** Still updating, almost complete **
I just returned from a Media FAM trip to Kansai region in Japan recently. In this post I will share the itinerary planned for the trip which lasted 5 days and 4 nights. Kansai (関西) is the western region of Honshu with the three biggest cities being Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe. During the trip we also visited other prefectures and smaller cities such as Shiga, Sakai and Tennoji.
To be clear, this is not meant to be a guide but I hope it will provide useful information to plan your food, shopping and sightseeing activities. Personally, I highly recommend visiting Sakai city and Shiga prefecture because they are budget-friendly destinations with great food – perfect for a pleasant full day trip.
1. Day 1 – Kyoto
Visit Fushimi Inari Shrine
Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社, Fushimi Inari Taisha), a UNESCO World Heritage Site is an important Shinto shrine in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto. It is famed for its torii gates amounting in thousands and also trails up the sacred Mount Inari which spans 4 kilometers.
Inari is the Shinto god of rice and Fushimi Inari is the most important among the tens of thousands of other shrines in Japan. Foxes are regarded as the messengers and can be found in Inari shrines with either keys or jewels held in their mouths.
Lunch – Maiko Plan
Enjoy a kaiseki lunch with elegant Maiko performance at the Kyoto Ryokan Hirashin’s grand hall which comes with a Japanese garden view. Maiko is an apprentice Geiko who performs traditional Japanese dances. They attend lessons to polish their dancing, serving manners and instruments playing which will be used in their performances.
After the performance, the Maiko will serve you drinks and chat with you. The entire session lasts between one to two hours. You may also take photographs with her for memories.
To fully immerse yourself in Kyoto’s rich history and culture, rent a kimono (available for men, women and children) and take a stroll in the city. A visit to Kyoto city will be more fulfilling with photos of you and your loved ones in traditional Japanese garment.
Kyokomachi has English and Chinese speaking staff who will assist in your kimono renting needs. Different plans are available to suit your preference and budget.
Gion and Higashiyama Walking Tour
The Higashiyama District is one of Kyoto’s best preserved districts for sightseeing and experience the old Kyoto especially between Kiyomizudera and Yasaka Shrine. The area is filled with stone-paved streets, wooden buildings and traditional shops to let you relive the city’s past.
There are also plenty of cafes, restaurants, bars and souvenir shops that still operate in traditional premises. You can shop for local specialties such as pottery, sweets, cakes, desserts, hand made crafts and other high quality souvenirs at reasonable prices.
Also, keep an eye out for the famous Yasaka Pagoda, a 5-storey wooden pagoda which is an important landmark in this area. You can’t miss it.
Visit Yasaka Shrine
Yasaka Shrine (八坂神社 Yasaka-jinja) was once called Gion Shrie. It is a Shinto shrine in the Gion District located at the east end of Shijō-dōri. The shrine welcomes thousands of people during New Year and various Japanese rituals and celebrations.
Evening – Kyoto Tower
At 131 meters tall, Kyoto Tower is the tallest structure in Kyoto. It was completed in 1964, the same year when the first shinkansen in Japan and the Tokyo Olympics were opened. You can enjoy an unobstructed 360 degree view of Kyoto at the viewing platform which sits 100 meters above ground.
If you love shopping and eating, there’s plenty of restaurants and shops operating at Kyoto Tower Sando which is separated into three floors consisting of workshop, market and food hall. You can also make your own plastic food model such as sushi, burger, steak and dessert at Design Pocket to bring home as a unique souvenir.
Kyoto Tower is also equipped with a surau next to the Kansai Tourist Information Center. You can also book tours and arrange for your luggage to be sent to your next hotel (for a fee) to enjoy luggage free traveling for the rest of the day.
Dinner – Rantei Restaurant
Rantei features an elaborate yet affordable Halal “Kyo-ryori” certified by the Kyoto Muslim Association. The Muslim Friendly Kaiseki Course consists of traditional Japanese appetizers, simmered dish, grilled fish, seafood tempura, beef shabu-shabu, rice, miso soup and seasonal fruits.