Oh hi. Just on my way to become a Pokemon master. 

But first, breakfast. A piece of matcha cream cake I bought from Nishiki the day before.



April 13th, 1PM - En route from Kyoto to Osaka.
Getting from Kyoto to Osaka by Shinkansen requires less than half an hour whereas normal trains take slightly less than an hour. Either option is free for me since I have a one-week JR pass. If you're traveling between several far away places, see if you can time it within the duration of your JR pass for maximum utilisation.

Best best best bestest to-go waffles ever.

It's perfect for a train ride.

 Mmmm I can still taste the maple flavour.

Just a few more days until this trip comes to an end.



 April 13th, 3PM - Osaka City Station.
This waterfall fountain of Osaka City Station greets visitors in different languages (Spot Bahasa Melayu!), showcases art and also tell the time. Graphic printing on water isn't that much of a new tech these days, but this fountain has been there since 2011. (Go to minute 0:39 to see the time display)

 Tenpura soba for lunch.

 And a selfie for Instagram.



 April 13th, 4.30PM - Pokemon Center Osaka, Daimaru Umeda.
Daimaru Umeda is right next to Osaka City Station and is where the glorious Pokemon Center of Osaka is located at. Just take the lift all the way up to this Pokemon heaven. I was carrying my luggage with me but who cares right, it's Pokemon!

ϞϞ(๑⚈ ․̫ ⚈๑)∩

Then it was just shopping, shopping and more shopping.

Spent quite a bit on these egg machines too. (They're called gachapon ガチャポン)

Some of my loot. I bought so many stationaries! I like collecting files and biscuit tins, they're my thing like how keychains or magnets are someone's "thing". There were some soft toys too but not sure why they didn't make it in this photo. I try to stick with first gen Pokemons as much as I can because they're the most impactful for me.

Ok here's the best part. I left most of the Pokemon stuff I bought in the hotel room. I didn't even realise until I got back and saw that photo I took. Just wow. 
Ƶƶ(☄ ̄▵—▵ ̄)

All the more reasons to visit again! o(^▽^)o

 Tea break with another Nishiki snack.

 In Osaka, I can't really make full use of the JR pass because some of the most convenient lines are not JR but subways. 

I got this instead! It's called the Osaka Kaiyu Ticket and is an economical one-day pass, which combines unlimited entry to Osaka Aquarium - Kaiyukan (which I plan to go anyway) and unlimited train/bus rides (including subways!) on the date of entry in one ticket. It's so cute too! I'll be using it on the day I visit Kaiyukan itself. Other days, I just get the one-time subway tickets.



 April 13th, 8.00PM - Pokemon Center Osaka, Daimaru Umeda.
If you're in Osaka during spring, a must-visit is Osaka Mint Bureau. This place is actually the head office of Japan Mint and is usually closed to public. For only a week in mid-April though, it opens its premises to public. Aren't we so lucky! Some of the most beautiful sakuras can be found here. 

Generally, Osaka's sakuras bloom later than Tokyo's and Kyoto's so if you want to catch all the blooms, you should consider planning  your trip this way: Tokyo >> Kyoto >> Osaka.

The sakura viewing at Osaka Mint Bureau is open at night, and that's when I like to visit because how often do you get to enjoy sakura at night? Also, night market on the way in and out!!!!!

I'll come back for all the tempting food later. Let's go see the cherry blossoms first!

The trees here are mostly short so you can really get up close with the blooms! Just don't damage or take any. No flash needed for this photo because there were ample lighting shining onto the trees!

Sakuras are lovely both in the day and at night. The nighttime sakuras exude a different feel from the morning ones.

There were many varieties of sakura too. I know this because Mint Bureau labeled them nicely, as seen above. 

Look up and you'll see this.

 Because you're walking under an endless sakura canopy.

I'm just happy to have the blooms so close to me.



The late-blooming sakura varieties usually have more green leaves instead of 100% flowers.

 I love this fluffy ball variety.

While the earlier half of the road is packed with more sakuras, it's also packed with more enthusiastic tourists and their selfie sticks. I kind of prefer the later half of the road (shown above). Though less sakuras, it's much more peaceful.



More info on Mint Bureau's sakura viewing here.

Now that we're done with the flowers, it's time for food! There's a night market right outside, parallel to the sakura path. So it's on the way when you make a u-turn out of the place. What kind of night market? Expect lots of street food (takoyaki, yakiniku, okonomiyaki, candied fruits, beer, seafood AND SO MUCH MORE!!) and some mini games or activities.

Everything smells and looks good! Here, you'll see the difference between Tokyo and Osaka culture. The people here are more lively, outspoken and chilled. Environment seems louder and more vibrant.

Since it can get quite cold at night, there are many tents along the way that you can dine in comfort. Just order your food and drink and they'll get delivered to the table you're seated at. 

Yakiniku is a must!

 Seafood too, though I'm not a fan of this shellfish.

Stayed there for so long that some shops were already closed. These cherry trees you see are not part of the viewing. They're just "stray trees" but can look quite good especially since they line along the river. Many locals have their hanami under these trees, it's super convenient too since the food stalls are just right beside!

A victorious umbrella pose, that's how much win you get from a night of flowers and food.

You can easily access Osaka Mint Bureau since there are several stations nearby, all walkable. I personally prefer to get down at Temmabashi and walk across the river, it's a pleasant walk especially at night. Remember to check when the sakura viewing will be happening here.

Yodo River and its beautiful bridge. That's the bridge that you'll use if you're coming from Temmabashi station.



ALL JAPAN 2015 POSTS:
Day 0.5 - Getting There. And Tsukiji.
Day 1 - Ueno Park. “Hana Yori Dango”.
Day 1 - Sensoji. And an Adventure at Night.
Day 2 - All Things Ghibli (Museum).
What to do when you lose your JR Pass.
[SHORTS]: My First Airbnb Experience.
Day 4 - Hello Kyoto! (Intro).
Day 4 - Eastern and Downtown Kyoto.
Day 5 - Ryoanji and Kinkakuji.
Day 5 - Arashiyama and HORSE SASHIMI?
Day 6 - Fushimi Inari-taisha and Nishiki Market.
Day 7 - Gotta Catch 'Em All in Osaka (Pokemon Center) and Mint Bureau's Nighttime Sakuras.
Day 8 - Kaiyukan and Umeda Sky Building.
Day 9 - Universal Studios Japan.
Day 10 - Osaka Castle and Den Den Den Den Town + Dotonburi.
Day 11 - LAST. Itinerary Round Up.
April 12th, 11AM - Kyoto Station, Kyoto.
An architectural masterpiece of glass and steel, Kyoto Station is one of Japan's largest building. More than a station, this 15-story roof is also home to a shopping mall, hotel, cinema, a 13-floor Isetan department store, and government facilities.

It's easy to feel tiny in here. Spot the Grand Stairway (right next to the never-ending escalators). 171 steps, a distance of 70 meters and a height of 35 meters. The locals even have an annual race event on the stairs. Want to try sprinting up the stairs yourself? Yeah well, mm that sounds nice but.. no thanks.

Can see the Kyoto Tower from here.

Still don't believe that this building is HUGE? Here's a map for scale:

Alright, so.. Kyoto Tower right? It's the one being pointed out by 2 red arrows. And now, which is Kyoto Station? Mm well, it's the one being framed by a red square. Crazy huge right?? (Source)

On the 10th floor of the building is Kyoto Ramen Street (Kyoto Ramen Koji). Sounds good already? Some may call it a ramen "theme park", as the entire place is filled with ramen shops! You can find all the different regional varieties of ramen here, from north (Hokkaido) to south (Kyushu).

Right outside the restaurants are vending machines. Don't worry, they don't dispense ramen. Using the machine, select food/drink item that you want - some even have combo meals. Thereafter, insert money and food/drink coupon will be issued. 

Now, find a seat in the restaurant and pass the coupons to the restaurant staff. Don't go buying coupons from Restaurant A and use them in Restaurant B. Each restaurant uses their own machine, so choose a restaurant first before buying coupons.

Lastly, dig in! 



April 12th, 1PM - Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社, Fushimi Inari Taisha), Kyoto.
Fushimi Inari Shrine is just 5 minutes by train (from Kyoto station) and another 5 on foot. This is one iconic place that you must have seen at some point. You know, the one with lots of "red gates".

This shrine is dedicated to Inari - the god of grains (but I think we're more familiar with Inari the sushi), and you'll find many stone statues of foxes here, as they (foxes) are considered Inari's messengers. 

Another fox and a peek at the many "red gates" behind. The gates are called torii, which significance I've explained previously in this episode. Also, the color is actually vermillion rather than red, and is said to have the ability to keep evil spirits away.


The Senbon Torii - entrance to the torii-covered hiking trail, thousands of them. These torii are donated by individuals and companies as an act of giving thanks and wishing for prosperity. You want one? You can! It's just well, you know, 400,000 ¥ for a mini one, and about 1,000,000 ¥ for a large one.

There are over 10,000 torii here! The inscribed words are actually the names and addresses of donors.

This is the closest I get to capturing a photo of the torii without human interruption. Aih... lady.. why.. \|  ̄ヘ ̄|/ Well, you can always Google Image if you want to see more "stock" photos of the place.

The full hike can take up to 3-4 hours (including time for descending). Needless to say, I didn't go all the way up (especially after that monkey park episode). Feel free to turn back anytime, like me. ೕ(•̀ᴗ•́)



April 12th, 3PM - Bic Camera, Kyoto Station, Kyoto.
Now, back to the station. Decided to drop by Bic Camera to get a new camera or lens. Despite its name, it sells more than camera. You can find whatever electronic goods and appliances here. Since it's tax-free for visitors, some of the prices are damn good!

I found my next camera! Ohohohoho, they have it! How can I miss it! The price shown above is tax inclusive so just do the tax-free price calculation yourself (or look at the finer print, they stated the refundable amount). It's about MYR360 after conversion. Bear in mind that this is the price in 2015, so if you're visiting recently, it's even cheaper (provided your home currency hasn't dropped)!

Oh and I'm just kidding, I didn't get it. I went to see the Nikon lenses first but they were rather pricey (typical lens prices) and I was on a budget ok. So I went looking for alternatives, perhaps just a compact one rather than the fancy schmancy interchangeable lens kind.

Ta-da! Say hello to my new companion! It's a Casio ZR55 and costed me about MYR800+ after conversion. Cheap cheap! I call it the bimbo cam because it's made primarily for selfies.

Some test shots on the way to Nishiki Market (pics are slightly edited):



Real life Neko Atsume.

 Zoom in on the group of neko.



April 12th, 5PM - Nishiki Market(錦市場, Nishiki Ichiba), Kyoto.
Nishiki Market, also known as Kyoto's Kitchen, is the largest traditional food market in Kyoto. You'll see plenty of locals here - shopping for cookware, fresh ingredients, seafood and such. You'll also see lots of tourists - sightseeing and purchasing street food and other small items.

It closes around 5.30PM, so some shops were already closing when I got there. Still rather lively nevertheless. However, if you really want to experience the hustle and bustle of this market, visit early in the day and not on Wednesdays (that's when most shops are closed).

Some were shopping for dinner perhaps?

Chestnuts! The market smells of many things and this is one of them.

A shop with street food, which you can have there and then. 

Of course I must have some!

Sweets shop. Everything looks so good! Umm can I have.. this, this.. this, this, that, this, ALL!

Ok I'm not that crazy yet. I bought just a few, and had this dango on the spot.

Dried goods! Mmm myam myam those scallops are pretty huge!

It was getting dark and that means.. dinner! Thankfully, there is a tried and tested food/restaurant street (the one near Shijo Dori) walking distance from Nishiki Market.

On the way to the yumyum street is Teramachi Dori, where you can do some non-food shopping. Plenty of clothing stores here! No shopping for me, was just walking hastily to Shijo Dori.

What yumyum street? Neh, you know, the sakura food street from this episode? I've finally identified that street. Or rather, streets. They are Nishi-kiyacho Dori and Kiyamachi Street.

So yeah, went strolling on those beautiful streets again. Even explored the mysterious-looking smaller alleys.

Really wanted to have another meal there (omg the thought of the cold soba I had the first night here.. ♨(⋆‿⋆)♨) but somehow ended up on the main street of Shijo Dori (regrettably), the hub of franchises and atas shopping places.

I regret life. This is the worst meal I've had in Japan by far. It was a tourist-trap restaurant. This hot soba I had was pricey and meh. (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻





ALL JAPAN 2015 POSTS:
Day 0.5 - Getting There. And Tsukiji.
Day 1 - Ueno Park. “Hana Yori Dango”.
Day 1 - Sensoji. And an Adventure at Night.
Day 2 - All Things Ghibli (Museum).
What to do when you lose your JR Pass.
[SHORTS]: My First Airbnb Experience.
Day 4 - Hello Kyoto! (Intro).
Day 4 - Eastern and Downtown Kyoto.
Day 5 - Ryoanji and Kinkakuji.
Day 5 - Arashiyama and HORSE SASHIMI?
Day 6 - Fushimi Inari-taisha and Nishiki Market.
Day 7 - Gotta Catch 'Em All in Osaka (Pokemon Center) and Mint Bureau's Nighttime Sakuras.
Day 8 - Kaiyukan and Umeda Sky Building.
Day 9 - Universal Studios Japan.
Day 10 - Osaka Castle and Den Den Den Den Town + Dotonburi.
Day 11 - LAST. Itinerary Round Up.