Off to the south: Osaka and Kyoto

After one and a half weeks of Tokyo, it was time to move on. Japan makes it very easy to do so, thanks to the Shinkansen bullet train network that connects most major cities of the county with one another. Japan had pioneered this technology, and done so under unlikely circumstances – an island state with countless mountains, and the risk of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis to go with it. Nonetheless, the Shinkansen project eventually turned out to be successful, and today, it is entirely feasibly to have a daily commute from Tokyo to Osaka, whizzing through the landscape at a jaw-dropping 300km/h.

The Japanese countryside is nice and (unsurprisingly) quite densely populated in most areas. Unfortunately, it was not in my itinerary to ever really leave the country’s main cities, and looking out the window of a high-speed train isn’t exactly the most immersive countryside experience, either.

Osaka as a city has a lot to offer itself, but thanks to the Shinkansen and the rapid growth of the urban areas, Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe have merged into pretty much one single entity.

One must-see destination in Kyoto is without question the Fushimi Inari-taisha, the head (Shinto) shrine to Inari, established in 711. It is best known for its thousands of orange torii (gates). When you arrive, it may seem overrun, but keep in mind that there are trails that lead all the way up the mountain of the same name, and the close to the top you get, the less people there are. It is worth taking on the roughly two hour hike to the top, even in summer heat. And consider veering off from the main path, as the trails connect to various smaller shrines as well. I think it is best to let the pictures speak for themselves.

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