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Kicking around Kyoto

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

Sushi Breakfast in Tokyo Japan
Sushi Breakfast

We had decided to visit Kyoto based on persuasive recommendations that the city was a must-see destination for any Japan itinerary. However, once in Japan, we were enjoying Tokyo so much that departing the metropolis was bittersweet. Plus, traveling with luggage takes its toll.

Our plan was set and the hotel was booked, so we plowed forward to Kyoto. After a sushi breakfast at the original Tsukiji market, we hopped on the Shinkansen (bullet train) and were off to the city of geishas and temples.

Getting to Kyoto

Shinkansen Bullet Train to Kyoto Japan
Shinkansen to Kyoto

Armed with 7-day Japan Rail (JR) train passes, we boarded the train found our seats in car 12.

Mount Fuji through the Train Window
Mount Fuji through the Train Window

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.

First Impressions of Kyoto

Geisha Poster in Kyoto
Fake Geisha

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.

Kyoto Sites

Kyoto Buildings
Kyoto Street Scene

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.

Kyoto has less neon lighting and women are dressed more conservatively. We were also struck by the great number of temples in the city. There are literally temples everywhere.

Silver Pavillion

Path of Philosophy in Kyoto Japan
Path of Philosophy

Our first priority was to visit Ginkaku-ji, more commonly known as 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.

Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto Japan
Cherry Blossoms

The path is a gorgeous, quaint, canal-centered walk highlighted by the remnants of cherry blossoms and the arrival of bright green spring leaves. Considering that Kyoto is one of the best spots to view cherry blossoms in Japan, we were thrilled to see nature’s colorful display.

More Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto Japan
More Cherry Blossoms
Hõnen-in Flower in Kyoto Japan
Hõnen-in Flower

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

Ginaku-ji - the Silver Pavilion in Kyoto Japan
Ginaku-ji – the Silver Pavilion

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

Fushimi-Inari-Taisha

Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Entrance in Kyoto Japan
Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Entrance

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 Gates in Kyoto Japan

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

Naturalistic Fushimi-Inari-Taisha in Kyoto Japan
Naturalistic Fushimi-Inari-Taisha

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

2foodtrippers at Fushimi-Inari-Taisha in Kyoto Japan
2foodtrippers at 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.

Golden Pavillion

Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion iniKyoto Japan
Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion

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.

School Kids in Kyoto Japan
Kyoto School Kids

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

Around Kyoto

Department Store Elevator Sign in Kyoto Japan
Kimonos, Sporting Goods and Children’s Items

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.

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

We also shopped at the two century old Takashimaya department store.

Final Thoughts on Kyoto

Although we enjoyed the slower pace of Kyoto, not to mention the shopping, sites and foods, we regretted leaving Tokyo based our relatively short time in 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.

Money Shot in Kyoto Japan
Kyoto Money Shot

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

Plan Your Kyoto Stay

Click here to research rates for hotels in Kyoto and here to find an Airbnb apartment with a kitchen.

Hungry for More in Kyoto?

Check out our article about the Nishiki Market.

Red Beach Selfie in Santorini

About the Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.

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samiya selim

Wednesday 29th of October 2014

That's so interesting about seeing that many geishas! After reading memoirs of a geisha, I would love to visit here, see for myself! Pictures are lovely, train journey, the must see destinations, all of it sounds really interesting, look forward to going myself in a few years time :-)

Milosz Zak

Wednesday 6th of August 2014

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?

Daryl and Mindi Hirsch

Wednesday 6th of August 2014

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

janalinesmalman

Friday 10th of May 2013

Love Kyoto!! It is one of the most beautiful cities in Japan!!