I spent two days in Kyoto falling in love with the smells of the fresh air near the mountains, tasting the street food, enjoying ice cream in the sun outside world heritage temples, trying to take in the view from the top of mountains… I could go on forever!
If I tried to cover everything I did in one post it might break a Guinness world record for longest blog post, so I’ve decided to do three posts. Here is part one.
Waking up before 6 (am) seems like a sin when you’re not working. But I was up and excited to be heading to Nagoya to catch the JR Bus to Kyoto. My return bus ticket on the JR bus was cheaper than a one way ticket on the Shinkansen. Although it takes 3 times longer, I weighed up my options and decided to take the first bus there and last bus home. Perfect!
On arrival in Kyoto, I felt a little lost in this big new city. Despite having already researched what I wanted to do in Kyoto, I couldn’t make up my mind on what to do first so I headed to the information desk, grabbed a map and then made the climb to the top of the huge station to the sky garden hoping that looking at the city from up here would help me to come up with a plan.
Done.. First stop is Higashiyama! Thinking Kyoto would be like Nagoya I grabbed a subway day pass.. Then I found out there’s only 2 subway lines here and a million busses. Not to worry, I’d make it work.
I caught the subway to Higashiyama station and started walking trying to find Chion-in… a huge temple which is now the most popular pilgrimage temple in Kyoto.
Once I found the temple it was well worth it. This is where I first saw everyone in the traditional kimonos. The temple itself which is free to enter was huge.. I really loved walking through it and admiring it’s beauty which was amplified with the cherry blossoms! My timing was perfect and I was able to watch a religious ceremony inside one of the temples… Honestly I had no idea what was going on but it was nice just to watch.
Next stop was Maruyama-Koen … A huge, stunning park which was full of people drinking and having fun under the blossoms. I was getting peckish so decided to try one of the pop up restaurants in the park, where you had to take off your shoes and sit on little cushions. The food wasn’t the best but the experience was well worth it!
Yasaka-jinja shrine is said to be one of the most colourful shrines. And with it’s bright orange structures scattered around the area, it definitely would be the most colourful that I’ve seen. I walked through this pretty quickly, it was right next to my lunch spot and on the way to the next temple.
Kodai-ji temple was next, if you have to cut one temple out of your day in Higashiyama I’d leave this one out. Costing ¥600 to get in to the temple and museum, the temple has some pretty gardens, some cool huts and a small version of the bamboo forest, but wasn’t one of my favourites. The museum which you got admission to had no information written in English and smelt worse than a retirement home… I walked in and turned straight around and walked out! With limited time you have to be picky about what you use it on.
Getting the location of the next temple wrong really cost me some time and energy. I was really close but thought I needed to catch the subway there so walked all the way back to find I should have gone the opposite direction. Wanting some rest for my feet two lovely girls took me to the bus stop.. They actually took me to one and then came back a few minutes later realising it was wrong and walking me to the correct one!
Kiyomizu-dera (temple) was amazing. You had to walk up a pretty steep hill called Chawan-zaka (teapot lane) to get to the top, but it was lined with shops selling ice creams, souvenirs and best of all Japanese sweets which you could sample. The sugary goodness of samples got me to the top an what a site. This temple has a world heritage site in it.. The love shrine.
The love shrine was quite interesting. People go there to walk from one stone to another, and if they do it then they will find love. Not wanting to look for love right now I sat this one out, but instead laughed at a girl trying to make her way across. She needed guidance from a guy she was with… Having needed help to get to the other stone now means she will need help from someone to find love.
Having my subway pass I tried to use the subway as much as possible, but each of these places are accessible by bus. Grab a bus map from the station and the friendly staff will point you in the right direction.
It was a full on day, but it isn’t over yet! Still to come is Gion by night in Kyoto and day two at Arashiyama and the Nijon Castle.