We did a half-day trip of Nagoya and Kyoto before heading to Tokyo. It may sound ambitious but it’s totally do-able. Originally, before heading to Kyoto, we only went to the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium because we started the day late, and visited Nagoya Castle on our last day before heading to the airport. But for this post (can I even call this a travel guide? Lol) I’m going to write as though we first went to the aquarium, then to the castle, and finally to Kyoto.
Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium
The Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium houses various aquatic animals from tiny fishes to large sea mammals. The aquarium is divided into two — the South Building and the North Building.
The South Building exhibits marine life from Japan seas, deep sea, equatorial ocean, Australian waterfront, and Antarctic Ocean.
On the other side of the aquarium is where the dolphins, whales, and porpoises (among others) are kept. They hold dolphin shows at the Main Pool. I’ve never been to an aqua park before and I was so amazed by how intelligent dolphins are! They are so adorable that watching them actually made me want to have one of my own (although I know I shouldn’t).
The aquarium is located at 1-3 Minatomachi, Minato-ku, Nagoya and open from 9:30AM to 5:30PM. Entrance fee is 2, 000Y for adults. It can be accessed via the Subway Meiko-Line, “Nagoyako” Station, Exit 3.
This castle was completed in 1612 and was used to block off attacks coming from the Osaka direction. It also served as the residence of the Owari lineage of the Tokugawa family during the Meiji period.
After the World War II, the main castle and the Hommaru Palace were destroyed. However, it was restored due to the plea of the people of Nagoya. The restorations started in 2009 and is to be completed by 2018.
We were only able to explore the Main Castle Tower where the exhibits and observation room are located. We didn’t get to spend as much time because they were about to close but if we had gotten there earlier, we would’ve seen so much more of the beautiful Nagoya Castle.
The Nagoya Castle is open everyday from 9AM to 4:30PM (except December 29 – January 1). Entrance fee is 500Y for adults. It is located at 1-1, Hommaru, Naka-ku, Nagoya. To get to Nagoya Castle from Nagoya Station, take the Nagoya Sightseeing route bus and get off at Nagoya Castle.
From Nagoya, my cousin and I headed for Kyoto. Originally, we were only supposed to take a bus (which would take us about 2hrs) but we were already running late to meet Mechelle so we opted to take the Kodama shinkansen instead. It was our first shinkansen ride and we felt so giddy during the train ride! It only took us an hour to reach Kyoto so we still had time to roam around.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Our first destination was the Fushimi Inari Shrine. It is a shrine dedicated to the god of rice and sake in the 8th century.
The hiking trail is covered by Senbon Torii or thousands of torii gates. According to Mechelle (as well as some of the guides I read), each torii gate is donated by individuals or companies.
It takes 2-3hrs to reach the summit but we turned back before reaching the top because we had another place that we wanted to explore. It was a beautiful shrine though, the torii gates were so vibrant and as you go higher, there tends to be fewer tourists so the opportunity to take better photos get higher as well. Lol.
(Fun tidbit: there is a wishing pot(? shrine? bell?) right before the trail starts and Mechelle told me to make a wish. I didn’t believe her at first but she told me that it wouldn’t hurt to try! So I threw a coin, rang the bell, and bowed my head. When my cousin and I were on our way to Kiyomizu-dojo after Fushimi Inari, my college classmate sent me a screenshot showing that I got accepted into my dream med school!!! Coincidence or not, I’m glad Mechelle forced me to make a wish. 😛 )
Admission to Fushimi Inari Shrine is free and is open from 7AM – 6:30PM. It is located at 68 Yabunouchi-cho, Fukakusa Fushimu-ku, Kyoto. From the JR Kyoto Station shinkansen, take the JR Nara Line and get off at Inari Station. The shrine is only a 3-minute walk from Inari Station.
Mechelle had to go already after Fushimi Inari so she just taught us how to go to Kiyomizu-dojo and how to use the ticket vending machines. But when my cousin and I got to the Kiyomizu-dera Temple, it was already close. We still had a lot of time to spare before we had to be back at Kyoto station to board our bus going to Tokyo so we decided to head over to Gion’s Hanami-koji.
Gion is Kyoto’s famous geisha district. It is lined with wooden tea houses and restaurants where geishas entertain you while you dine.
We didn’t get to explore that much because it was already 7PM when we got there and we were getting tired from all the walking. We only roamed the streets and I was already a bit drained which is why I didn’t get to take that much pictures as well. I honestly would’ve preferred to go to Gion in the morning or afternoon so as to see the beauty of the wooden tea houses/restaurants. Perhaps next time? 😛
From Kiyomizu-dojo, we took the Keihan Line and got off at Gion Shijo Station. From the station, just walk straight ahead. Hanami-koji should be on the right side.
Writing this post made me realize how ambitious and brave my cousin and I were. I mean, two cities in one day? And going off on our own in a country where train transportation (although very efficient) can get very confusing? My mom and her friends were awed by our guts. HAHA! I had such a good time going around Nagoya and Kyoto, I just wish I had more than half a day to explore each prefecture. When I get to come back to Japan, I promise I’d explore Nagoya and Kyoto more thoroughly than I did! Have you ever been to Nagoya and Kyoto? What are your favorite places? Please share them with me! 🙂