Osaka ended up on our itinerary as a more affordable solution to staying in Kyoto, whose temples and shrines we wanted to visit in the peak of the cherry blossom season. We stayed in Osaka for 4 nights, making day trips to Kyoto and Nara, but ultimately we got to enjoy the city more than we expected, considering it our temporary home, and deciding on first soaking in the atmosphere and then sightseeing when we felt like it.
Have you ever heard of Kanazawa? A small Japanese town on the shore of the Sea of Japan, with a population of about 500.000? I haven't, until I started planning our trip to Japan, and it turned out to be one of the sweetest surprises and highlights of our trip! It caught my attention when I read that one of Japan's three most beautiful landscape gardens was actually in Kanazawa, 3 hours train drive west of Tokyo. Since we had a JR train pass for the week, a night in Kanazawa ended up on our itinerary, as the first stop on our 5-day train journey from Tokyo.
In the old town of Nara,
Many ancient Buddhas.
-Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)
If I imagine cherry blossoms' scent instead of chrysanthemums' scent (we visited Nara in early spring after all), this poem by 17-th century haiku master paints the picture I have of this town perfectly. It is a picture of the temples and shrines surrounded by thick forest, deer wandering the grounds of Nara park, colorful array of spring blossoms, and the tranquility presiding over it all despite the constant buzz of tourists and worshippers.