If there was ever a weekend when my infamous ability to push off big decisions came back to haunt me, it had to be this past weekend when a few friends and I finally made our way to Kyoto and Osaka. Many study abroad students at Temple University Japan make it a travel priority to see these two cities and I highly suggest, if you plan on studying abroad in Tokyo, doing the same. Tokyo has a lot to offer and since coming in January there hasn’t been a single day where I’ve run out of places to visit, but it’s also important to see more of Japan. My friends and I put off solidifying our plans until the middle of March and due to conflicting schedules, ended up booking a hotel during finals week. We made it to Kyoto very late Friday night and had less than twenty-four hours to dedicate to each city over the span of Saturday and Sunday. It’s not impossible to sit in on several theatrical performances then try out different restaurants in Osaka or pop your head into a handful of temples and shrines in Kyoto over the course of one weekend, but it is a bit of a challenge to balance out when everyone that you traveled with—including yourself— is sick. The best way to get the most out of traveling to Kyoto and Osaka (assuming you’re healthy) is to write, rely, and follow through on an itinerary.
Even though we caught colds, the trip was exceedingly worthwhile. On Saturday, my friends and I spent our afternoon by Osaka castle, where we were able to buy snacks from food vendors and admire the scenery. Later that evening we ate dinner at Ipputo—a fairly priced and phenomenal ramen restaurant. There was a bit of a wait to get into Ipputo, but it wasn’t long and we were able to order our meals beforehand, speeding up the time between food preparation and consumption. On Sunday, we hit the road for Kyoto with the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine, one of Japan’s Unesco World Heritage Sites, as our destination. The shrine is known for its 10,000 torii gates and the climb, accompanied by countless flights of stairs, to the top. There were a few ways to get to the top of the shrine and it was agreed that in order to return to the Kitazono women’s dorm before curfew we would take the shortcut. Two hours and a few rests later, we realized that we misread the map and took the scenic route up. Luckily, we corrected ourselves and took the shorter path down.
Including my weekend trip to Kyoto and Osaka, there were so many instances throughout the semester where my plans were pushed back, flawed, or didn’t end up happening for whatever reason. I think learning to enjoy them regardless has been one of the most beneficial parts of my stay in Japan. It’ s like when my friends I read one of the maps at Inari incorrectly and took the long way up, coughing all the while. It wasn’t easy that way and we definitely weren’t pleased to find out why our hike felt like it would never end, but we still managed to make it to the top.