When I made the decision that Japan was going to be the next country to visit, Kyoto became a priority. I had heard so much about the region, in ways of its temples, picturesque scenery and the beautiful streets of the city area, I knew the conclusion could only be one thing, an unforgettable journey in Kyoto.
Unforgettable for all the places that I visited in Kyoto and still there are so many attractions I didn’t have time to get to, in which I can only hope that I get back there soon enough. Unforgettable that was indeed the first city I visited on my first trip to Japan, and I was desperate that the journey in Kyoto was going to be a fitting experience.
With Kyoto concluding for this trip in Japan and Osaka looming next, it was vital that I got the most out the whole expansive region of Kyoto in days three and four of the trip. Indeed I did with the most exciting attractions in Arashiyama and Fushimi Inari Shrine, dining out with tasty Japanese food and checking out a few local markets with unique merchandise on sale.
It’s the second edition Osaka-Kyoto Diaries, and I can tell you from my perspective that it was an unforgettable journey in Kyoto that never stopped over this busy two-day period. Let’s check out the highlights of Kyoto.
Main Highlights of Osaka – Kyoto Diaries: Days 3 – 4 – An Unforgettable journey in Kyoto
Being Mesmerised by Arashiyama
Arashiyama was the absolute highlight of my time in Kyoto; in fact, Japan, it’s simply breathtaking. From the moment I got off the light train at Arashiyama from the city area, natural beauty was all with mind-blowing tradition was around me. So much, in fact, I could have spent a few days in the field rather than a few hours, which was all the time I could afford with the limited time I had in Kyoto.
For Arashiyama, I would go through with you a few of the highlights of the few hours I spent in a lovely part of japan and helped bring about an unforgettable journey in Kyoto.
- The Bamboo Forest Walk: The Bamboo Forest Walk is what most people think of when it comes to visiting Arashiyama. It’s a beautiful, yet crowded walk, with many Bamboo trees, lined up on either side of the path as an entrance into the forest. It’s a beautiful sight, there is no doubt about it, yet it is a tourist attraction that is packed with many tourist, and I wasn’t even there during the peak times of the year, which is Autumn or Spring.
The Bamboo Forest Walk is free to enter, one of the few attractions in Arashiyama that is complimentary, and no matter the crowds that stroll through the Bamboo forest walk, it is an unforgettable walk.
- Tenryu-Ji Temple: The Tenryu-Ji Temple is my favourite temple in Arashiyama. It starts with a beautiful garden walk before arriving at the major temple, which is a pretty picture. Built in the year 1339 by the ruling leader Ashikaga Takauji, the main building itself overlooks a gorgeous lake with gardens around it and the mountains not too far away.
Just a side note, I wandered into a few temples in Arashiyama, they were all quite lovely in their way and on top of that, there are many other temples in the area I couldn’t get to, most temples do come with an entrance fee from around 300 yen.
- Okochi Sanso Garden: The 1000-yen entrance fee can seem a little pricey but is more than worth the price alone inside this stunning garden layout that was designed by a Japanese actor who created a film set in the picturesque settings on his estate.
Not only is it a garden walk with plenty of nice Japanese themed-buildings attached to the spacious attraction, but you also get a complimentary Green-tea cake and tea which is put on in the most splendid of locations with bamboo trees nearby. It’s a relaxing atmosphere and one of my favourite attractions in Arashiyama; I could only imagine being so much better during the cherry blossom season.
- Katsura River: The Katsura River, is extensive, it’s large, it’s picturesque and full of activity of tourist boats flowing through the water and showing the tourists the stunning surrounds of Arashiyama. It’s a great time to get your camera out to click away and even get in a selfie or two while taking a stroll along the banks of the river.
The Katsura River is a perfect spot have a bite to eat for lunch at a riverside restaurant, to enjoy a bowl of ramen or other selections of Japanese food, with a cold glass beer, while also enjoying the sounds of the River which is in full view from where I had my bowl of Japanese noodle soup.
- Arashiyama Monkey Park: It’s the survival of the fittest when you enter the gates of the Arashiyama Monkey Park, I say that because before you even have your first glimpse of a monkey, you need to hike up the hill for a 20-minutes and it will undoubtedly have you feeling the strain on your legs.
In my own humble opinion, the Monkey Park was a tad overrated, while there are a few large and tamed monkeys at the peak of the hill once you have completed the hike, I found that I got distracted by the views of the city of Kyoto in the distance.
- Arashiyama back streets and town-centre walk: Wandering through Arashiyama is not only about the pleasant attractions or temples, having a quiet walk along the backroads is a must too to view the unique township. At this time, you can witness many Japanese style housing with a few selling unique souvenirs of fine art or jewellery or stop in for a tea, coffee or a bite to eat at a selection of cafés in the area.
The town centre in Arashiyama is packed with tourists, and while I didn’t spend a great deal of time on the streets, plenty is going on in terms of retail shopping and restaurants, it’s also the perfect time to treat yourself to the ever-popular green tea ice-cream. It’s delicious.
Check out more images on Arashiyama.
Lose yourself at Fushimi Inari Shrine
Without question, I saw two of the major tourist attractions in Kyoto on the same day, in the latter part of the afternoon, I was making my way over to the other side of the city and visiting the spectacular Fushimi Inari Shrine. I’m sure most of you have seen pictures of this shrine in the past.
I had read only a little about the shrine when researching Kyoto, but I didn’t get into too much information on what was on offer at Fushimi Inari Shrine and nor did I expect it to turn into quite the hike. From getting off the train at Inari station, the festival begins on the street with a range of markets and food outlets, which for street food doesn’t come cheap at all, but the thousands of tourists are still getting their coins out for a taste of tasty Japanese cuisine.
The Shrine is, of course, a stunning feature with beautiful looking Japanese style buildings that have tourists gathering for the best possible photo shoot, good luck capturing a photo without a random stranger not getting in the way of the picture, especially during the heat of the day when people are everywhere.
Then you ascend further into the shrine to the area that makes Fushimi so accessible, I speak of the orange torii gates. You know the orange looking figures that rowed in many numbers, and you may have seen in the movie “Memoirs of a Geisha,” the orange gates represent the staple of all holy Shinto sites and Fushimi Inari Shrine has thousands of them on their grounds.
It’s at this point I meet an Armenian man, a solo traveller like me, and we go hiking through the 2.4km kilometre trek through the gates, past the grave sites and further up the hill to capture views of Kyoto city, this time on this opposite side of Arashiyama. We even managed to find ourselves lost at one point which made the trek a little longer and exhausting. With all the food I was eating and green tea ice-cream, it was good to lose a few extra calories.
The Picturesque Kinkaku-Ji Temple
Day four in Kyoto started with another temple, why not, they’re everywhere in Kyoto, and that’s not a bad thing because they are breathtaking in their unique design.
The kinkaku-Ji Templeis the number one rated temple in Kyoto, at least according to TripAdvisor and when it comes to appearance, the Golden Temple that is tucked away behind large lake and with the mountains in the background, it certainly nothing short than spectacular. You won’t need to be a world-class photographer to take a good photo of the Kinkaku-Ji temple, because this temple that was originally built in 1397 will take care of the rest.
In terms of other attractions to do around Kinkaku-Ji, there isn’t a great deal more to do there than to gaze your eyes at a delightful golden structure, albeit worth it. If you’re anything like me you’ll be back on the bus number 12 within the hour and off to the next attraction, which wasn’t a temple in this case.
Step into History at Nijo Castle
Castles in Japan!!! well, there are few in the country, and Nijo Castle in Central Kyoto is a must-see attraction.
Again, I had to be prepared to walk along the grounds of Nijo castle because there was plenty to see inside and outside the castle. Whether it’s the stunning design of the buildings, the moat surrounding the castle, the lookout towers situated on the corner of the castle, the beautifully landscaped gardens, and the fantastic artwork on the inside of the castle buildings, it’s not a wasted trip visiting the centuries-old Nijo Castle which does require an entrance fee of 600-yen.
For me, it’s another reason to fall in love with Kyoto, the Nijo Castle is filled with lots of history and it’s noticeable when you go inside the main walls of the castle. Inside, you’re mesmerised by the artwork of various types as you venture through different rooms, for example, the beautiful paintings of tigers used in the waiting room, used in the 1600s to intimidate the guests of usually Korean or Chinese origins. Photos were not allowed to be taken inside the main castle area.
Nijo Castle was undoubtedly in the top-five attractions I visited in Kyoto and getting there certainly helps when the castle is in a central location, I can certainly recommend it to other tourists who come to the area.
Wander through the Spacious Grounds of the Imperial Palace
The last attraction I saw in Kyoto, albeit there is plenty more to see and four days in Kyoto is undoubtedly not enough. Anyway, the last stop in Kyoto for me was the Kyoto Imperial Palace. Another attraction with more tradition, more history and more splendid buildings which were reconstructed at these grounds in 1865
The Palace, which is free to enter and comes with complimentary guided tours in Japanese/English, is situated on the grounds of the Kyoto Imperial Park, it’ll take about an hour or two of your time to wander around the vast palace, views a few beautiful gardens and of course the buildings of the Imperial Palace. I certainly enjoyed another history lesson in Kyoto, which is one big history lesson.
It was a special four days in Kyoto, a city with such history, proud tradition and most of all beautiful scenery that will forever remain unforgettable in the memory bank. Sadly, it ends the Kyoto leg of my journey in Japan, a bit too premature for my liking because there was still so much I needed to see. Next up is Osaka and I can’t wait for the next edition of Osaka-Kyoto Diaries.