Full of beautiful shrines and an dreamlike sense of harmony, you can’t help but look inwards (while looking outwards) when you’re in Kyoto. From breathtaking shrines on almost every block, dimly lit lanterns in Gion, to the cozy bars nestled up alongside the Kamo River, there are few wrong turns in Kyoto.
If you’d rather spend your hard-earned yen on things like sushi-shaped erasers, we highly recommend purchasing a JR Rail Pass before you make your way to Japan. The commute from Tokyo to Kyoto is pretty straightforward via the shinkansen (bullet train), but can get extremely expensive if you plan on city-hopping throughout Japan. The train ride between these two major cities takes around 3 hours, and as an added bonus, on a clear day you can see the wondrous and majestic Fuji-san (Mt. Fuji).
Paying homage to the Golden and Silver Pavilion. With temples abound in Kyoto, the most popular ones are the Golden and Silver Pavilion. The Golden Temple is perched over the Mirror Pond and is a breathtaking piece of Japanese history. The Silver temple can be found by making your way through the Philosopher’s Path, made famous by one of Japan’s most notable philosophers who was said to practice meditation while making this trek. After winding through cherry blossom trees, shops and vendors, you’ll be led to the temple entrance. In comparison to the Golden Pavilion, the experience is more extended (unlike the Golden Pavilion which is a quick loop). This temple allows for a more tactile experience, giving you the opportunity to hike through forests and rock gardens within the temple walls, ascending into a breathtaking view of Kyoto.
Sleeping in a Ryokan. Staying at a ryokan is a must in Kyoto. Ryokans are Japanese-style inn preserving Japanese culture by providing a traditional green tea ceremony, onsen (communal bath), and tatami mats (floor mattresses). Nishiyama Ryokan offers a reasonable price point (for Japan) and offers a traditional tea green tea ceremony in the morning, in addition to a relaxing private onsen for men and women. Upon arrival at the ryokan, you can change into a traditional robe and listen to the soothing sounds of a nearby pond as you rest in your minimal, but comfortable room.
Soaking up the Bamboo Grove The Arayashima Bamboo Grove makes you feel like you’re in a children’s storybook. Surrounded by ridiculously tall bamboo trees with nothing else in sight, walking through the grove feels otherworldly. Nature makes for its own temple, so add this to your list of shrines.
Magical Gion Gion district is adorned with magical lanterns at night that make you feel like you’re time-traveling into another era. This area is known for Geisha sightings, Kabuki theater and an adorable street alongside the Kamo river filled with bars and restaurants, where you can get cozy listening to jazz musicians singing late into the night.
Manga Museum Comic book lovers will rejoice at the Manga Museum in Kyoto. With three floors dedicated to manga (a type of comic book that is catered towards adults) the shelves are packed with Japanese manga books. The museum also hosts various events throughout the week, so if you want to attend a performance or even a cooking class, check out their schedule for updates.
Have you been to Kyoto? Share your favorite places to visit in the comments section.