So how did my trip to Kyoto start?
As a traveller that likes to tackle trips with little-to-no planning, my adventure kicked off with a last-minute dash on the bullet train from Hakone to Kyoto.
I tend to always approach a new city like this – It’s my way of settling into my environment. Being lost is the best way to discover new horizons.
The day started early. 8am to be precise. The air is cool and the sun is beaming down on us.
It’s the beginning of May – the perfect time of year to avoid the intense humidity that follows in the summer.
Welcome to Fushimi Inari-Taisha – possibly one of the most beautiful things we’ve encountered in Japan.
There’s a very peaceful and calming aura that surrounds this area.
Before proceeding towards the shrines, locals would ring a bell at the top of these temple-like buildings.
This tradition is a sign of respect and the sound of the bells calls the gods into the shrine. From there, visitors clap their hands twice and being praying silently.
Next on our list is the beautiful Bamboo Forest of Arashiyama. Having arrived here in the early hours of the afternoon, the place is filled with visitors.
It doesn’t impede on our experience, but does make me wonder how people are able to take those shots of big empty spaces in the forest with nobody in sight.
Turns out, the trick is to either go really early in the morning, or late in the afternoon:
The forest welcomes us with a Zen-like atmosphere: much like the one we experienced back at the shrines. This time, the greenery of the area gave us something a little more refreshing.
The locals here are involved in a lot of traditional activities, like painting, transporting visitors on man-powered rickshaws, and walking around in traditional Kimonos.
Just in time for Golden hour, we moved on to the neighboring Nijo Castle. Let me start by mentioning the sheer size of this place.
As we walked around, we kept stumbling across different parts of the castle – each made up of different structures, streams, or beautiful gardens. It certainly made us wish we were the occupants of this place!
Nijo Castle belonged to the first shogun of the Edo Period, Tokugawa Ieyasu. After serving as the imperial palace, it was then donated to the city and used as an educational tourist attraction.
As the day closed in on us, we decided the perfect way to cap off the day was to dine like the locals.
So, we headed out to the city in search of traditional alleyway bars and restaurants.
Luckily, there’s no shortage of these in Kyoto. Our day ended with a little too much Sake down our system.
Kyoto is by far my favourite city in Japan. Maybe even my favourite city in the world.
Despite its commitment to develop into a modern city, Kyoto’s remained true to its traditional Japanese. You can still find locals embracing every part of being Japanese –expect Kimonos and wooden sandals to still roam the streets of Kyoto for years to come.
In a way, I’m almost surprised that Kyoto is not the capital of Japan. But I guess it’s not far off – especially with Tokyo and Kyoto having the same letters in their names.
All in all, this was way too short of a trip, so don't count me out just yet. Who knows? I loved this place so much that my next visit could actually be permanent.
Until then, keep following the journey, and see where I’ll end up next. Kyoto, you were beautiful!
Until next time, Sayonara.
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