Since we had 5 days off during silver week, my friends and I decided to go somewhere. We all wanted to go to Kyoto and Osaka to experience different parts of Japan. South of Tokyo, it is very different from the Japan we are used to. We took the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Osaka and stayed there for two nights. It was unbelievably fast. The train is a feat of technology and engineering all on its own.
We arrived after two hours on the train and checked into our hotel. Our room was on the 49th floor and as soon as we entered the room we were greeted with an amazing view. I immediately noticed that the lay of the land was very different from Tokyo. It seemed a lot more expansive. The sprawl of the city was amazing! There was nothing but buildings and mountains as far as the eye could see.
The next morning we went to Osaka castle. I had wanted to go because I had seen many pictures of the famous castles in books I read. The castle was the site of a famous siege in the 17th century in which the Tokugawa family defeated another clan, the Toyotamis, and consolidated their power. The Tokugawas would dominate Japan until the 19th century when Commodore Perry lowered his guns against Tokyo harbor and demanded Japan open up her ports. The castle was huge. It sat on a stone base and had many statues on the outside that were painted gold. It was a long walk to get up to the castle! As I walked I wondered how anyone could have possibly taken this castle. It was surrounded by a moat and layers of walls. It made me appreciate the military genius of Tokugawa Ieyasu. To be able to take a place like Osaka castle is an impressive feat.
Inside there was an impressive museum. It included explanations about the Siege of Osaka and the background behind the siege. It had an impressive array of weaponry, armor, and art. Some of the art was very impressive. The painted wood panels were gorgeous and depicted the battle in a brilliant fashion. We went to the top afterwards and were greeted with an amazing view!
We came back to the hotel amazed at what we experienced and made us all the more excited for Kyoto. We went to Kyoto the next day and stayed at a hostel. Hostels in Japan are the best. I read online some places that people would never stay at a hostel except in Japan. It was actually a very nice place for very cheap. As soon as we dropped our stuff off we went to go explore. The city was a dream for an architecture lover like me. There were gorgeous temples and shrines all over. Apparently there are over 2,000 of them in Kyoto alone!
Unfortunately the day we went to the famous temples, Kinkaku-ji, the gold temple on the water, and Kiyomizu-dera, the temple famous for its veranda, I forgot my cell phone and could not take a picture of them. But the memories I have from the temple are with me. They were gorgeous beyond all belief. When most people think of Japan, they think of Tokyo and many rarely venture outside of Tokyo. But there is so much more to Japan than Tokyo. Many of the regions are unique and each prefecture has its own unique food and dialect. If you ever go to Tokyo, make sure you take trips outside of Tokyo. Much how like New York does not represent the entire United States, Tokyo does not represent all of Japan. In order to truly understand Japan, consider taking trips to other places. You might be surprised at the differences you find.