Sleepless In Kyoto
Our days in Kyoto were fueled by the excitement of traveling and the impending feeling of despair that our adventures would be over soon. We would go to bed late and wake up at sunrise just to experience popular attractions before the tour buses would arrive. The fear of missing out was starting to creep up as each day passed. We ate to live and walked non-stop from one destination to another, trying to check off as many sights as humanly possible. As exhausting as it may sound, I enjoyed this kind of productive traveling.
We spent two full days in Kyoto and here is what we did:
- Yasaka Shrine (八坂神社): This Shinto Shrine sits at the end of Shijō-dōri (Fourth Avenue). It's romantic and quiet here at night when everything lights up. (Fantastic photo below)
Meidai Omen Shijo Tomachi near Shijo Ohashi for udon: This little shop was not easy to find if you're following the map on Yelp. It faces the main street and is located at the corner of Shijo Bridge. The udon here is chewy and pairs so well with the vegetable and broth. It was a really good first evening meal in Kyoto.
Rub A Dub Reggae Bar at the northern end of Kiyamachi-dori: This basement bar is worth paying a visit. Shochu and hi-ball's were all 500¥, reggae music playing in the background and we loved the staff.
Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺): We arrived at 06:00 and it was nice to see this place without the craziness of tour groups. This is one of the most celebrated temples in Japan and is a must-see attraction. (Fantastic photo below)
Maruyama Kōen (円山公園): This is a public park next to Yasaka Shrine in Higashiyama District. It's a beautiful garden to walk around if you have extra time.
Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社): This officially became my favorite place in Kyoto. Walking through the dense pathway of torii gates was absolutely amazing and incredibly peaceful (when it's not over crowded by tourists). The climb up was tough at times. We have a subconscious tendency to walk at a New Yorker's pace and it's only until we're out of breath that we realize how quickly we raced through everything. (Fantastic photo below)
Tenryu-ji Temple (天龍寺) in Arashiyama District: You have the option to purchase temple and garden tickets for 600¥ or garden only for 500¥. The temple has a spacious tatami room for visitors to sit and enjoy the garden views. The garden path meanders all around the back of the temple and is home to various plants and trees with wooden name plates on them. (Fantastic photo below)
Arashiyama ( 嵐山) Bamboo Grove: This is one of Kyoto's top tourist attractions and for good reason. Standing on the walkway the parts through the soaring stalks of bamboo makes you feel like you're in another time period. It is one of the most photographed places next to Fushimi Inari Taisha and Kiyomizu-dera. (Fantastic photo below)
Issen Yoshoku (壹銭洋食) for Okonomiyaki: This place only serves okonomiyaki, which is a savory Japanese pancake with various ingredients. It is a popular place for a quick and inexpensive meal.
Nishiki Market (錦市場): We came here for "breakfast" on Sunday morning. It's a narrow five-block alleyway lined with small shops and restaurants. You can get dried seafood, sweets, pickled items, sushi, and fried foods here. The best time is to come in the morning.
Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺, Temple of the Golden Pavillion): Kinkaku-ji s a Zen temple that is covered entirely in gold. We must have arrived just around the same time as the tour buses because it was chaotic with people and selfie-sticks. When it's not swarmed with tourists, this is one of the most beautiful and peaceful places to walk around.
Ryoan-ji Temple (龍安寺) located in northwest Kyoto: This Zen temple houses one of the finest kare-sansui, a dry landscape garden showcasing large rock formations and carefully raked pebbles to create a linear pattern. This garden is truly a work of art.
Ninnan-ji Temple (仁和寺): This Buddhist temple is about a ten minute walk from Ryoan-ji temple. It’s famous for viewing cherry blossoms when in season. Take your time to enjoy the garden and architecture of the five-story pagoda.
Ippodo Tea Shop (一保堂茶舗, Kyoto Main Store): I first discovered Ippodo Tea in NYC and was immediately attracted by their traditional logo, the atmosphere and the tea wares. The Kyoto main store has a 300-year history of quality tea making and puts an emphasis on the experience of tea drinking. It is a mandatory visit if you're a tea enthusiast.
Kaboku Tea Room inside Ippodo Kyoto Main Store: Visitors can come here for tea time. Each tea order comes with a cute little Japanese confection.
Gion District (祇園): Gion is Kyoto's most well known geisha district. Although we did not catch a glimpse of a geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha) or maiko (apprentice to a geiko), we still had a fun time walking and photographing this area. (Fantastic photo below)