Day 1: Arrival in Osaka, Nijo Castle and Kinkaku-Ji

This is a continuation of the Japan Trip Report. You can read more here:
Booking Lufthansa First Class Using United Miles
Lufthansa First Class Denver to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Frankfurt to Osaka

We arrived in Osaka around 9am after an AMAZING Lufthansa first class experience (read more from the links above). Well-rested and refreshed, we started the day off running. We had a few items to pick up at the airport before heading into town.

First stop was an ATM, as we had read many places in Japan don’t take credit cards. We used our Bluebird account to withdraw from a 7/11 ATM in the airport and only encountered a $2 fee. It was very convenient and way better than our main banking options ($5+)!

We had rented a pocket WiFi device ahead of time from wifi-hire for roughly $68 for 10 days including pick-up/drop-off at the airport. This turned out to be one of our best ideas. We would have been very lost without WiFi. The WiFi pickup location was very close to where we exited customs and was it very straightforward to pick up. We had decent signal for almost all of our trip, and only had a few issues trying to restart the device a couple times.

After picking up the wifi device, we headed to the JR (Japan Railway) station located in the Kansai airport. Before leaving for Japan, we decided the JR Rail Pass made sense for us. The JR Rail Pass is an unlimited rail travel pass for foreigners. It is somewhat expensive (ours were $280), but if you plan on taking many bullet train trips it can make sense. As we were traveling between Osaka and Tokyo and had a couple day trips planned from Tokyo we decided it made sense for us. Another valid option would have been to use 4,500 Avios per person and fly between Osaka and Tokyo. We decided we wanted leave Osaka at a certain time and make a stop near Nagoya on the way to Tokyo, so the rail pass made more sense for us. 

The gentleman who gave us our rail passes pointed us in the correct direction for the train. It was about a 45 minute ride into Osaka from Kansai airport. We would be staying at the Westin Osaka for our first night, before heading on to Tokyo the next night. After all was said and done we arrived in Osaka around noon. As check-in at the Westin wasn’t available until 2pm, we dropped our luggage off and then headed to Kyoto. The Westin Osaka was about a 10 minute walk from Osaka station, but offered a free shuttle, which was convenient. Kyoto is about a 30 minute train ride from Osaka, and has many neat temples to check out. We did not use the rail pass for travel within Kyoto, as most of it is bus-based. Instead, we paid 500 yen (~$5) for an all day bus pass. The pass was worth it if you did 3 or more bus rides. We intended to do four, but did five by accident!

We decided to go to Nijo Castle first. Nijo Castle was 600 yen (~$6) admission. Nijo Castle is one of the seventeen  designated Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto by UNESCO (click the link if you are interested in some of the history). The castle has singing wooden floors. The floors were designed to make noise in order to warn of intruders.

Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle

The castle had gorgeous grounds around it and we spent a couple hours just taking it all in. This was our first real sighting of Kyoto’s fall foliage. Actually, our first sighting of any fall foliage in a while – since we live in Florida!

Fall Foliage Near Nijo Castle

Fall Foliage Near Nijo Castle

The floors are called nightingale floors and it was impossible to walk on them without making noise (we tried – definitely not a ninja).

Nijo Castle Nightingale Floors

Edge of Nijo Castle Nightingale Floors

After checking out Nijo Castle, we took a short bus ride to Kinkaku-ji or the “Temple of the Golden Pavillion”. Kinkaku-ji is also on the UNESCO list I mentioned above. Admission was 400 yen (~$4), and apparently it is a prime tourist spot, especially during fall. It was incredibly crowded. As we had only encountered incredibly polite Japanese people at this point, we were somewhat surprised at the impoliteness of the crowd. We didn’t stay very long. It was incredibly beautiful, but there were simply too many people. I would recommend going early if possible.

Kinkaku-ji
Kinkaku-ji

The grounds of Kinkaku-ji also had amazing fall foliage.

Kinkaku-ji Grounds in November

Kinkaku-ji Grounds in November

We didn’t want to plan a whole lot into the first day, as we weren’t sure how well we would have actually slept on the flight over. Around 5pm we went to meet up with friends from the US who are currently living in Kyoto. We were attempting to navigate to their place using our WiFi device. It worked pretty well. We determined which bus we needed and quickly found the stop. Only catch was it took two stops for us to realize we were going the wrong direction. If you read my Paris trip report, you will notice this is a common occurrence for me now. Luckily we got off and switched to the other direction and it didn’t cost anything extra due to the all day passes.

We went out to a kaiten sushi restaurant (conveyor belt) that was delicious and very reasonable! My friends also gave us some great tips. We had been looking around for paper towels to dry our hands after washing them and couldn’t find any in the public restrooms! My friend recommended we buy a washcloth at a convenience store and keep it with us as that tends to be common. That turned out to be an amazing tip and we were very glad to have those as it was cold out and wet hands are not pleasant in cold weather (especially when you are from Florida!). 

About 8pm that evening our jet lag caught up with us (10am our time) and we both fell asleep on the bus back to Kyoto station before taking the train to Osaka. Luckily we woke up in time to notice we needed to get off the bus. After an hour of transit, we arrived back at the Westin Osaka and were ready to check in. It was a very long, but very exciting first day in Japan. Coming up next is the Westin Osaka review.

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About Rebecca

I'm an engineer who is new to the points game. Hoping to share my discoveries as I collect points to travel the world.

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