Being a huge fan of medieval history and sites, and devouring stories of the time of the Shinsengumi, Shoguns, Ninjas and all… and mythology of Kamiyo and all that kind of things made Kyoto one of the top places on my bucket list…
Kyoto has never failed to fascinate me, after all it has been Japan’s capital for over 1,000 years… So when I found out that AirAsia had a great bargain return flight ticket to Osaka and I had some spare money in my pocket, what else… I bought the tickets, and scoured the web for some cheap accommodations, but like everyone know, Japan can be pretty pricey…we found reasonable accomodation at the AirBNB site…… yeah.…and so it costed me about RM2161. 16 for my flight tickets, meals on board the flight, extra 20kg luggage on flight back and four nights’s accommodation at a couple of places..
After much consideration, we decided to head to Kyoto first, but I was lucky I got to redeem for myself a lovely hotel in Kyoto for a night..
When we arrived at Kansai International Airport, we decided to take the JR Haruka train from Kansai International Airport/KIX to Kyoto plus ICOCA card, precharged with ¥1500 for ¥3600 … it was our best bet as we wanted to save some money but also save some time..
After all the dilly dally and the slight delay on the trip, my daughter and I arrived at Kyoto at about 12pm, after about 1 hour 15 minutes from Kansai and we made our way to the hotel and put our luggage there even I was not allowed to check it yet…
The contemporary Hotel Karasuma Kyoto is definitely very accessible to subways and buses. We had a lovely small room which was cosy with air conditioning/ heating and an en suite bathroom…and comfortably furnished with satellite TV, a radio and a refrigerator…
Hotel Karasuma Kyoto has a 24-hour front desk, which provides luggage storage and currency exchange.
From the main station/ underground mall Porta, take the Karasuma Subway Line to Shijo Subway Station. The hotel is just a few steps from Exit 6 of the station, and there is also a Starbucks Coffeeshop outside our hotel…
From our hotel there, we headed out to Gion and that was because we decided to do it the cultural way and my eldest girl got a kimono dress up session there at the Wargo Kyoto Kimono Rental at the petit Gionshijo… Gion was not hard to go considering we just got to the bus stop and realized the bus actually headed to Gion. We bought the daily bus pass for ¥500, a good deal as you can use it on countless rides from early morning to midnight..
However we got a little confused as to find the direction and was running around in circles..We took about 1/2 hour or so to find the place and another 45 minutes for her to dress up before we headed out along the little streets of Gion..
Gion is sure rustic and pretty with remnants of its past glory and despite it not being Sakura season, since it was very early Spring and the temperatures were about 4- 12 degrees during our duration there, we were lucky to find some errr… sakura/ cherry blossom/plum blossom… whatever…but they were just sooo gorgeous and we could not help ourselves taking photos with the flowers…
Gion makes you marvel at it centuries old wooden buildings, teahouses and exclusive Japanese restaurants. As you wander the area, chances are you’ll glimpse some Japanese and foreigners dressing up in kimono, maybe a geisha or maiko, but I wasn’t that lucky… hahah and I was also in a rush….so after we wandered around a couple of streets, my daughter decided she had enough of being ‘confined’ in Japanese finery, and went back to the shop to change.
Getting there – Numerous bus routes from Kyoto Station and other parts of the city stop at the Gion bus stop…..
We then headed back to the hotel to check in and get a brief rest before we headed out, hopped on one of the buses near our hotel to Kinkaku-ji….
When we got to Kinkaku-ji, it was drizzling, and we could not resist peeking into some of the souvenir shops on the way, but everything there is pretty pricey.. We got to the temple and the guards, rushed us in, telling us there was only 10 minutes more before they close the gate….
It was in the evening, and despite the drizzle that chilled us to the bone, the first sight of Kinkaku-ji and it’s golden reflection shimmering across the rippled surface of the pond before it was enough to steal my breath away…. It was just so magnificent…. It is said the current gold leaf-coated reconstruction was unveiled in 1955, five years after the 14th-century original was torched by one of the temple’s monks, how can he do such an atrocious deed… huhuhu
Kinkaku-ji is open daily from 9am to 5pm.
Admission is ¥400.
Getting there – take bus number 101 or 205 from Kyoto Station to the Kinkaku-ji Michi bus stop. If you are coming from another part of the city, you can also take the number 59 and 12 buses to the Kinkaku-ji Mae bus stop.
When we got back to Kyoto Station or Porta, we were tired and hungry and we had a nice Japanese sashimi/ tempura meal at one of the Japanese restaurants there…and entered one of the pharmacy to get a disposable hand warmer pack…
From there, my daughter had the wild idea of walking back to the hotel, which we did, checking out the night scenes along the way… and half complaining about the weather while rubbing our icy hands on the hand warmers…
We were definitely knackered by the time we got back to the hotel, and after a nice hot shower, we passed out on the bed..
Day 2 began early for us, as we hurriedly jump into the shower, and packed everything up in the bag to leave at the lobby’s bag storage after checking out…
We were headed to the Fushimi Inari Taisha and the Arashiyama Bamboo Groves and we wanted to get there before the crowd began…
Being, one of Kyoto’s oldest (founded in 711 AD) and most revered Shinto shrines, Fushimi Inari is the headquarters for all the 40,000 shrines dedicated to Inari across Japan.
Originally the god of rice, Inari governs the modern equivalent of success and prosperity in business. Fushimi Inari Shrine draws thousands of businessmen and tradespeople seeking blessings for their enterprises, especially at the first prayers of the New Year.
Fushimi Inari is well known for its remarkable sight of some 10,000 small torii (shrine gates) that arch over a long path up the hill behind the shrine. It takes about two hours to walk along the whole trail, and there are nice views of Kyoto from the top, and if you are asking, no I did not complete it.. I was perpetually in a rush and Arashiyama was next on my list and on another side of Kyoto… so we only went 1/3 of the way… or 1/4 of the way…
Being there early, means you get to wander alone through the tunnels of torii in the quiet woods, which can be quite a fascinating experience with not too many people bothering you or photobombing your photos.. I was there at about 6.45 am… and it was already bright with just a scattering of people there…
Foxes are the messengers of Inari, and you will definitely spot stern fox statues (kitsune) throughout the shrine.
Entrance : free
Getting there – From Kyoto Station, take the JR Nara Line to JR Inari Station, the second station (5 minutes, ¥140 one way from Kyoto Station).
From Fushimi Inari we headed to the Arashiyama Bamboo Groves… It was a short distance from the train but walking there was just so worth it… the feeling of walking through these rows of lush green bamboos quite a surreal feeling, we were totally at awe with our surroundings and the silence…spoilt only by the cawing of a couple of rather huge ravens..
Entrance : free
Getting there – It is just a 5-10 minute walk from JR Saga-Arashiyama Station from Kyoto Station(10-15 minutes, ¥240) , and also short walk from the Keifuku Arashiyama Station, which is connected by the small Keifuku trains (also referred to as Randen) with the Ryoanji/Kinkakuji area and Omiya Station along Shijo-dori Street.
From the Bamboo Groves, we headed to the neighbouring Tenryuji Temple…Tenryuji Temple is ranked first among the city’s five great Zen temples, and is officially a UNESCO world heritage site.
Tenryuji was built in 1339 by the ruling shogun Ashikaga Takauji. Takauji dedicated the temple to Emperor Go-Daigo, who had just passed away. The two important historic figures used to be allies until Takauji turned against the emperor in a struggle for supremacy over Japan. By building the temple, Takauji intended to appease the former emperor’s spirits.
Since my daughter did not want to see the temple, we headed to the garden.. If I thought the secret garden of Changdeokgong Palace in Seoul was gorgeous, this garden definitely still surpass it…and why not, because it is considered one of the finest gardens in Kyoto and maybe one of the most beautiful in Japan too… wonderful mountain views and all…
The amazing thing is that Tenryuji’s gardens have survived centuries in its original form. Created by the famous garden designer Muso Soseki, who also designed the gardens of Kokedera and other important temples, the beautiful landscape garden features a central pond surrounded by rocks, pine trees and the forested Arashiyama mountains. Muso Soseki also served as Tenryuji’s first head priest.
Entrance to garden: ¥500
Getting there – Tenryuji is just a short walk from the Bamboo Grove, and therefore, the Keifuku Arashiyama Station, which is connected by the small Keifuku trains (also referred to as Randen) with the Ryoanji/Kinkakuji area and Omiya Station along Shijo-dori Street. The temple can also be reached in a 5-10 minute walk from JR Saga-Arashiyama Station, which is connected with Kyoto Station by train (10-15 minutes, ¥240)
From Tenryuji, we took the bus back to Kyoto Station and another bus out to the Nijo-jo Castle….
Nijo-jo Castle is one of Kyoto’s most popular and impressive sights which you really should not miss… With huge stone walls surrounded by deep moats, Nijo-jo Castle graphically demonstrates the power that the Shoguns (military warlords) wielded over Japan during the Edo period….
Nijo-jo Castle was built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period (1603-1867) . It is just a single storey castle but still, a very imposing and grand structure, all of which are surrounded by gorgeous gardens. Enter the Ninomaru Palace, which is famous for its “nightingale floors” (squeaky floors that would alert occupants to the presence of intruders). The decorative panels and carvings here – almost rococo in their flamboyance – reflect the enormous power and attitudes of the warlords who occupied the castle.
To be honest, I found it such a huge space I wondered how Koreans and Chinese kings and emperors made do with such small spaces when the shoguns had such a magnificently huge space…
The Seiryu-en Garden, which surrounds the buildings of the castle is just gorgeous…..
Getting there – take a bus from Kyoto Station / Karasuma shijo or a 5min walk from Nijojo-mae Station, Tozai subway line
From Nijo-jo Castle, we headed back to Karasuma area where this time I went for my kimono fitting…at the Saganokan Kyoto Kimono Salon…
Once all decked out in my Kimono finery, my daughter and I took the bus to Nishiki Market …
Best known as “Kyoto’s pantry”, Nishiki Market is easily the best traditional food market in the city and if you are a foodie, you cannot resist buying some of the food and eating them..they are so good…
It is quite what you call a traditional shotengai (shopping street) and it’s here where you’ll find all the major ingredients of traditional Kyoto cuisine on display here: tsukemono (Japanese pickles), fresh tofu, Kyo-yasai (Kyoto vegetables), wagashi (Japanese sweets), tea, and fresh fish and shellfish. Some shops sell takeaway food like skewers of yakitori or sashimi, and a few sit down restaurants can be found amid the shops.
Once you are tired with Nishiki, you can venture to the main road where Shijo, Kyoto’s brand-name adorned central shopping precinct, which is just what we did… It is practically like Ginza is to Tokyo… It begins near Shijo Station, with the Daimaru department store, eight floors of cosmetics, jewelry and fashion that are topped off by a restaurant floor. Fifteen minutes east, by Kawaramachi Station, the edge of the district is marked by the larger Takashimaya department store, which sits directly across from Koto + (pronounced Koto Cross), home to eight narrow floors of fashion, beauty salons and cafes aimed at a young female crowd and of course how can we resist… the Disney Store.. 2 whole floors of it… You’ll find brand-name boutiques like Louis Vuitton and Armani, plus several traditional Japanese craft and high-end souvenir shops.
From there, we headed back to the Kimono Salon, changed, and back to the hotel, a short walk away and collected our luggage before heading back to Kyoto Station and Porta and got out Shinkansen tickets to Osaka for ¥1420 per person…..
It is just 15 minutes there to Osaka on the Shinkansen….
And that was the end of my 2 day Kyoto trip.. and if you ask me , yes, I miss Kyoto.. I definitely would love another chance to go back there as there are still plenty of fascinating places there I did not get to go..
Note- all the above pictures are taken via the Canon EOS M10 and are untouched or unedited
Anime pictures all from google