2foodtrippers at Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Around Kyoto

Kicking around Kyoto

In Japan, Travel by Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

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. 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

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.

Geisha Poster in Kyoto

Fake Geisha

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

Kyoto Street Scene

Kyoto at Night

Kyoto at Night

Silver Pavillion

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.

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.

Path of Philosophy in Kyoto Japan

Path of Philosophy

Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto Japan

Cherry Blossoms

More Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto Japan

More Cherry Blossoms

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

Hõnen-in Flower in Kyoto Japan

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 in Kyoto Japan

Ginaku-ji – the Silver Pavilion

Fushimi-Inari-Taisha

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 in Kyoto Japan

Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Entrance

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

Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Gates in Kyoto Japan

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

Naturalistic Fushimi-Inari-Taisha in Kyoto Japan

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 in Kyoto Japan

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 iniKyoto Japan

Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion

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

School Kids in Kyoto Japan

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 Elevator Sign in Kyoto Japan

Kimonos, Sporting Goods and Children’s Items

Department Store Artisan in Kyoto Japan

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 than 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.

Money Shot in Kyoto Japan

Kyoto Money Shot


Hungry for more? Check out our article about the Nishiki Market.


Research Kyoto Hotels

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

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About the Author

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.

We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

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