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Nara Travel Guide

I am motivated to finishing up these Japan guides as we still have a lot of people asking us about our trip to Japan (it has been almost a year since we went!). At the end of our first week in Osaka we went to Nara for the day. TIP: For some affordable breakfast, 7/11 in Japan has so many treats! We had one close by our AirBnB and got breakfast here almost everyday.

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Nara Park

The roaming deer are considered Shinto messengers to the Gods and the well known symbol of Nara. The wild deer are scattered all around Nara Park and we couldn’t pass up the experience of feeding them.

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Kofukuji Temple

Right in the middle of Nara Park is the Kofukuji Temple. There are also food vendors and it’s a nice place to stop for lunch.

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Nandaimon Gate & Todaiji Temple

Did you know Nara used to be the capital of Japan? Todaiji Temple is a well known landmark of Nara during this period. We’re always amazed at how the Japanese can preserve their culture and respect their historical landmarks.

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Kasuga Taisha Shrine

This was our favorite! We stumble upon this beautiful Shrine with beautiful moss covered lanterns. Beautiful and serene in every way, the photos don’t do it justice.

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On the way back, we stopped to pick up Japanese cheesecake in Nara station. It’s different than the cheesecake we know and baked to a soft and fluffy texture.

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Next will be a travel post on Tokyo!


Japan Travel Diary: Kyoto Travel Guide Part II

Kyoto Travel Guide | She's Charmed Blog

Osaka was our home base for the first week of our Japan trip. For the next 2 days we took day trips to Kyoto. If you missed the first post about Kyoto, click here. Again, the best way to get around Kyoto is to buy the local bus pass at Kyoto Station.

Fushimi Inari Shrine

The second day of Kyoto we spent almost the entire day at the Fushimi Inari (Inari = Shinto God of Rice) Shrine. I say this is a must when in Kyoto, Japan and probably our favorite landmark we visited! The Shrine is known for it’s thousand vermillion tori gates. We did the entire hike which took about 3 hours, but so worth it! As you get closer to the top of the mountain there less people, beautiful views overlooking Kyoto, local shops and restaurants, and multiple smaller shrines.

Fushimi Inari Shrine | She's Charmed Blog

Foxes are known to be messengers to Inari, God of Rice

Fushimi Inari Shrine | She's Charmed Blog

Fushimi Inari Shrine | She's Charmed Blog

View overlooking Kyoto. There are food vendors and Roger enjoyed a refreshing Japanese beer!

Fushimi Inari Shrine | She's Charmed Blog

Fushimi Inari Shrine | She's Charmed Blog

We reached the top!

Fushimi Inari Shrine | She's Charmed Blog

Fushimi Inari Shrine | She's Charmed Blog

Highly recommend walking the entire hike. The top of the mountain had the best views.

Fushimi Inari Shrine | She's Charmed Blog

At the exit of the shrine, there are street food vendors as well. Perfect after the long hike for a snack or meal!

This is a little fried cake with red bean paste.

Taiyaki | She's Charmed Blog

Kinkaku-ji – The Golden Pavilion

We just made it to The Golden Pavilion before the sun setting. The lighting was perfect against the gold leaf!

The Golden Pavilion | She's Charmed Blog


The Golden Pavilion | She's Charmed Blog

Our Favorite Meal in Kyoto!

On our way back home to Osaka, we got dinner at Katsukura in Kyoto station. Bookmark this NOW … on the 11th floor of Kyoto station you will find our favorite meal we ate in KyotoTonkatsu is deep fried pork cutlet usually served with sauce and thinly sliced cabbage. Perfectly cooked and quality meat, we still think about this meal.

Tonkatsu | She's Charmed Blog

Next stop is Nara, Japan!

Previous Japan Travel Guides:

  1. Osaka Part I
  2. Osaka Part II
  3. Kyoto Part I

Japan Travel Diary: Kyoto Highlights Part I

Kyoto quickly became our favorite parts about our trip to Japan. We loved exploring the temples and hiking its scenic routes. We spent a total of 2 days in Kyoto. It was an easy day trip from Osaka. Once we arrived at Kyoto Station, we did have to purchase day passes for bus routes to get around the city.

Kiyomizudera Temple

We first stopped at Kiyomizudera Temple, a Buddhist Temple at the foot of the Otowa Waterfall. To get to the temple you walk through steep hills of the Higashiyama District where you can shop local venders and snacks. It is quite a hike and Roger and I did not hesitate to get another green tea ice cream!
Kiyomizudera Temple

I loved the scenic forest in the background!

Kiyomizudera Temple

Kiyomizudera Temple

At the foot of the falls are three streams that are said to bring good luck.

Nishiki Market

The Nishiki Market is close to the Kiyomizudera Temple. They have japanese delicacies… sweets, pickled vegetables, spices, seafood, and more sushi! We seriously loved sampling all the picked vegetables.

This is mackerel sushi, or Sabazushi. It is special to Kyoto’s culture as back in the day they had a hard time getting fresh fish to the city. The fish is lightly pickled, salted, lightly filleted, then wrapped.


Poor us, sushi just isn’t going to be the same. Otoro, or tuna belly, is our FAVORITE.

Otoro sushi


Gion is Kyoto’s geisha district and in between Kiyomizudera Temple and Nikishi market. It is a whole different world with the traditional wooden houses. We didn’t get to see a real life geisha but enjoy walking through this area of Kyoto.  Gion

Gion in Kyoto, Japan

Gion in Kyoto, Japan

Japan Travel Diary: Osaka Part II

We kept a relaxed itinerary during our vacation in Japan. Due to rain we postponed a day trip to Kyoto and decided to explore the local Osaka. Not only is the transportation intricate, Japan’s train stations are too. They are often made up of 7-8 story shopping centers and restaurants. I can imagine getting off of work after a long day, getting off the train, and eating a good Japanese dinner. Maybe a bowel of ramen, tonkatsu, or Japanese curry, there are too many options!

Osaka Station
Osaka Station

We window shopped and walked around Osaka Station. I went a little matcha green tea crazy. Every chance I got I wanted to try green tea everything. We found a dessert shop called Nana’s Green Tea and had to try their parfait dessert!

Nana's green tea

Nana's Green Tea

Umeda Sky Building

For a 360 view of Osaka we visited the Umeda Sky Building. It looks like a space shuttle can launch from here. There is an outdoor observatory 170 meters high.

Umeda Sky Building Umeda Sky Building

Okonomiyaki @ Kiji

Okonomiyaki is a savory Japanese pancake made of batter, cabbage, tempura bits, different types of meat and topped with sauce, mayo, seaweed, or bonito flakes. After the sky building, next door was a popular spot called Kiji. There is no english menu so a little help form the host to order may be needed. We sat next to the grill and our Okonomiyaki was made right in front of us!


Japan Travel Diary: Osaka Part I


We had a nice view from our AirBnb in the city of Osaka. We walked to the 7-11 around the corner and picked up breakfast. The selection is far more interesting than in the states. Pastries, steamed pork buns, hot meals, and sushi… we wanted to try it all! We planned out our day each morning while we ate our fancy breakfast on our Osaka balcony.

Osaka Castle

Osaka is known as Japan’s kitchen and second largest city. We were eager to start exploring and eating! First stop was the beautiful Osaka castle. Fell in love with the juxtaposition in Japan’s cities. They fuse urban life with picturesque parks so effortlessly.

Osaka Castle

It was a small hike to get to the castle entrance and green tea ice cream was the perfect treat.

Matcha green tea ice cream


Dotonbori Street Food

Dotonbori was at the top of our list. From Osaka castle we jumped on the train to Namba Station, closet station to the Dotonbori area. This region in Osaka is known for entertainment and theaters, but we came for the street food. When you see the Glica billboard you know you are close!

Glica man

In addition to shopping at Shinsaibashi, the street is lined with speciality vendors of Osaka specialities. Their large displays tell you what food they sell. We walked down the entire street first to plan out the food we wanted to try!



Takoyaki is a must! Battered ball goodness with octopus bits, scallions, panko and topped with sauce and shavings on bonito flakes.


Gyoza – Pan Fried Dumplings


Melon Bread is a sweet bread and one of my favorite desserts. It reminds me so much of Pan De Sal (filipino bread)!

Melon bread


Kuromon Market

We walked to Kuromon Market from Dotonbori for more food. Obviously our bellies were not satisfied! Kuromon is a market where you can also buy and sample Japan’s finest seafood.


There was a long line for these buttered grilled scallops. You pick you own and they prepare and grill them right in front of you. So delicious!

Buttered scallops

Buttered scallops

Uni, uni, uni… This was one of the highlights of the trip. I have always been reluctant to try Uni or sea urchin, but Japan is the place to do it. It is so buttery and smooth and definitely not what I was expecting!


Sushi is never ever going to be the same…


Japan Travel Diary: Our First Meal in Japan

I took a much needed hiatus from life and blogging. Roger & I just returned form our 2 week trip exploring Japan, one of THE best vacations we have had. I am starting this Japan Travel Diary series to share our highlights!

We landed in Narita airport and took the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo (Shinjuku). We planned a travel rest day before traveling to Osaka where we stayed for the first week.


We were so tired from our flight we fell asleep and woke up around 3AM, hungry. We found a popular ramen spot called Ichiran open 24 hours (thank goodness!) for our first meal in Japan.

Ichiran Ramen - Shibuya Japan

Most ramen restaurants have a vending machine upon entering.  You input cash and choose your order. We both ordered tonkatsu ramen, their specialty. Ichiran Ramen is known for their isolation booths during your meal as a way to heighten your food experience. We chose our level of spice and firmness of noodles. Our meal came out behind a curtain ready for us to indulge!

Our itinerary in a nutshell: (I will post a more elaborate itinerary for our trip soon)

  • Week 1: Osaka, Kyoto, Nara
  • Week 2: Tokyo