Coming to the Kansai
October 6, 2009 4:28 PM   Subscribe

Planning a couple of week visit to the Kansai area in late May, mostly Kyoto and Osaka, but with some side trips, including a longer visit to Hiroshima/Miyajima. Do you have recommendations?

I have looked at various Kansi-related AskMe questions, and I have some general ideas of what I want to do, especially for the various attractions that show up in the guidebooks, but are there any small or out of the way places that you would consider must-sees? I am fond of temples and museums, but interesting stores and restaurants are also good. Bonus points for the best okonomiyaki recommendations. Double bonus points if anyone can confirm that Dogen Zenji is buried in Maruyama Koen and can give directions to his grave.
posted by GenjiandProust to Travel & Transportation around Japan (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: As far as temples, Daitokuji is a large complex of temples, many with stone gardens as beautiful or moreso than Ryoanji. You will, however, have to pay for each individual garden. It is also usually much less crowded, though also near Kinkakuji. As I've recommended before, the walk through the torii gates behind Fushimi-inari Jinja is beautiful, though it seems to have exploded into the general consciousness in the last couple years, and might be more crowded.

In the main arcade, there are a number of shops selling cooking knives, usually with someone who speaks a little English. In the general area (about halfway down the main arcade area, then cutting back toward Pontocho, but before crossing the large north-south street), there was a store selling old maps of the city, Japan, and such.

Also, in the Lonely Planet book, there was a listing for an izakaya run by a hunter, which specializes in skewers of inoshishi (boar), miso paste grilled on a large leaf, and, uh, fried bugs. Very gregarious owner, and if you are an easily identified foreigner, he'll definitely try to get you to try things you might not otherwise try (deer sashimi, not so good).
posted by Ghidorah at 5:25 PM on October 6, 2009

I'm a big fan of Koya-san, where the founder of Japanese Buddhism allegedly still sits cross-legged in meditation awaiting the second coming. Small mountain accessed by cable car, crowded with temples. Try staying at one and eating traditional Buddhist veggie food, and attend the morning service.
We booked through Japanese Guest Houses and stayed at Muryoku-in, which was fantastic.

Happy travels!
posted by slipperynirvana at 6:37 PM on October 6, 2009

Best answer: i lived in hiroshima for a while. okonomiyagi on the sounth side of the station is really great. go upstairs to the second floor in the station complex. there are many good bars there as well. miyajima is a good day trip, so i recommend a day at peace park, a day at miyajima, and a day shopping. koba or mac bar are ok, pick up a "get hiroshima" map if you want to know more (
posted by edtut at 10:32 PM on October 6, 2009

Hiroshima's great. Definitely try the okonomiyaki that edtut is talking about - I think the place (a multi-storey maze of twisty little passages and tiny restaurants) is called Okonomi-mura and the specific type of okonomiyaki is called Hiroshima-yaki. It was in 2005, anyway.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:06 AM on October 7, 2009

When I was in Japan, we did a trip to Nara. I recall Kasuga Shrine being quite impressive, and the tame shika deer are pretty awesome. They just kind of roam the park, being used to human contact and quite spoiled by "deer crackers" sold by vendors to tourists.
posted by explosion at 11:36 AM on October 7, 2009

Best answer: Koya-san is a pretty neat place, I just went there as a side trip to my own Kansai trip (as a result of having read slipperynirvana's suggestion, in fact). However, it will likely be pretty chilly in May, I wouldn't be surprised if there was still snow. I went last weekend and the weather was around 10 degrees (Celsius) colder than Osaka and Kyoto were.

Going by myself, the audioguide available was a nice way to get a little more information about everything, and it's definitely a good place for a relaxing, leisurely pace. A lot of the major sites have no-pictures signage, however (although flickr shows that there are a reasonable number who appear to have disregarded the messages).

Miyajima is the best to do first thing in the morning before it gets crazy busy. The main temple opens at 6:30. Try to aim for high tide, although walking out to the gate at low tide could also be fun.
posted by that girl at 9:16 PM on October 15, 2009

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