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Our Nara Trip: From Osaka to Nagoya

Due to unpredictable weather conditions, our trip through Japan’s Honshu didn’t go perfectly – but that doesn’t mean it won’t serve as an idea for anyone else looking to make a similar trip to some of Japan’s most amazing cities. Here is a guide to how we went from Osaka to Nagoya.

 

Day 1: Osaka

Kansai International Airport is a great gateway to Japan. It could even work out easier than flying to Tokyo (it did for me). A one hour flight from Manchester to Amsterdam, a quick changeover, followed by an 11-hour flight directly to Osaka all at a competitive price.  

Setting off at 11 am UK time, and arriving in Japan at 8 am meant I was in for an extremely long day, but I figured I’d be able to power through it. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any sleep on the plane, and my wife’s flight was delayed due to a typhoon that was heading through Kyushu to South Korea.

Now extra tired from waiting around the airport, coupled with the fact it was raining – we decided to cancel our day out to Universal Studios Japan. USJ is quite expensive but has lots of fun rides and quite a large Harry Potter-themed area you can explore and hang out at.

Instead, we headed straight to our hotel. We decided to stay at the RIHGA hotel – not the cheapest option, but thanks to an Expedia discount from when I booked my flight, it wasn’t too expensive. The extra cost paid off, as the room was great and had everything we needed. USB chargers, adapters for most countries, heated mirrors, and the best thing – a completely free shuttle bus that you can catch from the hotel to Osaka train station and vice-versa.

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Day 2: Nara

We caught the free shuttle bus to Osaka train station, and from there, we caught the train to Shin-Osaka (around 4 minutes). Here, we booked our bullet train ticket that was a great price, but I’ll talk about that later.

From Shin-Osaka, we made our way to Nara. After 45-minutes, we arrived and went to drop our bags off at the Smile Hotel. The Smile Hotel was around a 1-minute walk from Nara train station (you can basically see it). At only 4200 yen, this hotel is a bargain for anyone wanting to stay in Nara.

We were pretty hungry now, so we went into a quaint little shop that did tempura and kaisendon. The prices were great, and the taste was amazing. By the number of signed celebrity photos in the shop, it must be fairly well-known (you’ll see the shop just before a melon-pan bakery on the right when walking from the station to Nara park).

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Nara park is amazing and the deer are insanely cute. You can buy a pack of rice crackers (sembei) for 150-yen, which you feed to the many deer that roam around. The deer may just be the most polite deer in the world because they will actually bow to you!

We then went to Todaiji temple – it costs to get it, but it’s definitely worth it if you’ve not experienced it before. The temple building and gate are probably the largest wooden structures I’ve ever seen. Inside the temple, are huge Buddha statues. If you’ve ever seen the anime Gantz, you may even feel intimidated.

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Next, we decided to go further up the hill into Nara park. We stumbled upon a cool little temple that was free to enter. Going to the second floor has an amazing view of Nara city. Further up, we found a large field that left to the summit of the hill. It was 150-yen entry, but if you’re not too tired by now, it’s a great (but steep) walk that rewards you with what I imagine is Nara’s greatest view. Of course, there are plenty of deer here, too.

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As you can see, Nara is great – just be careful of wild boars!

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Day 3: Kyoto

The next day, heavy rainfall and delays were possible, so we head straight to Kyoto. Little did we know this rainfall would lead to over 100 deaths and cause huge damage around the country. We’d been to Kyoto before, so we decided to stay close to the train station. There was still plenty to do though! There is a 12-floor department store called Isetan above the train station with a nice little viewpoint at the top. On floor 8 is a Studio Ghibli shop, and on floor 10 is a large number of restaurants. There’s also a great ramen section, that has 10 different ramen stores all next to each other, each specializing in a ramen from a different part of the country.

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We headed back to the train station, which was flooded with stranded commuters and travelers. It would have been complete chaos, if not for the impressive number of train station attendants that were desperately trying to cope with the country’s worst rainfall ever recorded.

Lucky for us, we were heading away from the rain, so our bullet train was only delayed by 35 minutes. Those heading towards Hiroshima had little chance of going anywhere any time soon. The bullet train we booked was the Kodama, which can only be booked a day in advance and at a few areas (such as Shin-Osaka). The Kodoma may be the best value shinkansen in Japan. It stops at every stop, but still makes great progress – and booking in advance allows you to receive a free drink at a train station kiosk (including beer). We wanted to ride the super-fast train as much as for the experience than as a method of transport, so we were quite surprised when we realized it only cost us 4300-yen from Kyoto to Nagoya. I wonder if our train being the number “666” had anything to do with our bad luck so far?

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Click here for more information on the Kodama bullet train. 

Day 4: Nagoya

From the train station, we went straight to our quite terrible but quite cheap hotel (4200), and had an early night.

We were lucky enough to avoid the rain in the morning hours as we headed to Nagoya Castle. Just before the entrance to the castle, was a small but free Noh museum, which is worth checking out if you have the time. 

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Entrance to the castle is 500-yen, but it’s well worth it (even if entrance into the actual castle was closed off like it was for us). Inside the castle grounds, there is a beautifully recreated, full-size palace. You can feel the amount of time, hard work, and effort that has gone into creating it. To enter, you need to take your shoes off and put your rucksacks around your front (instead of your bag), no flash photography is allowed. We even saw a couple of staff workers carefully going around the wooden walls with a small paintbrush, wiping away dust.

There are also a couple of shows performed each day that you can watch once you’re inside the castle grounds. One show features ninja, swords, and dancing, while the other features samurai.

After we were satisfied with our time at the castle, we headed back to the train station and ate lunch at one of the many restaurants on the 12th floor. We then made our way to Nagoya airport, to catch our flight to Kagoshima. The rain continued to prevail, and the death toll around Japan continued to rise. We were warned that our plane may return to Nagoya airport if the captain decided the conditions were unfit to land – luckily, we arrived safely in Kagoshima. Our trip from Osaka to Nagoya could have gone better, but it could be perfect for you! 

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