Travel Guide: KYOTO

Wide-eyed with enchantment, I stroll leisurely through the narrow lanes of Higashiyama District, overflowing with complete disbelief that I was not a) time traveling and/or b) lucid dreaming. The streets of Higashiyama are paved with cobble stones and are lined with wooden Japanese buildings. Cafes, restaurants, and traditional merchant shops are situated side by side along the historic area, selling local specialties including but not limited to the best mochi desserts you will ever taste and the best matcha ice creams you will ever taste.

Unlike its metropolitan counterparts, Kyoto is devoid of the hustle and bustle of city life, but rather possessing the quintessential Japanese charm. Age old temples and shrines can literally be found in every corner and the unique architecture invoke a feeling of old Japan. If Lost in Translation is to Tokyo, then Memoirs of a Geisha is to Kyoto.

HOW TO GET AROUND

  1. Bicycle!
  2. Kyoto City Bus One Day Pass
    – price: ¥500 for one day
    – covers most popular areas of the city (except Saga-Arashiyama and some remote areas)
  3. Kyoto Sightseeing Pass
    – price: ¥1200 for one day, ¥2000 for two days
    – valid for city buses, subway, and Kyoto buses
    – covers almost all of the city (including Saga-Arashiyam, Ohara and Kurama areas)
  4. JR West Rail Pass
    – for non-Japanese, foreign tourists only
    – price: ¥2200 for 1 day, ¥4300 for 2 days, ¥5300 for 3 days, ¥6300 for for days
    – valid for JR local trains in Kansai region and Haruka Limited Express for KIX)
    – designated area in Kansai region
  5. Kensai Thru Pass
    – for non-Japanese, foreign tourists only
    – price: ¥4000 for 2 days, ¥5200 for 3 days
    – valid for most private railways, subways, and buses in Kansai region

WHERE TO STAY

J-Hoppers Kyoto Guesthouse
Address: 51-2, Nakagorya-cho, Higashikujo, Minami-ku, Kyoto, Japan
I chose J-Hoppers Kyoto, staying for 3 days and 3 nights, totaling to $97, and I absolutely loved my stay! I selected a single room, which to my surprise, was a traditional style Japanese room with tatami! It truly added a special touch.

I highly recommend J-Hoppers and Hana Hostels because they offer ¥300 or other special discounts every third night with their stamp/rewards program. Amongst the other special offers include renting a bicycle for a day and calligraphing your name written in traditional Japanese characters.

For budget travelers and backpackers, I suggest browsing kyotohostels.net and hostelworld.com for affordable accommodations.

WHAT TO SEE/DO

Southern Kyoto

  • Fushimi Inari
  • Tofukuji Temple

Northern Kyoto

  • Kinkakuji Temple “The Golden Pavilion”
  • Ryoanji Temple

Eastern Kyoto

  • Yasaka Shrine
  • Kiyomizudera Temple
  • Kodai-ji Temple
  • Maruyama Park
  • Nishikikoji Food Market
  • Higashiyama District
  • Gion District
  • En Tea Ceremony – make sure to reserve at least one-day in advance!

Western Kyoto

  • Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
  • Iwatayama Monkey Park
  • Tenryuji Temple
  • Daikakuji Temple

Traditional Flea Markets (every month)

  • 1st Sunday – Toji Temple
  • 15th – Chion-ji Temple
  • 21st – Toji Temple
  • 25th – Kitano Tenmangu Shrine
  • 4th Sunday – Kamigamo Shrine

Walking Tours

  1. Walk in Kyoto (in English)
    – back street 5-hour walking tour (10:00 – 15:00)
    – every Monday, Wednesday, Friday from March through November
    – price: ¥2000 per guest
  2. Night-time Exploration in Gion
    – 100-minute walking tour through the Gion/Geisha district
    – every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (18:00 – 19:40) from March through November, (17:00-18:40) from December through February
    – price: ¥1000 per guest

WHAT TO EAT

– MATCHA ICE CREAM. MATCHA ICE CREAM.
– All the mochi you can sample for free and then fit in your luggage

FUSHIMI INARI

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black sesame ice cream

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KINKAKU-JI TEMPLE (“THE GOLDEN PAVILION”)

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This was their idea.

ARASHIYAMA BAMBOO FOREST

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IWATAYAMA MONKEY PARK

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HIGASHIYAMA DISTRICT

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What dreams are made of!
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Yasaka Pagoda
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Yasaka Shrine

KIYOMIZUDERA TEMPLE

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Thanks for reading! Feel free to check out my other Japan travel guides: Tokyo and Osaka.

Xx,
Adrielle

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