru Pass Info
  3. JR Kansai Area Pass - Suitable for travellers who wants to visit the said spots above but it is only limited to JR lines (which can be quite limited in travelling but can be combined with other passes) Jr Kansai Area Pass Info
If you are a first timer, do get the Osaka Unlimited Pass as it covers alot of admission tickets to Osaka attractions. KTP is more suitable if you are planning to leave Osaka City for sightseeing, & shrines. You can even use the KTP for the trip down to Namba (Rapi:t charge extra Y500). Do note to plan your travel routes before going to Osaka as it can get very confusing.

Note: This post does not use any of the above passes yet. I will explain more detail about how to fully utilized the passes value in my 6D5N trip in Osaka later.

Breakfast!
From our education location in Sato, So we started our bus ride to Himeji with a wonderful sandwich meal that contains crab stick salad, egg mayonnaise, and deep fried chicken. Not to forget, some grapes & sliced orange for dessert.

Outside view from Bus
Himeji Castle Grounds

As we reach Himeji which looks like quite a small town, we visited Himeji Castle which is a UNESCO world heritage as this is the only Castle in Japan that has not been burnt down. Unfortunately, the Castle was being renovated until year 2015. Because of this, a discounted admission ticket was given from Y600 to Y400.

Himeji Castle Grounds

Himeji Castle Roof Deco
Err...

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Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle
The castle interior is quite big and it takes quite some time to explore the area. However, we did not get to go up the observation deck as the line was an hour long and the sun was blazing hot. Do try to visit here on weekdays to avoid the big crowd. So after visiting the castle grounds, we decided to leave to do some shopping. 

Matcha Ice Cream
We stopped by for some delicious soft ice cream for Y250 each. This was rally good as this matcha-vanilla ice cream was light tasting and has a softy texture.

Ice Cream Stall

Honmachi Street @ Himeji
Just opposite Himeji Castle is the Honmachi street which has access to the shopping area of Himeji. Do take note that most shopping streets in Japan closed at around 5pm, so please do your shopping before this time, otherwise head out the shopping malls which closes later. Shopping in Himeji was not as interesting as in Kyoto or Osaka.

Honmachi Street

Honmachi Street

Chasu Ramen
For dinner, we went to a traditional Japanese small restaurant which can only fit at about 10 people. It was actually quite fun as we randomly ordered our dinner through a Japanese language vending machine. We ended up with this Chasu ramen which embodies sliced pork which was far more sweeter than Malaysian's Chasu.

Pork Don Rice
This Pork base rice was really great as the sliced pork was juicy and goes well with our rice. Oh, forget about ordering drinks as all Japanese restaurants provide free refillable tea or water unless you want try better drinks.

Snapshot with the Owner!

Sushi!
Here are some snapshots from a reception party the Japanese people has provided us!

Sushi & Booze!

Chasu

Hostess & Tea Servers
For our next event, we were really intrigued about experiencing Japanese Tea ceremony. I was certainly excited about this ceremony in which I can experience full Japanese culture.

Hiroshima Sweet Dessert
Firstly, our hostess served us an Hiroshima delicacy in which we have to eat in a certain way. I'm not gonna talk about the steps here as I bet you guys can google it out yourself.

Bowing down
Next, tea was served and it was really a delicious as it was really dense with tea powder that was of good quality.