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The Japanese big cluster cities of Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara

Posted by on October 8, 2019

In Osaka, Japan’s third largest city (after Tokyo and Yokohama), the sights and smells of this Japanese port city are distinctly different compared to the other cities that I’ve been to. I think it’s mainly that Japan in general is far cleaner than many places that I’ve gone to before. I suppose it helps when you are on an island or islands which help in the defense of your people so back in time when Japan was not really Japan but a slew of different tribes, nations, peoples spread all across the Japanese islands, there was no combined, one group identity unifying the people together. It was only when finally one group, the Tokugawa shogunate, dominated all of Japan, uniting it under one flag banner. This helped usher in a more peaceful times where all the people could state that they are one people, Japanese, and thus could improve themselves and the infrastructure rather than scheme to outmaneuver each other in the political/military world of the Japanese islands. That’s probably why cleanliness has become part of the culture as it became part of the upbringing and lifestyle over many generations.

Japanese castle in Chūō-ku, Osaka, Japan 大坂城 or 大阪城

When you think of a castle, you might think of one with a moat around it. Well, this castle has that and it has involved in several battles during the wars to unify Japan.

Rebuilt Main Tower Osaka castle architecture japanese wars fighting

One thing to note that unfortunately, the Japanese government during World War II used this site as an armory which later got bombed and destroyed the original Osaka Castle. Fortunately, after the war, the government embarked on a rebuilding project which turned out to be a great idea as it provided some greenery to the city and a tourist destination.

And despite modernization taking over the majority of Japan, the country and its people have not forgotten their roots as their history oozes through the preservation of well-made buildings. And among the small pockets of preserved cultural history, Osaka has developed quite a bit of modernization as well.

principal tourist destinations in Osaka, Japan eccentric atmosphere and large illuminated signboards

Dotonbori street has seen quite a bit of change over the years as people have developed their buildings more and more elaborately in a bid to bring in more customers and attention to themselves. There are quite a bit of cool restaurant signs which people happily snap away with their cameras because you won’t see this anywhere else other than in Osaka or Japan in general.

Osaka Gilco Running Man famous billboard japan osakan famous street shopping restaurants

The famous Osaka Gilco Running Man which has featured itself as the unofficial famous landmark for the Dotonbori street/canal area. It cannot be mistaken-ed nor missed with the running man with his arms up in celebration.

Osaka and Kobe are some of Japan’s busiest seaports as well as part of the Keihanshin metropolitan area which also includes Kyoto. In my opinion, Kobe did not have the cultural treasures like the other cities and there are probably several reasons behind it such as being bombed during World War II and becoming more of an industrial city, instead allowing other cities to be more of the focus of the cultural aspects as Kyoto and Osaka being the grander ones.

kobe port city famous industrial manufacturing development fun tourism attraction

Kobe is not just all industrial since being industrial also means that it provides jobs. Jobs also mean that people have money to spend so it’s important to keep the populace happy with great restaurants, cafes, shopping malls, and the like.

bamboo trees Bamboo Forest, or Arashiyama Bamboo Grove or Sagano Bamboo Forest, is a natural forest

Kyoto, however, was far different than Kobe since this city used to be the imperial seat of power – the capital until it later moved to Tokyo. As such, there are plenty of places to see such as the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove or Sagano Bamboo Forest or simply the Bamboo Forest. You can just look at the people’s faces as they gaze above them to the high-rise bamboo trees.

金閣寺 Temple of the Golden Pavilion Rokuon-ji (鹿苑寺, literally "Deer Garden Temple"

Another one of Kyoto’s treasures is the Kinkaku-ji. Originally, a villa and later converted into a Zen temple, the place was burned down during the wars in the 1400s with the exception of the pavilion… only to be finally burned down by an ill person in the 1950s. The pavilion was re-built quickly afterwards to be one of Japan’s cultural treasures.

Golden Pavilion (金閣 Kinkaku) is a three-storey building on the grounds of the Rokuon-ji temple complex

This place was far larger but I think the people wanted to keep it this way with the pavilion standing out on its own to keep the peace and serenity.

清水寺 Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera (音羽山清水寺) independent Buddhist temple in eastern Kyoto. The temple is part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) UNESCO World Heritage site

To get to this place, one must travel uphill through a narrow street and again, uphill through a pedestrian street where there are a lot of shops and restaurants before you finally get to see the Kiyomizu-dera, a famous Buddhist temple.

temple complex buddhst pagoda kyoto japan tourism

There is quite a bit to see at this location (aside from the tons of people) so walk around and take a look because there is some great stuff to look at such as this pagoda.

Nara’s peak used to be back in the 700s when it was the Capital of Japan or at least, among the rivaling Japanese warlords and rulers until the capital moved to Kyoto. Moving the capital seemed to be a common occurrence back in time but in some ways, it has been helpful in developing the country in the long run when Japan was finally unified under one banner. But the one thing that has become an odd tourist attraction in Nara was the deer – there were deer freely roaming around in Nara’s city park!… Of course someone would probably ask me if I could shoot one, would I? The answer is yes and no. Yes, because it would be neat to say that I went hunting in Japan and no because all the deer are so small (and totally illegal!). One adult deer from there would not provide much meat like some of the bigger deer that I’ve harvested in my life.

Sika Deer in Nara Park sacred/divine status

Not the type of deer (species: Sika deer) that I am used to seeing (White-tailed deer) but it was strange to see these somewhat tamed deer walk in/around people and cars with no fear of either. Of course, they are not allowed to be hunted but they must be culled in order to keep their numbers in check which the government does… quietly.

Deer running in Nara Park deer crackers feeding

As you can see that this group of deer running… running to a group of people who bought some deer crackers which quickly get the attention of these animals. And trust me, they have no manners at all and will chase you down and even bite you to get you to feed them.

Eastern Great Temple

Once you get past the deer, you will see less and less of them as there are less and less deer cracker vendors. Also, I’m sure the local government don’t want the deer hanging out near Todai-ji, a grand Buddhist temple in Nara. The view is quite amazing and even more so when you walk in the temple.

Eastern Great Temple Buddhist temple complex world's largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana, known in Japanese as Daibutsu

Inside Todai-ji is the world’s biggest bronze statue of Buddha. There are several other statues surrounding this huge Buddha statue.

Japan has a lot of cultural, architectural, and advancements that I have never seen before such as the high tech bathrooms, electronic vendors to pay for your meals, high-speed trains, the amount of respect given to clients/customers, and other oddities such as I’ve even seen a blue-and-pink hair dyed dude in punk rock clothes speak respectfully to elders and one even gave up his seat on the metro to a pregnant lady! Even Europe cannot contest the might of Japan – this is one very interesting country!

Tip: Japan is pricey particularly in its food. Some items were very expensive as they are well-known throughout the world: Kobe beef, Waygu beef, certain sushi/sashimi items, etc. So make sure you do that currency exchange rate in your head and realize that what might look cheap, really is not!

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