Before we traveled to Japan we had bought ourselves the Japan Rail Pass, available only to foreigners. We had initially thought we needed to buy it online before our trip, but found out later that it’s possible to purchase it at the JR Pass offices in Japan. Had we known that we could buy it in Japan we might just have not bought it. The local JR trains are not that expensive, so it’s only really worth it if you get the bullet train (Shinkansen) quite often, something we didn’t do. Riding a train for longer than an hour with Maya can be a challenge, as I’m sure most parents to small children experience. Also, we prefer exploring one place extensively and didn’t want to waste loads of time on trains. But it might also be the only thing we wasted our money on, so all in all not that bad.
Going to Kyoto from Tokyo we had to stop at a JR Pass office and exchange our JR Pass coupons for tickets. Maya had fallen asleep in the carrier as we were trying to find the office in the immensity of Tokyo station, and we were also carrying all of our luggage, so we decided that I’d wait with our bags and let Felipe go to the office by himself. After some time he returned angry and stressed and asked me to give him our passports. Of course, we hadn’t thought of that! The whole affair was quite stressful and tiring, especially after having been to the hospital to remove Maya’s stitch earlier that morning.
We had already eaten before our train ride, but it is pretty common to bring food, like a bento box and a beverage to consume on the ride, something we did as we traveled from Kyoto to our next destination. We also learned that having food on the train worked well as a means to get time to pass easier when traveling with a small child. Either way, we had our tablet with us, and Maya spent almost the whole time watching her beloved Peppa Pig. Unfortunately screen time trumps anything else, like talking, looking out the windows, drawing and singing, which would only entertain her for five to ten minutes at a time. As the ride to Kyoto from Tokyo is almost three hours long we opted for the screen most of the time.
In Kyoto we had rented a small traditional Japanese style house in an area called Tofuku-ji, named after the temple. As Kyoto is full of beautiful temples, we visited a few of them during our stay, mentioned in Japan part one. The house, which also is described in my previous post, was absolutely perfect!
One of the days we took the train from our local station at Tofuku-ji, to Nara, the deer town. You might have already heard about it or seen pictures, but it’s something you can’t really comprehend before you’ve been there. In an area of Nara city, by Nara park, there are literally hundreds of beautiful deer roaming the streets, apparently tame but really totally wild! Some of them come up to you begging for food, some just lie in the shade, and some will accept that you pet them. But you have to be careful, there are several cases of injury due to aggression because people taunt the animals. Not cool.
Anyhow, if you want to you can buy deer biscuits from street vendors and feed them. Or you can take selfies with them, like we did. Or just feel the absurdity of walking amongst hundreds of deer. And then you can take a walk through the temple grounds, peek inside the temples and just admire the aesthetics of the Nara park. Maya went through a whole spectrum of emotions when we were there, from excitement, to fear and everything in between.
We spent about half a day in Nara, but because of a lingering jet lag and the time it took to get there and back, we weren’t about to do much in Kyoto when we got back. So we took a stroll in the Pontocho area and had a fancy Sukiyaki dinner. I didn’t enjoy the food as much as Felipe did, both because it contained raw egg and because Maya was extremely energetic and hard to entertain. But the experience, both sitting in our own little tatami room and being cooked for by a kimono clad lady, is totally unique and something I recommend!
The next day we went to Osaka. The train ride is so smooth and quick, only 30 minutes by Shinkansen. The first thing we did after arriving was look for a place to eat in an area beneath Osaka Station. In Japan it is really common to find excellent restaurants inside, under and around train stations, and Osaka is no exception! We hadn’t had breakfast before we left, so you could call it brunch, and we ordered beers and set meals containing rice, soup and chicken. Actually we didn’t really know what we ordered, but from the pictures it looked lovely, and we were right.
After that we were kind of lost on what to do. It was extremely hot and because of that we really weren’t tempted on going outdoors. Having heard good things about the Osaka aquarium we decided to give it a go, and it really was very good. We opted for tickets which included a ride in the ferris wheel close by, even though I’m afraid of heights and have been known to cry on ferris wheels previously.
After an hour or so in the aquarium, we headed to the shopping mall beside so that Maya could take a nap in the carrier whilst we walked around and entertained ourselves by eating and looking around.
I didn’t cry on the ferris wheel, but Felipe had some good laughs at my expense.
We also went to the Pokémon center in Osaka, where Maya got herself a little baby Pikachu. She literally chose the smallest one of them all, even though Felipe had told her to get whatever she wanted. She wanted the baby ❤
We went back to the same restaurant area beneath the station to get dinner, but because it was in the weekend all the restaurants had queues of an hour or more, which we were not prepared for. We then ended up having ready meals in a kiosk, which really isn’t bad in Japan, but not the same as having some freshly grilled meat or whatever we really wanted that day. So my tip here is to either be prepared for a queue, book a table earlier on, or not go in the weekend.
The last thing we did in Osaka was buy ourselves one of the famous fluffy cheese cakes to bring back to the house and eat after Maya went to bed. It was absolutely worth the 40 minute queue!
Nap time and the heat
Because of the heat we felt very sorry for Maya when it came to napping. Sometimes she’d fall asleep in the stroller or in the carrier when we didn’t have a chance of taking her to an air conditioned place, and the sweat would literally be soaking her hair and clothes. So a few of the days we did some sightseeing in the morning and after lunch we’d go back to the house for a couple of hours to nap and shower. This was also great for us, as walking around the whole day can be very tiresome. We’d take the opportunity to cool down and surf the internet quietly for a bit.