I have not visited so many city in Japan but Kyoto already be my favorite. The city it self is really beautiful. If Tokyo offer you the fun and festiveness of big city, Kyoto make me feel at ease. Strolling around the city is so much fun, even the taxis is look cute with heart shape top light. Kyoto used to be the capital and the largest city of Japan. Until Meiji restoration and they moved the capital and the imperial family to Tokyo. Maybe that is why you will find the authentic Japanese culture and old architecture here.
I visit Kyoto with my brother and sister. We used Shinkasen from Tokyo, it took about 2 and a half hours and cost about 13,200 JPY. If you are an international tourist and planning to visit more than 3 cities in Japan, I highly recommend you to get the JR Pass. My brother and sister bought one for 30,000 JPY and they can use it anywhere for 7 days. Unfortunately people with permanent residence like me can not apply for JR Pass 😦
I bought 1 day buss pass at the tourist information center at Kyoto station for 500 JPY. Lots of tourist attraction in Kyoto can be reached by bus so it is quite a good deal. They also offered train and buss pass for 1 and 2 days. You could ask the information lady abut the places and which is better the buss pass or the train/buss pass.
We stayed at Nishiyama Ryokan for one nights. Staying at a Ryokan is a must try experience for me. It feels so Japanese. LOL. They have private Onsen (Japanese hot bath). I love it, I stayed for about an hour and stopped because I started to feel dizzy. The hot bath temperature is around 40 centigrade. We tried Kyoto special sweets: Yatsuhashi which is like a thin mochi (Japanese rice cake) but I like it more than regular mochi. On the morning the ryokan also held a tea ceremony. In They served Matcha (抹茶, Japanese green tea) in a tea bowl (茶碗 chawan) and stirring the tea powder using wooden whisk (茶筅, chasen). It is bitter but I kinda like it.
The next day we go to Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社), it is easy to find since it is located just in front of JR station. Fushimi Inari is one of the most popular shrine in Japan. It is well known for its beautiful red lined gate. In front of the shrine you will find a big statue of fox with a key on their mouth. The shrine itself is to worship god of sake and rice and thepeople believe fox is a messenger from the god. The key they hold represent the key to rice storage. I really love the shrine. I have looked at some movies and anime took location at the shrine and my favorites were Inari kon kon koi iroha and memoirs of geisha. Unfortunately it was super crowded the day I visit and we decide not to go on a full tour there. It will took about 1.5-2 hours to fully explore the shrine.
Then we go to Gion area (祇園) which is Kyoto`s Geisha district. Gion area full of wooden construction which is a dining place, Kyoto craft store, or a tea house. There is also lots of attractive shrine and temples around Gion area. We tried to wearing a kimono and strolling. I like the kimono but wearing it on winter was not a good idea. It is freezing 😦 But I admitted kimono looks really beautiful and made me more lady like 😉 The place we rent kimono was really recommended, it is not too pricey and the lady who helped us dressed and doing my hair is very friendly. We spotted people who dressed as geisha or maiko (Geisha apprentice) in the area. They really beautiful.
Just around 15 minutes walk from Gion area we visit Kiyomizudera temple (清水寺). The name of the temple means pure water temple and it was located at Otowa waterfall site. On the main hall there were 3 separate water stream from Otowa waterfall which believed has different benefit in each stream. Kiyomizudera was located uphill (just like Yamadera on my prior post, I guest everything ended in -dera will be located uphill) but we quite enjoy walked there. We need to pass Higashiyama district which full of interesting stores and food stalls to reach Kiyomizudera. You could try lots of different taste of Yatsuhashi around the stores :p
Since we stay in Kyoto only for 1 night we did not visit so many place. There still lot of Place in my Kyoto Bucket list such as Arashiyama bamboo forest, the golden temple Kinkaku-ji, Umekoji steam locomotive museum, Kyoto Manga museum, Maruyama-koen, etc. But even I already fall in love with the city. I’d love to travel here again sometimes.
P.S. find more about the JR Pass for tourist on the official website here . Please do note you can only buy it outside Japan.
P.S.S. find more about my kimono renting place here . They have several renting plans you can choose. I like their service and recommend you to experience it as well 😉