My First Journey to the Country of the Rising Sun (日本国)!The Sights of Kansai

As many of you might know I have been studying Japanese for over four years now. Since my early childhood I have loved the Japanese culture and have wished to visit the country one day. I tried many things but unfortunately they constantly failed.
However this autumn I finally got a chance to visit Japan and I spent 10 days in this country with a very unique culture. In this post I am going to tell you about my journey, where we went and what we did, what we ate and whom we met. It’s going to be a long ride, so bear with me :)
This journey is organized and financed by an NGO called アルメニア友会. At first we wrote essays, then we had interviews, two of us were chosen and I was one of the lucky two! Finally the day came and we had a long journey to Japan. The flight was exhausting.
We got to Osaka in the evening and were escorted to our hotel. It was already late but we decided to take a quick walk in the area and see what the district looks like. The first thing we did was going into a combini (convenience store) and bought onigiri. We walked around for a bit, and went back to the hotel.
Next morning one of the people who had invited us took us to Nara (one of the oldest Japanese capitals). We visited a couple of shrines, both Buddhist and Shinto in Nara and Asuka (also a place of an ancient capital city). We also went to the place which I loved most during this visit. I’m not going to talk about each and every shrine, but instead only those which I loved most.
So my favourite place in Japan as of the moment is Kashiwara Jingu. The thing I loved most about this place was how mysterious it was. We got there at dusk so there were almost no visitors. It was getting darker, and you could hear ravens cry around the whole place. You felt like there was something here, somebody here. I can’t really explain my feelings there.
The other thing I liked about this place was being shown around by the priest (kannushi-san). Apparently the place was going through renovations and for the first time in 125 years people were given the opportunity to enter to the main hall of the shrine! How lucky of me! We received some omamori (talismans), so that was also very nice of them.


We also met a very cute kid who was celebrating her shichigosan (coming of age thingy).
Since this was a homestay trip we spent the next 2 days with a really extremely nice family. The mother of the family, Kyouko-san was so kind to make Japanese traditional food served only on New Year (Osechi). It was very delicious. On the next day we had Japanese traditional breakfast with miso soup and rice.
Our first stop was Tatsutagawa (river Tatsuta) which is a place mentioned  by Ariwara no Narihira in his tanka which is a part of Hyakunin Issu. In the morning the sun was shining, the red leaves were fluttering. It was a place straight out from Japanese poem written around 1000 years ago! Go Heian Jidai! Then we went to the park of Nara city (Nara kouen). This place was amazing. It was filled with deers who were free to walk wherever they wanted. People could feed and pet them. Inside the park however, there was the statue of Great Buddha, the largest one in Japan. It was filled with many Japanese pupils on their middle/high school trips, as well as Chinese tourists (they were everywhere!).

We visited a couple of more temples on our way and took a walk in the old Nara city.

On the next day we left Nara and went back to Osaka. On that day we went to Bampaku Kinen Kouen. It was a beautiful place with lots of trees that had turned red and golden. Later on that day we went to Onsen (hot springs) and ate Sukiyaki! It was definitely a day spent well. The family who took us in was very nice. We talked about many different things and had a a good time. They were glad we enjoyed the food, we were glad they enjoyed our company and Armenian cognac.
It is also worth mentioning that Sukiyaki we ate was made in Kansai style, so it was different from what we usually see in anime! However, it was delicious!
The following day began a bit disappointingly. We were planning to go to see the Himeji castle. We took a train and after spending more than an hour on the way it turned out that we would have to wait over two hours to be able to enter the castle! And with the flow of the people god knows how many more it would take us to actually look around and get out! Such a pity…
So we went to see the ocean. We stopped under the Akashi Kaikyou Bridge I have seen sea before, but it was the first time that I was standing in front of the ocean. The difference was colossal. The colour of the water was much deeper, the air smelled differently, I could feel the distracting power the peaceful waters held. It was beautiful yet terrifying.
The lady who took us there treated us with home-made onigiri. Sitting in front of the ocean, eating delicious food, this cured our disappointment.
After we got back to Osaka we got some free time and went to the centre of the city. We went to some shopping malls. To be honest the service was excellent. But after listening to “irasshaimase”, “arigatou gozaimashita” and other similar phrases every second for about an hour it started to annoy both my friend and me. The extreme customer service can be irritable, so it seems. Nonetheless, this was an interesting experience in it’s own way.
Our dinner for that day was curry rice! We went to CoCo ICHIBANYA curry house and had an amazing meal. Afterwards we went back home too tired and fell asleep immediately.
 On the next day we were taken to Kyoto! The old capital, the city I have read so much in my books about Sengoku Jidai and some earlier eras. The first place that we visited was Fushimi Inari Taisha. To be honest though, I wish I’ll get another chance to visit this place during a season when the place is not overflowed by Chinese. I think one needs to spend a whole day in this place. It is mysterious, it has many turns and each and every one of them are worth taking. However, we didn’t have much time, only two hours, so we didn’t get to see all of Fushimi Inari. I still think it’s a pity.
Our next stop was the house of the person who had invited us. His wife and the other members of tomokai had prepared traditional Japanese dinner for us. We also, had prepared some traditional Armenian dishes for them. We had a great evening. We exchanged gifts. In short, we fell in love with the people who had invited us and I’m sure they felt the same way about us :)
And finally, we were taken to our hostel, where we were to spend three nights. This was our second disappointment, however. For the first time in our lives we were under a curfew! At 10 pm! In one of the most interesting cities in the world Kyoto! If that wasn’t enough we were told to sleep at 11 pm, not to talk and not to make any noise, not to eat or drink in our room… well this was very much annoying, too irritating, but what could we do? Nothing really. We went to sleep tired and angry.
On the next two days we were free, so we decided to go to the places we chose ourselves. Most of those places we were not allowed to take pictures inside but they were amazing. We went to Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, Sanjuusangendou, Kyoto tower, Ginkakuji, Kinkakuji, Ryuuanji, Eiga Mura, Kiyomizudera. All of these places were amazing, they had a special feeling about them, and I do not know any words that can express those feelings. Here are some photos:
So anyway, we went back to Osaka after spending 3 days in Kyoto. We had one more day in Osaka, which we spent shopping for some souvenirs, some Japanese sweets and food and so on. In the evening we went to an Izakaya where we had an amazing dinner with our hosts. The next day we packed our things, ate home-made okonomiyaki and left for the airport. And with this our journey to Japan came to an end.
10 days was a short period by all means. But then again the dream of my childhood has come true and that was really important:). If you ever go to Japan make sure to spend as much time as you can in different cities, explore every bit of them, the culture is rich and has no boundaries!
the material is taken from