Japan has been on my travel bucket list for a long time, and in October 2014 I finally went.
I’ve wanted to go to Japan for ages because of all the crazy stories I’ve heard. Like vending machines that stock everything from drinks to underpants, crazy products like fans on hats, and even something I’d heard about rats on sticks for street food… Let’s just say I didn’t see that – thankfully.
After our tour of Osaka we visited Kyoto.
Kyoto has a population of 1.4 million and is Japan’s seventh largest city. It’s also full to the brim with temples and shrines, of which there are approximately 2,000.
My first impressions of Kyoto compared to Osaka was that everyone operated at a much slower pace, and there were more tourists.
Kyoto also had a very traditional feel to it. Many women and teenage girls were dressed in Kimonos, which I was told is a very social thing to do.
Here’s a rundown of our Kyoto trip:
ANA Crowne Plaza
This hotel is located across the road from Nijo Castle, and is near a train station.
There were a few restaurants inside this hotel which came in handy the first night we were there, as it was pouring outside and we didn’t want to venture out.
Daimaru Depachicka Food Hall
OH MY GOD!! I should just leave this as the description, but I will go into some detail as this food hall deserves it.
I have never ever encountered anything like this place, and it wasn’t even a planned part of our trip.
Our first day in Kyoto was a washout, so to escape the wet we decided to check out some undercover shops and really just stumbled in here. And stumbled throughout as well.
In fact, the best way to find a lot of cool things in Japan is to just go up escalators!
This food hall was huge! I didn’t know where to look. It was super overwhelming and really, really cool.
There was everything from raw food, groceries, baked goodies, wine, cheese, snacks, meat, sushi, fried food, salads – everything!
Something I noticed about Japan wherever we went was a lack of chairs, and this place was no different. This meant that Nick and I very sneakily had to eat our lunch outside, which I never saw anyone else doing. We ended up getting some salad and gyoza (which was cold but we thought was hot) and grabbed a drink from the nearby vending machine.
When we were done we crossed the road and came across Nishiki Market.
Another world of food and wonder awaited us here. This market is located on a narrow five block long undercover street and has everything from seafood, fruit, vegetables, cookware, desserts, pickled food, sushi, and much more. Definitely worth the visit.
Situated near Gion is a long alley with everything from finger food to traditional Japanese and foreign cuisine.
We ended up at Platero, a Spanish inspired restaurant where we had a delicious Chorizo Paella.
Teramachi and Shin Kyogoku Shopping Arcades
Once you reach the end of Nishiki Market you come to these undercover shopping arcades, which run parallel to each other, and sell everything from clothes, souvenirs, food, and knick knacks.
There is even a temple within it all.
Parallel to Teramachi is Shijo Street. Here you’ll find departments stores including Tokyu Hands and Daimaru, international brands including Louis Vuitton, Zara, H&M, Uniqlo and smaller independent retailers.
This is a great street if you really want to get some shopping done.
JR Kyoto Station
Like all major train stations in Japan this station has a fantastic range of shops
Surrounding this station is Kyoto’s second largest shopping area, which includes Porta underground shopping centre, Aeon shopping mall, and large electrical retailers.
Tofukuji Temple is famous for its Zen Garden, which was designed by a French man. Every morning the Monks from the working Monastery create the swirls in the garden as they get damaged by the wind each day.
Each section of the garden has a meaning, like the boxed garden shown below, which represents the grid construction of Kyoto.
If you are looking for some serenity then definitely make sure you visit here.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
This Shinto Shrine is best known for the movie Memoirs of a Geisha. It’s a large Shrine with thousands of Torii Gates, more than I saw anywhere else in Japan.
The Torii Gates are donated by individuals and businesses whose details and date of donation are written on each gate. A small gate is approximately 400,000 Yen, with larger gates costing over 1,000,000 Yen.
Famous for Geisha spotting, you have to be at the right place at the right time to see a Geisha, and sadly we didn’t.
What we did see, which was just as amusing, were tourists peering into every taxi that went past trying to see a Geisha, that was an attraction in its own.
Whether you see a Geisha or not this area is not to miss. It’s home to many traditional restaurants and tea houses that haven’t changed much over the years.
The streets are adorable and packed with small wooden buildings and paved walkways.
Although we didn’t see a real life Geisha, we did see a model dressed up as one holding an umbrella and Asahi Beer in front of a bridge, which was an advertisement being shot right in front of us.
This is a really gorgeous area and makes you feel like you’re in old style Japan.
I found this castle very underwhelming. After entering the front gate you go into Ninomaru Palace. Here you learn about the history of the six rooms, which are covered in over 800 tatami mats and some are elaborately decorated in gold leaf.
You can also view Ninomaru Garden, which is a great example of a traditional Japanese garden.
Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion)
This was beautiful. You should definitely add this to your Kyoto attraction list.
To cater for the many tourists that visit this attraction, there are many food and souvenir vendors, and vending machines with ice cream in cones and bags and even Fuji Film.
This was my least favourite Kyoto attraction.
You can only visit here with a tour group and the staff are very strict. One lady on our tour went to the toilet and the Police demanded our tour guide go get her straight back.
You cannot go into the Palace so all you can see is the outside and the surrounding gardens.
Overall, Kyoto was a terrific mix of modern vs. traditional and there was a lot to see and eat. I’d love to go back and check it out a bit more sometime soon.
If you’d like to see my other Japan posts, here’s the links:
Please also feel free to visit my Japan Pinterest board.
(This blog’s previous name was The Creative Canvass, hence why the images in this post are labelled www.thecreativecanvass.com)