2foodtrippers at Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Around Kyoto

Kicking around Kyoto

In Food Tripping, Japan by Daryl & Mindi Hirsch4 Comments

Kyoto is a classic Japanese city full of temples, geishas, shopping and great food. Smaller than Tokyo, there’s still much to do in and around Kyoto.

Kyoto is a classic Japanese city full of temples, geishas, shopping and great food.
Sushi Breakfast Tokyo Japan Around Kyoto

Sushi Breakfast

We had decided to visit Kyoto based on persuasive recommendations that the city was a must-see destination. However, once in Japan, we were enjoying Tokyo so much that departing the metropolis was bittersweet. Plus, traveling with luggage takes it toll. The plan was set and the hotel was booked, so we plowed forward to Kyoto anyway. After a morning sushi meal at Tsukiji we hopped on the Shinkansen (bullet train) and we were off to the city of geishas and temples.

Getting to Kyoto

Shinkansen Bullet Train to Kyoto Japan Around Kyoto

Shinkansen to Kyoto

Armed with 7-day Japan Rail (JR) train passes, we boarded the train found our seats in car 12. The train was awesome as it took us the 263 miles in under three hours, with a beautiful view of breathtaking Mount Fuji along the way.

Mount Fuji through the Train Window Japan Around Kyoto

Mount Fuji through the Train Window

First Impressions of Kyoto

Arriving at the impressive Kyoto Station, we were immediately struck by the number of geishas in Kyoto compared to Tokyo. We saw many older geishas as well as many young maikos (apprentices). So many that we stopped counting.

Fake Geisha Kyoto Around Kyoto

Fake Geisha

Geisha from the Front Kyoto Japan Around Kyoto

Geisha from the Front

Geisha from the Back Kyoto Japan Around Kyoto

Geisha from the Back Accompanying a Japanese businessman

Kyoto Sites

Although a big city, Kyoto has a totally different vibe compared to Tokyo. It has many older buildings since the city wasn’t bombed during World War II. There is less neon lighting, and the women are dressed more conservatively. We were also struck by the great number of temples in the city. There are literally temples everywhere.

Kyoto Buildings Around Kyoto

Kyoto Street Scene

Kyoto at Night Japan Around Kyoto

Kyoto at Night

Silver Pavillion

Our first priority was to visit Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion. We took a bus part way to the temple and then finished the journey by walking up Tetsugaku-no-Michi, the Path of Philosophy.  The path is a gorgeous, quaint, canal centered walk highlighted by the remnants of cherry blossoms and the arrival of bright green spring leaves.

Path of Philosophy Kyoto Japan Around Kyoto

Path of Philosophy

Cherry Blossoms Kyoto Japan Around Kyoto

Cherry Blossoms

More Cherry Blossoms Kyoto Japan Around Kyoto

More Cherry Blossoms

We diverged from the path to visit Hõnen-in, a serene Buddhist temple up the hill.

Hõnen-in Flower Kyoto Japan Around Kyoto

Hõnen-in Flower

Once we reached the Silver Temple, we enjoyed the view, the ponds, the perfectly manicured trees and the exterior of the pavilion itself.

Ginaku-ji - the Silver Pavilion Kyoto Japan Around Kyoto

Ginaku-ji – the Silver Pavilion


We fit in an early morning visit to Fushimi-Inari-Taisha, a Shinto shrine complex with thousands of orange gates leading up the mountain.

Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Entrance Kyoto Japan Around Kyoto

Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Entrance

We kept expecting the gates to end as we ascended the mountain, but they kept going.

Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Gates Kyoto Japan Around Kyoto

Although we are not students of Shinto, we found the walk to be spiritual in a naturalistic way.

Naturalistic Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Kyoto Japan Around Kyoto

Naturalistic Fushimi-Inari-Taisha

Plus, we could not help but think of the similarities to the 2005 Gates exhibit in New York’s Central Park. Modern artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude were inspired by the Fushimi-Inari-Taisha with its infinite bright orange entryways that seem to wind into infinity.

2foodtrippers at Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Kyoto Japan Around Kyoto

2foodtrippers at Fushimi-Inari-Taisha

Golden Pavillion

Another priority was seeing Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion. The original Kinkaku-ji, built in 1397, burnt to the ground in 1950. The gold plated temple glowed, casting a serene reflection in the surrounding pond.

Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion Kyoto Japan Around Kyoto

Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion

We arrived at the popular temple along with many school groups and other tourists.

Kyoto School Kids Kyoto Japan Around Kyoto

Kyoto School Kids

Around Kyoto

There’s lots more than temples around Kyoto of course.  We dined at a kaiseki restaurant and shopped at the fabulous, 400-year old Nishiki Market. We also shopped at the two century old Takashimaya department store.

Department Store Kyoto Tokyo Around Kyoto

Kimonos, Sporting Goods and Children’s Items

Department Store Artisan (Yes, We bought Something from Him) Kyoto Japan Around Kyoto

Department Store Artisan (Yes, We Bought Something from Him)

Final Thoughts on Kyoto

Although we enjoyed the slower pace of Kyoto, not to mention the shopping, sites and foods, we regretted leaving Tokyo since Tokyo has more to offer then we could accomplish in our relatively short trip to Japan. So, we switched to an earlier train back to Tokyo after visiting Kinkaku-ji, just in time to enjoy Ramen for lunch and then check into our new hotel in Akasaka.

One thing about Kyoto, though –  it’s where we got the money shot.

Kyoto Money Shot Tokyo Japan Around Kyoto

Kyoto Money Shot

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  1. Would you happen to know if the emperor lives in Kyoto year-round, or does he move around based on the season, like the British royals? The emperor is a very controversial figure for Japan, as you may know, and the Japanese revere him as the soul of Japan – a difficult concept to communicate without the Japanese cultural experience. Did you see any sign of this sort of homage, perhaps with some changing of the guard, or perhaps a motorcade, or anything else like that?

    1. Author

      I must admit that we didn’t see the emperor in Kyoto. We did see many geishas, which was pretty cool.

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