All Posts Tagged ‘Kyoto

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Japan: 5 Things to do in Kyoto

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Kyoto waFushimi Inari shrine s definitely one of my favourite places in Japan and I felt that three days there wasn’t quite enough to do the city justice.

Upon arrival, Kyoto could be just another city, but dig deeper, walk a little further (ok quite a lot further – wear comfortable shoes) and you will stumble into a place full of history, tradition and culture.

My top 5 things to do in Kyoto are as follows:

1) Fushimi Inari Shrine. This is one of the most unique set of temples I have ever seen. What can only be described as a tunnel of bright orange wooden columns, weave around the shrines. It is free to get in and only two stops from Kyoto station. Leave a good few hours to take the time to walk around and make the most of all of it. It is extremely unique and very special.
Inari temple

Fushimi Inari Shrine
2) Take the train and head out to Arashiyama’s Bamboo Grove. Once you get through the real tourist trap area, you can find (albeit brief) moments where you’re alone in the bamboo jungle. We both really enjoyed visiting here, I’ve never seen so much bamboo in my life and there were some beautiful Japanese gardens.
Fushimi Inari Shrine

Arashiyama's Bamboo


Japanese Garden

3) Read Memoirs of Geisha first, then head to the Gion district and soak up the atmosphere of bustling activity. Shops selling strange bean-curd sweets (my work friends were NOT appreciative of these) and if you’re lucky you may spot a real Geisha. We were exceptionally lucky in that we visited during the month of April which is the spring blossom festival in Kyoto. This meant that the annual Geisha dances were on twice a day, we bought tickets (£50 for two plus access to the tea ceremony) and it was definitely an experience…

Geisha tea ceremony

Japan tea ceremony

tea ceremony in Gion

4) Eat some of the best food you have ever had in your life!

Firstly, an amazing place to experience Izakaya (a bar which serves Japanese food) is the basement of Suishin near Kyoto station. Here we sampled raw horse meat (I must admit it was delicious) had beautiful sashimi and sushi and the best calamari I have ever eaten! We ordered a LOT of dishes and several glasses of plum wine for about £40. It was amazing, the photos don’t actually show all the food we ate either.

Our other amazing meal was in the centre of Gion – we splashed out and spent about £90 on a truly fantastic meal of about 5 different courses. Our main course was the delicacy of cooking raw beef and vegetables in a tasty bowl of broth. Our waiter had lived in London for most of his life and so was able to explain to us what everything was in perfect English. He recommended dipping the beef, (once cooked) into a bowl of raw egg. On seeing my concerned face he laughed and said “raw egg in England not so good, in Japan, all good!” Erm, ok.

Always keen to try new things, despite my reservations (I am prone to a spot of food poisioning) I followed his suggestion and tried it – to be honest it was actually quite nice!

 

Food in Suishin, Japan

 

Japanese foodMeal in GionMeal in Gion

Meal in Gion5) Finally, if you’re exhausted from all the sight-seeing visit Kyoto Imperial Palace Park. Take a picnic and just take some time to chill out. It really is a lovely place to spend a few hours – especially if the weather is nice.

Kyoto Imperial Park

Shinkansen
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Japan – Arriving in Kyoto

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Arriving in Kyoto the weather was a completely different story to Takayama.

Before leaving for Japan we bought a Japanese Rail Pass – for about £162 each which were valid for a week once first used. This was a fantastic option as train travel in Japan can be quite expensive and this allowed us unlimited travel across the country. If you’re planning on going to Japan, please note you CAN’T buy this pass once you’re in the country! It must be bought BEFORE you go – and make sure you leave enough time for delivery!

Anyway, we arrived in Kyoto fairly rapidly thanks to the super speedy Shinkansen and despite being in several feet of snow only a matter of hours previously, we were greeted with glorious sunshine. It was time to ditch the wellies and raincoat, and pull on our summer clothes – finally!

Shinkansen

It actually took us about 20 minutes to get out of the station – it is HUGE. Several times bigger than London St Pancras and so much more confusing.

Our hotel was very nice and the reception staff were very friendly – although they did practically force us to get on the free bikes as soon as we arrived! Before we even had checked in the receptionist insisted (she really was persistent) that we left our bags, and before I knew it we were being shown to a rack of bikes.

“But I don’t WANT to go on a bike right now” I moaned quietly to Howard.

Jumping on the bike I proceeded to instantly topple over, causing the bike to clatter to the floor, much to the alarm of the super polite receptionist.

A few minutes later my seat had been lowered (so I could actually get on the saddle) and we were cycling through the crowds of a busy city that neither of us had a map for, or had a clue what we were doing. Everyone else seemed to be cycling on the pavements so we followed suit. However, due to my terrible lack of balance and co-ordination, trying to avoid the many pedestrians on the roads was just too much of a disaster waiting to happen. Climbing off I started to push the damn thing when Howard (sensing my silent rage) suggested we just head back.

The receptionist looked very disappointed (and surprised) to see us back so soon but agreed to finally take us to our room and let us check in, phew.

The room was lovely – I would recommend the hotel (Kyoto Dai-Ni Tower) as it is very close to the station which makes it handy for those wanting to explore the outskirts of the city (see examples in my next post). We also received free tickets to go up the Kyoto Tower but sadly due to time constraints we never actually made it up there.

Be warned however – you will be persuaded to make use of the free bikes – but in hindsight, once you get onto the back roads and have a map – it is a great way to get round Kyoto!