Wondering around areas of Kyoto gives the experience of travelling back in time. The centre is a fusion between new and old but if you look along the side streets and alleys you will spot the traditional Kyoto just hiding; too shy to be seen but not enough to be invisible.
The city is crammed with temples, shrines and sights that will leave you in awe. You will spot many wannabe Geisha around the city, taking photos and posing around the sights. But a sighting of an authentic Geisha will be rare unless you visit a tea house, or hang around these areas waiting for them to step out of a taxi on their way to work.
Things to do in Kyoto:
- Walk along side streets to see the traditional houses
- Kinkaku-ji temple- The Golden Temple
- Gion- Traditional area along the side streets, many modern stores and a place to spot Geisha
- Nanzen-ji Temple
- Kiyomizu Temple
- Bamboo forest in Arashiyama FREE
- Fushimi Inari-Taisha shrine FREE
- Ginkaku-ji Temple- Silver temple (not actually silver)
- Ryoanji Temple- zen stone garden
- Nishiki Markets- food galore
Things to eat and drink:
- Yuki Ichigo Daifuku (A whole strawberry on a thin bed of cake, covered in cream and then wrapped in mochi)
- Korokke (Japanese Croquettes)
- Samgak-Gimbap (triangle of rice and meat, wrapped in seaweed- a great snack for on the go and can be bought from any convenience store)
- Noodles: Ramen, Udon and Soba. Try all 3!
- Okonomiyaki (Japanese savoury pancake)
- Daigaku Imo (Glazed sweet potatoes)
- Miso soup
- Strawberry Daifuki (A whole strawberry smothered in a sweet red bean paste and then covered in mochi)
- Gyoza (dumplings)
- Matcha green tea ice-cream
- Green Tea
Getting Around Kyoto:
You can purchase a 24 hour bus card that will give you unlimited travel within the red line of the city (see map- http://inst.uno.edu/japan/docs/bus_navi_en.pdf ) for 500 Y. The buses are incredibly reliable in Kyoto and are an easy way to get around to see the major sights. Without the card, a single bus ride will cost you 230Y… so the 24 hour bus card is a no brainer!
You enter the bus from the back and exit at the front.
You also pay when you exit not when you enter.
If you are using a Pasmo/IC card then you need to swipe on and swipe off
If you are using the 24 hour bus card you only need to get it stamped by the machine next to the driver on your first use. After that just show it to the driver upon exit.
The metro and trains are also an easy way to get around to see places such as the Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama and your Pasmo/IC/JR cards will work on these. (Your Pasmo/IC card will work on the buses too but it’s cheaper to get the day pass)
Kyoto, although touristy, is a great way to travel back in time to see a traditional side to Japan which is simply stunning. The temples, shrines and streets are so exquisite that you will truly enjoy your visit here.
The people of Japan are incredibly polite, friendly and helpful. They bow their heads in respect and acknowledgment to you and after a while you will find yourself doing it all the time, which is such a humbling experience. They may not smile all the time but please don’t be afraid to ask them for directions or any other questions, they are more than happy to help you.
The food in Kyoto isn’t much cheaper than Tokyo, but the difference in price was great enough for me to try a variety of food here, mainly at Nishiki Market. The market isn’t the cheapest of places but it’s important to treat yourself occasionally.
So, make sure you put Kyoto on that ever expanding travel list!