If you think Tokyo is just another city and you want to experience something different, Kyoto is the place!
Kyoto was Japan’s capital and the emperor’s residence from 794 until 1868. It is now the country’s seventh largest city with a population of 1.4 million people and a modern face. Kyoto is famous for its thousands of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Apart from being famous for its shrines and temples, Kyoto has the best refined cuisine to offer, such as Kaiseiki Ryori. Kyoto is the place to discover Japan in its traditional way. Sightseeing and eating in Kyoto are equally fun and enriching experience. For a good choice of hotels with discount prices, visit where to stay in Kyoto for more information.
1. Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion)
Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) is a Zen temple where the top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. It is one of the famous temple that is located in the West of Kyoto. It is probably my favourite temple and also one of the most well-known temples for its golden exterior, which reflects beautifully in pond. It is breathtaking must-see! Address: 1 Kinkakuji-cho Kita-ku, Kyoto. Access: City Bus Stop Kinkakuji-mae
2. Ryoanji Temple
Ryoanji Temple is famous for its mysterious rock garden. The simple Zen garden consist of nothing but rocks, moss and neatly raked gravel. No people know what the rock garden signifies, so, it’s up to everyone’s interpretation. Address: 13 Ryoanji-Goryo-Sita-machi, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto. Access: 7-minute walk from City Bus Stop Ritsumeikandaigaku-mae (from JR Kyoto Station/Hankyu Oomiya Station) / 1-minute walk from City Bus Stop Ryoan-ji-mae (from Hankyu Sanjo Station) / 7-minute walk from Keifuku Railway Ryoan-ji-michi Station
Kiyomizudera is just another temple, so, what’s so famous about it? Kiyomizudera is a World Heritage site and it’s one of the famous landmarks in Kyoto that no one should miss! During cherry blossom season, this whole area looked just so relaxing to take a stroll, enjoy and absorb everything around you! People come to the temple to drink water from the falls by collecting it in tin cups; the water is said to have therapeutic properties, and drinking from the three different streams is said to confer health, longevity, and success in studies. Address: 1-294 Kiyomizu Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto Access: 10-minute walk from City Bus Stop Gojozaka
4. Philosopher’s Path
Philosopher’s Path is a pleasant place to stroll in the afternoon situated in the northen part of Kyoto. The Philosopher’s Path runs between Ginkakuji and the neighborhood of Nanzenji, a 5-10 minute walk north of Nanzenji’s main temple buildings. It was not a miss for me because it is very famous for its path that follows a canal which is lines by hundreds of cherry trees! It is one of the most popular hanami spots in Kyoto. Just look at the cherry blossoms, so pretty! Don’t you just want to stay there as long as you could? Oh, and I spotted a very cute dog, look at her outfit!
5. Ginkakuji (Silver Pavillion)
Ginkakuji is also known as the Silver Pavillion is situated in the east of Kyoto. It looks pretty much like Kinkakuji and even does sound pretty similar! In fact, Ginkakuji Temple was modeled on its sister temple Kinkaku-ji, but it was never gilded in silver, and the main temple building remains an unpainted brown and in its way, exemplifies the Japanese idea that something plain can be beautiful.
Gion is most famous for being the geisha district and it is one of the attractions that shouldn’t be missed. It is not easy to take a glimpse of the geishas! But, we were pretty lucky to have followed a local to a spot where we waited patiently for more than 1 hour and saw quite a number of them walking back to their home after dance performances! Seeing them in real is just like a dream come true, the feeling is so different from seeing on the TV! Best time to explore this area is early evening.
Gion is also a great place to dine. There are many restaurants in this area. After being a paparazzi for a few hours, we were looking for some food in this area and ended up at Junidanya that serves Shabu Shabu. Shabu Shabu is a Japanese variant of hotpot, usually served with good quality thinly sliced beef and vegetables. I love the beef slices, very tender and juicy! Let the photos speak for themselves. 🙂
7. Fushimi Inari Shrine
Inari is the Shinto god of rice, and the foxes (kitsune) are regarded as the messengers, which many are found in Inari shrine. More than 5000 vibrant orange-red torri gates are built through the hills and takes about 2 hours to hike. Fushimi Inari Shrine is one of the most beautiful places that I have been so far. I love the bright colour of the torri gates. As Inari is the god of business, each of the torii is donated by a Japanese business. We didn’t make it to the end of the hike, but only half way though it was still enjoyable!
8. Honke Owariya noodle restaurant
Owariya noodle restaurant was originally a confectionary shop has been loved by the people of Kyoto since it opened in 1465. Besides serving Kyoto restaurants throughout history, Owariya has also been patronizes by the Emperor’s family and monks from Kyoto’s historic temples. They have kept the traditional tastes for over 540 years.
Noodles dishes are served cold and hot. Soba and Udon are very famous here. I ordered Kake Soba with assorted tempura on the side. Soba is boiled and drained, a warm soya-base sauce broth is served by the side, which is meant for dipping before eating the noodles. Address: 322 Kurumaya-cho Nijo Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
9. Hayakawa knife shop
As a passionate cook, I made sure that I didn’t leave Kyoto without purchasing a good Japanese knife. Aritsugu will probably be the first place that people would recommend as it is a very well known place in Kyoto to purchase Kyoto knives. Well, at least, it is very popular amongst the tourists and Japanese restaurants in Kyoto. I did check out the knives there but it was so packed and the prices are sky-high. I didn’t buy a knife there and didn’t plan to anyway as I already got another plan.
I read on the internet and found out a small and humble family run business that sells good quality of Kyoto knives. This knife shop is called Hayakawa. If you check out the website, you will see that the price is very reasonable for a good Japanese knife. And of course I bought one for myself and got my name engraved in Japanese. 🙂 Well, as the shop owner doesn’t speak English, so, it could be a slight problem here. He has got a little electronic dictionary, so, that helped a little. He was really friendly, asked where we travelled from, then, showed us his photos many years ago when he went travelling in Europe.
Anyway, if you know what kind of knife you are after, then, it should be fine. Like me, I wanted a Santoku, I told him and he took out quite a few with different price range for me to choose.
10. Maruyama Park
Maruyama park is best visited when the cherry trees are in full bloom. It is the most popular and crowded spot for cherry blossom viewing. It was still really crowded when we were there after 9pm! A lot of food stalls were set up and it was great to sample some street food at this beautiful park. Of course, the reason to go to Maruyama park is to see the ever famous tall shidarezakura (weeping cherry tree), which gets lit up in the night. Now I know that Japanese people take cherry blossom viewing so seriously as they even stay up all night long under the cherry trees with their friends and family and having a good time!
11. Nishiki Market (錦市場)
If you do have some time to spare, do visit Nishiki market. Take a stroll through more than hundred over shops was an amazing experience. It is a market place in downtown Kyoto and it’s the place to go if you want to get various Japanese specialities. Known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen”, Nishiki Market has a history of several centuries, and many stores have been operated by the same families for generations.
So, that rounds up my memorable stay in Kyoto. I wanted to make it a Top 10, but I couldn’t seem to be able to squeeze 11 items into 10. So, I hope you like this delicious and beautiful Top 11 – Kyoto Highlights! 😉