Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Dec: Itinerary: Osaka+Kyoto, Japan

Itinerary: Places to go, Things to see, What to do in Osaka and Kyoto?

2012 Dec: Japan: Trains

Are you ready to get lost?  Are you up to the challenge to see these signs?

Will you be able to locate where you are or going to if you are given less English maps?

I don’t want to confuse myself on getting a ticket each time I use the train, and I need to have a ticket that can be used on all types of trains in Osaka and Kyoto.  Do you have the same issues on mind, ICOCA is the answer!

2012 Dec: Japan: Bicycle

Bicycles are widely used in Japan for everyday life by people of all age groups and social standings.[Reference]
All I wanna do is... I want to ride my bicycle,
I want to ride my bike, I want to ride my bicycle,
Bicycle races are coming your way,
So forget all your duties oh yeah! --queen

2012 Dec: Osaka Castle

Destination: Osaka Castle
Travel Date: December 2, 2012
Location: 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 540-0002, Japan
Open: 9:00am - 5:00pm (last 4:30pm)
Entrance: Osaka Castle (600yen) + Osaka Museum History (600yen) = 900yen

How to get there:
From Osaka City Subway Chuo Line, drop-off at: TANIMACHIYONCHOME (C18), and take EXIT 09.
Crossing several streets until we had a view of Osaka Castle.

I was welcomed by these waste bags of dried leaves, Oh no!  As if I wanted to throw them back on the castle grounds.  

2012 Dec: Osaka: Umeda Sky Building

Destination: Umeda Sky Building (known as: Umeda Sukai Biru, 梅田スカイビル)
Address: 1-1-88, Oyodonaka, Kita-ku, Osaka

One of the city's most recognizable landmarks. It consists of two 40-story towers that connect at their two uppermost stories, with bridges and an escalator crossing the wide atrium-like space in the center. [Read]  Considered to be the 13th tallest building in Osaka. [Read]

Other information:
-The building was mainly owned by Toshiba Corporation
-Tenants: Mazda,  Consulate-General of Germany in Osaka [Read]
-On media: The Floating Garden Observatory in the Umeda Sky Building was visited in Leg 10 of Amazing Race 12; Location shoot of Rain's (Korean Star) Runaway series

How to get there:
Take Exit No. 4 of Umeda Station (Midosuji line)
Check the map below for the better visual, it will take almost 15 minutes walking until you reach the building.

2012 Dec: Osaka: Sacra Famiglia

Destination: Sacra Famiglia (Catholic Church)
Address: Toyosaki 3-12-8, Kita Ward, Osaka City, Osaka 〒531-0072

How to get there:
1. From SHINSAIBASHI, take Line: Osaka City Subway Midosuji Line and
2. Drop-off: NAKATSU(SUBWAY).  It would take 9 mins travel time with distance of 4.2 km (230yen, 2012)
3. Take Exit No.4 of Nakatsu station.  Starbucks will be on your left side, proceed and continue walking.
4. Take a left turn (either on the first or second street) you’ll see different Family Mart convenient stores on your left side.
5.  Recognize the tall building of Pias Tower.  Across it is the church.

Here is the map for better visuals:

The main lobby and ground floor is the office area. Also, you can visit their mass schedule from their website:

2012 Dec: Osaka: Umeda


Summary of 5 days itinerary in 2012 Autumn Osaka, Kyoto Trip:

Places to see
Food and Restaurants
Where to Sleep
Day 1
Il Bar, Kyoto Station
Hearton Hotel in Shinsaibashi
Day 2
[Osaka] Universal Studios
Pasta Frolla, City Walk
Dinner in 3rd Planet
Hearton Hotel
Day 3
[Kyoto] Saga-Arashiyama: Sagano Scenic Railway
Fushimi Inari Taisha
Tofuku-ji Temple
Kennin-ji Temple
Snacks (sushi) in Sagano Station
Restaurant in Gion
Dinner in 3rd Planet
Hearton Hotel
Day 4
Lunch in Daimaru
European Market in Umeda Sky
Street Food near Osaka Castle
Dinner in 3rd Planet
Hearton Hotel
Day 5
Sacra Famiglia (Catholic Church) in Umeda

Hearton Hotel

2012 Nov: Kyoto: Kennin-ji Temple Grounds

Destination: Kennin-ji Temple Grounds
Travel Date: November 30, 2012
Location: Komatsu town down through Article 45, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto Yamatooji
Admission Fee: 500 yen

Kenninji is a temple of the Zen sect, one of the main branches of Japanese Buddhism. Buddhism, founded approximately 2,500 years ago in India by Shakyamuni Buddha, teaches that the inherent suffering of life can be transcended through equanimity, wisdom, and compassion. The Zen sect, dating back to sixth-century China, seeks the realization of this ideal through a strict training system stressing work and meditation. At present, there are three branches of Zen in Japan - the Rinzai Soutou and Oubaku schools. Kenninji belongs to the Rinzai tradition. The temple was founded in 1202 by the priest Yousai (1141-1215). [Read more]

2012 Nov: Japan: Kyoto: Gion

Gion (祇園) is Kyoto's most famous geisha (performing artist) district, located around Shijo Avenue between Yasaka Shrine in the east and the Kamo River in the west. It is filled with shops, restaurants and ochaya (teahouses), where geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha) and maiko (geiko apprentices) entertain. [Read more]

2012 Nov: Kyoto: Fushimi Inari Taisha

Destination: Fushimi Inari Shrine (also known as: Fushimi Inari Taisha, 伏見稲荷大社)
Travel Date: November 30, 2013

How to get there:
From KYOTO [ Departure track No.10 ] station, take line: JR NARA Line Local [5mins].
Drop-off at: INARI 稲荷駅(京都)station.  Fare is ¥140 (70php) with distance of 2.7 km
Then walk to: Fushimi Inari Taisha [3 mins], (always open)

As soon as you get out of Inari station, you will immediately see the tori-gate in front of the Shinto shrine.

A lot have been visiting the place since it is one of the cinematic locations of Memories of Geisha.

2012 Nov: Kyoto: Sagano Sightseeing Railway

Sagano Sightseeing Railway is one of the best options to see autumn leaves in Kyoto. And what’s good about it, there is car #5 which is windowless that will give you astonishing view.

How to get there: 
From KYOTO [ Departure track No.33 ] take line JR Sagano Line [16mins] and DROP-OFF at SAGA-ARASHIYAMA 
Fare 230yen (120php, 2012) with Distance: 10.3 km

It’s just too bad because during that day, tickets are not being sold due to an incident or emergency maintenance of the train.  (Actually, I saw something on news that morning that there is a landslide on the train tracks, since it is on local language I was not able to catch which affected route was it.)

In spite of what happened, I appreciate the guards and the train assistants for letting us get into the station and helped take photos near the cars.

Instead of being disappointed, I enjoyed watching the mini trains on its railways, picking-up omiyage and eating local cuisine.

2012 Nov: Osaka: Dotonbori

Shopping!  Start the night by taking an exit from Namba station.  Just look for the covered walk and this is also where most of the people are passing by.

By then you’ll reach a bridge along side the Dotonbori canal.  Here is the photo of the few famous landmarks of the place:

Glico Man: Originally installed in 1935, the giant neon athlete on a blue track is a symbol of Glico candy. The sign has been altered on several occasions to celebrate events such as the World Cup and to show support for the Osaka baseball team, the Hanshin Tigers.

2012 Nov: Osaka: Universal Studios

If there is Disneyland and Puroland in Tokyo, there is Universal Studios in Osaka!  It is only 24 minutes from Shinsaibashi, but if you missed the transfers then it will be much longer.

Getting there:
Take time: 24 Minutes  Transfer: 2 Times  Distance: 9.3 km  Total:¥ 370
SHINSAIBASHI [7 Min] Osaka Subway NagahoriTsurumiryokuchi Line ¥200
=> transfer: TAISHO(OSAKA) [5 Min] JR Yamatoji Rapid Service
=> transfer: NISHIKUJO ¥170 [5 Min] JR Yumesaki Line
=> drop-off: UNIVERSALCITY

Before we start our adventure, we already got hungry from our train journey, so we had English brunch in Pasta Frolla.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 Nov: Japan: Kyoto: Kiyomizu

Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺) is an 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. []

This will be the last stop for our one-day guided tour.  From the parking lot, it will be a long climb to reach the foot of the temple. Try to visit the area in the morning, because it is too crowded at night.  Some would walk slowly since they are interested to check on the street food, souvenirs, antiques, etc.

2012 Nov: Kyoto: Heian Shrine + Sanjūsangen-dō

The Heian Shrine (平安神宮 Heian-jingū?) is a Shinto shrine located in Sakyō-ku, Kyoto, Japan. The Shrine is ranked as a Beppyou Jinja (The top rank for Shrines) by the Association of Shinto Shrines. It is listed as an important cultural property of Japan. []

Noted by our guide that to recognize a Shinto Shrine (compared to Buddhist shrines), there should be a tori gate standing across the street.

Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 Nov: Kyoto: Imperial Palace

Beautiful ginkgo tree taken from the guided bus tour while going to the Imperial Palace.

The Kyoto Imperial Palace (京都御所, Kyōto Gosho) used to be the residence of Japan's Imperial Family until 1868, when the emperor and capital were moved from Kyoto to Tokyo.

Kyoto Imperial Palace is the last stop for the Kyoto morning tour.  It is good to join on a tour since the palace has exclusive compound that can only be accessed if you are part of an organized group.  We’re always being reminded by our guide that we should stay on our line.  Although, none of the buildings can be entered, perhaps they are just protecting the area.

Top of the entrance gate (Okurumayouse) for official visits by courtiers who had been granted permission to enter the Palace precincts.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

2012 Nov: Kyoto: Golden Pavilion

Kinkakuji (金閣寺, Golden Pavilion) is a Zen temple in northern Kyoto whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. Formally known as Rokuonji, the temple was the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and according to his will it became a Zen temple of the Rinzai sect after his death in 1408. Kinkakuji was the inspiration for the similarly named Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion), built by Yoshimitsu's grandson, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, on the other side of the city a few decades later.

After taking this shot, the next time I see it I was already in Manila, so surprised about the colors!

2012 Nov: Kyoto: Nijo Castle

Still dark outside, we left the hotel few minutes after 6 in the morning.  We were able to reach Osaka station before the schedule.  However, there were several trains that got delayed.  Upon reaching Kyoto station, we were on running to reach Miyako Hotel, which is the pick-up point of our one-day guided tour. 

2012 Nov: Hearton Shinsaibashi Hotel

Nishi Shinsaibashi, 1-5-24, Chuo Ku, Namba / Shinsaibashi, Osaka, Japan 542-0086 
中央区西心斎橋1-5-24 大阪市, 542-0086

The front desk attendees are able to speak clear English, good in giving directions and are very kind.

Booking a hotel during an autumn stay in Japan is just so hard.  If you are in doubt about this third party site you can read the reviews in Trip Advisor . For follow-up validation, you can also directly contact the hotel to check your reservation.

At the lobby, they have one computer unit which has a charge of 100yen (500php, 2012) for usage 10 minutes.  Payphone, printer, maps, simple souvenirs and other goodies are also available.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

2012 Nov: Arrival at Kansai

I started preparing for this Japan trip (Nov 2012) last April 2012 (after my Langkawi-Singapore fun time).  I read Travelpack’s Osaka and Tuttle’s Japanese for Travelers, I studied Osaka and Kyoto maps – and initially, I must say that their train system will definitely be a challenge for me.

Flight 5J-828, I’m definitely going to Osaka, “Japan - the most awaited destination, before I go out of Asia”.  It took around 3.5 hours before we reach Kansai International Airport (IATA: KIX).  Good that there is a connecting bridge to the terminal building and we did not walk at tarmac area at 6 degrees Celsius ground temperature.  Just follow the arrival signs and you will still take a monorail going to the Immigration section.  Wait for your turn, don’t be too agitated, and do not submit any necessary documents.  You just need to show the arrival form and the officer will get your photo and finger prints.  

It’s my first time to see arrival stamps which are actually stickers with bar codes; they will normally staple the departure card on your passport so you would not lose it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How to apply for Japanese Tourist Visa

Applied: 2012 November
Tourist Visa Application for an Employee
Unlike other embassy (Asian countries) here in the Philippines, tourist applicants in Manila are not allowed to personally get into the consul office.  The Japanese Embassy has accredited agencies on where you can apply to, visit this link for the list:

Service Fee (Php)
Raja Travel Corporation
Reli Tours
Attic Tours
1,500+ 12%
Friendship Tours

The one I chose to apply to is Reli Tours due to its price and location.  I submitted the requirements on a Saturday (one month before my flight) and I got SMS confirmation that I can get back the passport with its approved VISA stamped by Monday afternoon. Cool, I can’t believe it’s done after one working day only. 

Who said it is hard to apply for a Japan VISA?  If you’re main purpose is just for tourist, then you should be able to prove that you can fund your stay there and you know where you are going.
The website of the Embassy of Japan has its complete requirements and procedure here:

I have submitted the following:
  • Passport – valid for more than 6 months
  • Visa Application – photo is pasted, indicate “N/A” for all those “not applicable”
  • Birth Certificate – the release date should be the same year of your application.  If you are too busy to visit the closest NSO Office in your area, you can request it online with higher fee at
  • Employment Certificate - includes the start date, position and annual income
  • DailySchedule in Japan – this is a detailed documentation on how are you transferring from the Airport to your accommodation.  If you have indicated there the Hotel Name, better if you can also provide the Hotel Booking Form.  If you have indicated there a relative/friend’s place, then make sure that you are able to provide the resident’s certificate of that person.  If there is a day that you will be joining a guided tour, make sure that you also provide the reservation form. Sample:
  • Bank Certificate – submit the amount that is feasible and can fund the type of accommodation or destinations you have provided in your Daily Schedule.  Most banks would also ask the reason and whom to address the letter: Embassy of Japan in the Philippines, 2627, Roxas Blvd, Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines 1300 
  • Income Tax Return (ITR) – this is also certifies your financial status, that you can fund your travel and that you are going back to the Philippines
  • Airline Round-trip Tickets
  • Hotel Reservation
  • Guided Tour Booking (

If you are submitting a passport without any previous travel stamps, just make sure that your bank statement and ITR values certify that you can finance for your own travel and you are definitely going back in the Philippines.  Photocopy of old passports with old visas on other countries are not required.

If you follow the requirements the embassy needs and you have submitted it with whole honesty, then you should not worry.  They just wanted to check that you have enough money, you are not staying there for work, and that you are definitely going back in your home country.

I don’t see the point on asking forum members if the consul will approve your visa or not, but just in case you are interested to read other stories of Japan visa application, you can go to Japan Visa Help:

Applied: 2014 April

Applied: 2017 April
Tourist Visa Application for Unemployed Adult

I've been on IT for a decade and currently had an expired visa for my both used 3-year multiple entry for Korea and Japan.

Here are the items I have submitted:
  • Philippine Passport (decent photo part and with blank pages and signature; I have submitted the old passport with single entry Japan visa and current passport with about to expire 3-year multiple entry visa.)
  • Visa Application form (Download the PDF which is an editable copy.  For a decent submission, fill-up the PDF and print as PDF to have a better version.  Make sure to state "N/A" or "None" for those that are not applicable to you. How to fill-up the form - Guide from Reli Tours)
  • 2x2 photo, with white back ground (To be more presentable, if you can use a top with collar.  Write in your name and birthday before pasting it to the form.  Paste only the side part, do not place paste/glue in the middle of the photo.)
  • Birth Certificate (Released by NSO within the year;  If you have previous Japan Visa, birth certificate is no longer needed).
  • Daily Schedule in Japan (The sample template would only define which prefecture you are heading.  However, I remember that I used to have detailed itinerary for this, including: specific places to go.) 
  • Bank Certificate (Make sure you can pay your expenses for yourself.  Save-up as you have to maintain decent bank account status when applying for visa not just for Japan.  Refrain for making an account with quick money, with like an instant huge amount of deposit on the day you have requested the certificate.  I now include to mention the Average Daily Balance/Yr, for the embassy to know that it is not an instant savings account.)
  • Income Tax Return (I'm still able to use 2016 copy, applied April 8.)
  • For those who are equity traders, you can check this entry on how to request certificate from COLfinancial.

If you are not financially ready:
  • refrain from travelling countries with visa
  • save-up first to an account which you will not touch to be your default “bank certificate” account when applying visas
  • have a guarantor (which could be your parent, sibling or an adult child) who can submit his bank statement and ITR, on your behalf; a guarantee letter, relationship proof (birth certificate, marriage contract).

I did not bother to submit for multiple entry request form, since I have to renew my passport by end of the year as well. Submitted mine on Reli Tours and Travel Agency SM Southmall (556-1447), for 950 php service fee, last Saturday April 08.  I called them Holy Wednesday (April 12), and it’s ready for pick-up.  I got it today (Saturday, April 15) with 5 year multiple visit and 30 days duration.

I asked the officer in Reli Tours, that in case I renew my passport, do I have to apply again a visa? They told me to just bring the old passport with valid visa, together with new passport to the immigration officer.

Last Updated: 2017 April