When you think of Japan you are likely picturing Kyoto – peaceful Zen gardens, hidden Buddhist temples and shrines, colourful Torii gates, bamboo forests, graceful geisha, bustling markets and mouthwatering food. This idllyic district was once the capital of Japan and although a lot has changed since then, it still remains the perfect mix of all that is, and was, Japan.
Kyoto was one of the most memorable places I visited in Japan and I strongly recommend you allow yourself enough time to explore it all. To make sure you do not miss anything I have put together a list of the must do things in Kyoto.
We visited this temple in the height of autumn and just…WOW!!! This quaint, understated temple is located on the side of the mountain along the popular Arishiyama route. It was one of my favourite temples to visit providing a magnificient view of the city and a total immersion of autumn in Japan.
This shrine is famous for its ten thousand, red torii gates that stretch up the sacred Mount Inari. Although most people come here to see the torii gates, the shrine itself is super impressive. This is one of the most impressive shrines in Japan and should be at the top of your list when visiting Kyoto.
Arishiyama Bamboo Forest
Walking along the weaving path through the towering bamboo forest, it is not hard to see why this is one of Kyoto’s most popular tourist attractions. Given the hoards of people that visit this place each day, I won’t lie and say its the most peaceful place on earth but what I will say is that it is visually very beautiful (particularly if you visit early enough to miss the crowds).
Day trip to Nara Park and Todaiji Temple
Lets be honest, most people trek out to Nara to see the deer – i certainly did!! But once I arrived I realised there was so much more on offer. There are plenty of shrines and temples scattered throughout Nara, one of the most impressive being the Todaiji Temple. Make sure you make the effort to visit Nara, you will not regret it. To see what else Nara has to see and do, click here.
Ginkaku-Ji (Silver Pavilion)
Ginkaku-Ji is quite a unique Zen temple. It consists of the main silver pavilion, numerous temple building, a dry sand garden termed ‘the sea of silver sand’, a beautiful moss garden and an extensive pond network that weaves throughout the grounds. If you are feeling lucky like I was you can toss some Yen into the pond, close your eyes and make a wish (I am still waiting for mine to come true, but I am hopeful 😛 ).
Explore Kyoto’s Geisha district
Gion is a popular tourist destination where tourists flock to see Kyoto’s famous geisha district. This district has a dense clusters of traditional wooden machiya (merchant) houses. You will notice how narrow each properties street frontage is. The reason for this is that property taxes were formerly based upon your properties street frontage – smaller frontages equalled less tax so most of the properties only have a 5-6 metre frontage but extend up to twenty meters back from the street.
Take a stroll back in time: Philosophers path
Approximately 2 kilometres long, the Philosophers Path is a little stone path that follows a flowing canal. The path was named after one of Japans most famous philosophers, who was said to practice meditation while walking along this path each day to University. This path is exploding with cherry blossom tree in spring, but i still just as special outside of cherry blossom season.
Iwatayama Monkey Park
Located in Arishiyama, this cool little monkey park is home to more than 170 Japanese macaque monkeys and gives you one of the best views of Kyoto. It costs 550 Yen to enter and you will need to walk up the hill, but i promise once you are there it is totally worth it!! Once you return you can even reward yourself with an ice-cream at the bottom 🙂 !!
Often referred to as Kyoto’s Kitchen by the locals, the Nishiki Markets have been operating for several centuries. This bustling, lively market offers some of the best traditional cuisine in Japan. Take a stroll through the markets and grab some samples of the mouthwatering food on offer – it is all safe to eat. Nishiki Markets is easy to find, running parallel to the Shijo-dori (main shopping area of Kyoto). It is free to enter and is open from 9am-6pm – so go on what are you waiting for!?!?
Kodai-Ji Temple and Yasaka Shrine
Kodai-ji Temple sits proud on top of the hill located just a short walk from the geisha district. This temple has magnificent gardens that really come to life in autumn, busting with an array of colours. During the autumn months this temple is open at night with a spectacular light show – do not miss this!!!
Yasaka Shrine is one of the most famous shrines in Kyoto located between the popular Gion and Higashiyama districts. This impressive shrine comes to life in the evening with the lighting of over one hundred lanterns. Yasaka Shrine is also renowned for its summer festival, the Gion Matsuri, which has been celebrated in July for the past thousand years.
I hope you enjoyed this post, let me know what you think!!!