So this is the first instalment of our days spent in Kyoto. If Tokyo is known for its metropolis and skyscrapers, Kyoto is known for its temples and shines. I don’t think any city in Japan is as fortunate as Kyoto to be home to so many spectacular buildings and quaint little streets. Kyoto is old Japan, and Tokyo is new Japan. Kyoto is also a mecca for all those foodies out there – don’t forget to visit Niskiki Market, dine in some of the fabulous restaurants and purchase some of the many sweets that Kyoto is famous for.
Our first stop in Kyoto was Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine, which is well know for its vermillion gates. This is a vast shrine complex (we didn’t have enough time to explore it all) and would take a good half day to experience properly. Our next stop was lunch and Kiskiki Market. This market place is known as the kitchen of Kyoto and is bustling with tourists and locals alike, purchasing lunch, snacks and Japanese kitchen staples. The storeholders sell many things which are almost unrecognisable for the western traveller, but simply ask, or if you’re brave, dig in and try all these weird and unusual things.
After lunch, we paid a quick visit to the Imperial Gardens, before taking the train to Arashiyama. This district of Kyoto is located west of the city, beneath Mount Arashi. Arashiyama has an old world feel to it. There are no skyscrapers, large apartment buildings or bustling traffic – the district is peaceful and slow paced – it’s almost difficult to believe that Kyoto city is so close. In Arashiyama we paid an interesting visit to the monkey sanctuary and the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, before evening fell and we took the train back to Kyoto and had a feast in a local restaurant.
Kyoto is well connected by rail to the rest of Japan. The central train station is located at the southern end of the city. The closest major airport is Osaka Kansai, which can be reached via direct train from Kyoto.
We stayed at Ikoi-no-le hostel. Located in a quiet street, within easy walking distance to the central train and bus station, although the rooms were small, they were clean and well kept. And the staff was incredibly helpful.
We ate at Wa-ta-mi located on Gojo Dori almost every evening whilst we were in Kyoto. The food was decent, and cheap, and it was within easy walking distance to our hostel.