top 10 kyoto is the result of my 3 trips to the city. to get a proper feel of this extraordinary place, i would recommend at least a few days. my top 10 has enough options for you to choose from and get to know the place.
kyoto has one foot in the past and one in the future, like most other japanese places. so don’t expect being teleported back to the edo period. at least not entirely!
10. i will start with the extensive shopping district called shinkyogoku-dori. you will find everything and anything, from pet stores to arcades, restaurants and hair salons. it’s fascinating to just walk and watch!
in the temple, i remember an old man doing calligraphy with a big brush dipped in black ink. the beauty of his writing was mesmerizing.
the layout of the zen garden is a mystery. no one knows who was the creator of this dry garden that features 15 rocks of various sizes on a bed of perfectly raked gravel.
the zen garden was surrounded by many people. i imagine it’s quite difficult to be there and be able to enjoy any kind of tranquility.
but the vast gardens allow for peace and quiet, with their lake and picturesque greenery. check out the map of the premises here.
i also remember that the toilet had three divisions. men, women modern and women traditional!
click here for all the details regarding the temple, the zen garden and the grounds.
8. the museum of traditional crafts is a great way of getting better acquainted with kyoto’s exquisite handmade treasures. they have wonderful woodwork, ceramics and intricate kimonos. the visitors could see the artisans at work, right on the premises of the museum. here you have their schedule.
7. the golden pavilion or kinkaku-ji is one of the most iconic images of the city. bus 101 or 205 will get you to the temple right from the kyoto station.
the shiny temple is coated with gold leaf. the scenary is wonderful, regardless of the season. it is always full of visitors. but it is so beautiful and unforgettable that you will forgive the crowds.
5. kyoto station is a complex and beautifully modern building. one of its main features is the tourist center. find it and all your questions will soon have answers.
the building is huge, click here for a simple map of the premises.
across the street form the station, there’s another local landmark: the kyoto tower. the 770 yen fee will get you a 360 view of the city from a height of 100 m.
4. the philosopher’s path is incredibly picturesque and lined with cherry trees. it goes along a little canal and it takes visitors to various temples including the famous silver pavilion (ginkakuji) and nanzenji.
i also remember tabi-wearing rickshaw drivers, souvenir shops, restaurants and lots of temple cats. you will enjoy taking your time and discovering all the adorable nooks and crannies of this place!
3. the manga museum used to be an elementary school. nowadays, it’s a big library where guests can spend hours and hours reading their favourite cartoons. the museum also has temporary exhibitions and manga workshops. not to be missed!
2. the secret starbucks. when you come on the street, you see nothing else but a regular coffee shop on the ground floor of a tall building. you go in and you see that the back wall is very tall and made of glass. and you see that behind the building there is a temple!
there are seats oriented in such way so the coffee drinking goes with a side of temple gazing. right in front of the glass wall there’s a little garden full of red-bibbed granite troll statues. very cute and 100% japanese!
after you’re done with your venti cappuccino, you can go out to see the temple. there’s a shop selling souvenirs and incense. there are always school kids running around and shrieking. that’s because they play with the very friendly group of pigeons who are not afraid to sit on you. especially if you feed them, like i did.
there is also a complicated water installation that includes a little running stream that goes into a little pond. the pond has koy fish and swans. yeah, you read well, you go in for coffee and you end up in a little kyoto secret place. you’re welcome!
1. geishas are probably the main attraction of kyoto. the elegant fossils of a long forgotten era, they can be spotted in gion and pontocho. to increase your chances of seeing an exquisitely made up and dressed geisha, wonder around the aforementioned neighbourhoods or along the kamo river. good luck!
kyoto has a few great options for trips outside the city:
* as an antidote to temple overload, try modern osaka. it’s only 43 km away!
* nara, a former capital, is another great option. and it is a mere 36.5 km away. think lots of temples and tame deer!
* a short train ride from the kyoto station, you can visit the unbelievable fushimi inari taisha. to take the mountain hike, bring proper footwear. the premises include various temples, shrines, tea houses and a wonderful lake. but the highlight are the thousands of bright red tori gates: breath taking!
i have never seen the film, but i understand this one of a kind attraction was featured in memoirs of a geisha.
* also on the outskirts of kyoto, find the daigo-ji temple. the entrance alley is lined with cherry trees so just imagine visiting during glorious peak sakura!
this world heritage site has temples, shrines, a pagoda and heart-stopping post card views. it’s well worth the trip!
the pagoda is the the oldest building in kyoto and is considered a national treasure.
don’t be tricked like i was the first time i went there: go all the way to benten-do. it’s a fairy tale place!
* last but certainly not least is the famous bamboo forest in the arashiyama district. take the jr line to sagano. you can either walk around and take in the beauty of the place or rent a bike. another place that will stay for ever with you!
i hope you will enjoy your time in astonishing kyoto as much as i did!
photo credits: google search, little aesthete